Starting rotation alternatives to Zack Greinke

So that wasn’t just a bad dream and Zack Greinke is actually going to Arizona. OK, got it. With his departure, the Dodgers are going to need to replace him. There are a lot of options to do so. There might not be another Zack Greinke in baseball, but there are enough pitchers out there to make his loss not seem so devastating.

The Dodgers’ rotation isn’t as thin as it would seem, but it certainly far from complete. Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood are the only healthy, full-time starters on the roster. They also have Hyun-Jin Ryu, but missed the entire 2015 season with a shoulder injury. So there’s no guarantee he’ll be either as effective as he was pre-injury or effective enough post-injury. Brandon McCarthy is out until at least midseason after Tommy John surgery last season, and the same concerns that apply to Ryu apply to him.

Mike Bolsinger still exists, but he’s much better suited for swingman/spot-start work. Carlos Frias is in a similar boat, but the Dodgers might pull the plug on him in the rotation and develop him as a high-velocity reliever. Ian Thomas looks more like a reliever than a starter at this point.

On the farm, Jharel Cotton, Jose De Leon, Zach Lee, Ross Stripling and Julio Urias are all MLB-ready or near MLB-ready starting options. They’ll probably all appear in the majors at some point in 2016, but they shouldn’t be counted on to be starters on the active roster come April.

That’s 13 potential starting pitcher options. That isn’t nothing, but let’s not kid ourselves: There are only three locks for the rotation as the team currently sits. Also make no mistake: This roster will change a lot between now and when pitchers and catchers report in February.

Before we jump into the potential pitchers, let’s rule out these guys.

These guys are ruled out because they all received — and declined — qualifying offers, meaning the Dodgers would have to sacrifice their first-round draft pick to sign them. None of them are elite or near-elite, so willingly giving up the draft pick is highly unlikely.

Despite that tweet from Ken Rosenthal, I’d be shocked if the Dodgers felt it wise to give up a draft pick for Iwakuma.

Now, onto some of the candidates.

Free agents

Henderson Alvarez
Johnny Cueto
Doug Fister
Scott Kazmir
Mike Leake
Cliff Lee
Kenta Maeda

The Dodgers are said to be “intrigued” by Cueto, which isn’t surprising. He’s really good. Also good are Kazmir and Leake. They’re not Greinke replacements, but they’re capable pitchers. Alvarez and Lee are coming off injury-plagued seasons and might not be better than who the Dodgers have in-house. Maeda is interesting. He projects to be a No. 4 starter, which would help to stabilize the back-end of the rotation. Fister, after four really good seasons (2011-14), he a pretty miserable 2015. He might be more of a reclamation project.

The next group of guys are trade targets who have either been identified in reports as being available or would make sense to be made available. Some would cost Yasiel Puig, some wouldn’t.

Trade targets who wouldn’t cost Yasiel Puig

Trevor Bauer
Andrew Cashner
Gio Gonzalez
Derek Holland
Shelby Miller
Matt Moore
Tyson Ross
Danny Salazar
James Shields
Drew Smyly
Stephen Strasburg

Lots of quality arms here. Bauer and Cashner are enigmatic and not especially appealing (Bauer is more than Cashner). Gonzalez isn’t as good as he used to be,while Holland is in the same boat as Alvarez and Lee. Miller has been linked to the Dodgers but he won’t cost Joc Pederson. Ross is said to have a large asking price and after the Dodgers-Padres trade last winter, it might be awhile before those two teams try to consummate a trade again. Having said that, the Padres might leap at the chance to get Shields’ salary off their books. Salazar has some of the most potential of anyone listed, but he also comes with his flaws. Smyly as the headliner in the first David Price trade and could be moved in a sell-high situation by the Rays (even though he’s coming off bum shoulder in 2015). Strasburg has ace potential, but injuries and inconsistency have held him back. He’s a free agent after 2016 and there’s zero chance he signs a long-term deal before testing free agency.

Moore is an interesting guy. He was once a top prospect who has been successful in the majors. He’s also had Tommy John and hasn’t returned fully to his previous form. With the Tampa Bay-Andrew Friedman connection, perhaps he’d be the off-the-radar guy this front office could look to acquire.

Trade targets who would cost Yasiel Puig

Carlos Carrasco
Jose Fernandez
Sonny Gray
Matt Harvey
Corey Kluber
Jose Quintana

The Dodgers would be fortunate to have any of these guys. They tried for Carrasco at the trade deadline, but obviously came up short. Fernandez is or isn’t available, depending who you ask. Gray is probably the most untradeable guy I have listed in this post. Harvey was once the next big thing, now he’s just really good. The Mets need to upgrade their offense. Kluber is still one of baseball’s best pitchers and I doubt Cleveland moves him, even if it means landing Puig. Quintana is signed to an incredibly team-friendly deal (due $39.15 million over the next five seasons, if his two options are exercised). He’d be a tough one to get.


It’s entirely possible the Dodgers don’t land a single player mentioned above. It’s also entirely possible they land a couple of them. To replace the production Greinke’s departure left, it seems they’d need to land at least one of the guys above, if not two.

I like Fernandez the best, but he’d also cost more than almost every pitcher listed above. Carrasco is long since a favorite of Mike’s and he would be a welcome addition. His contract status (as well as some others) would indicate the trading team could hold out for a substantial package. I doubt Kluber gets moved, but he’d be a fantastic get.

Cueto is the best pitcher on the free agent market and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him land in LA. If they got him and Maeda, they wouldn’t need to entertain trading Puig, Pederson or anyone else to bolster the rotation. One way or another, the Winter Meetings (which begin Monday) are going to be really, really fun.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.