Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the team, the new front office has done their part on the trade front. There’s a new duo up the middle in the infield, a new back end of the rotation and a few new faces in the bullpen. Whether the team is better than the 94-win, NL West champions remains to be seen, but it is a different team.
Despite all the moves, there’s still a feeling that the Dodgers are lacking that power move that has been prominent in the Guggenheim Era. The cabinets are pretty bare in terms of position players or relievers that can make a significant difference, but there’s one potential crown jewel left on the starting pitching market.
Yes, the same Max Scherzer that won the Cy Young in 2013 and has reportedly been asking for over $200 million. The same guy that has been an All-Star and won 39 games the past two seasons. Potentially the same guy that can turn the Dodgers from contenders to World Series favorites.
Now if the Dodgers don’t sign Scherzer this winter, it won’t be the end of the world. A rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy and possibly Brett Anderson is no slouch. That’s definitely a top-five rotation for 2015. BUT how much better is a rotation of Kershaw, Greinke, Scherzer, Ryu and McCarthy?
Friedman and the crew are reportedly trying to lower payroll, but that’s never been confirmed by any of them. What they have been doing is improving the team, making sensible signings and cutting dead weight. A team looking to cut payroll wouldn’t cut Brian Wilson and the $10 million he is owed. What the Dodgers are doing is being smarter about their investments. A deal for Scherzer is definitely a risky one considering the amount of money it would cost and the rash of injuries to pitchers that has taken over baseball in recent years, but it’s also an investment that can pay off in the form of a World Series title.
For the money that it would take to sign the right-hander, the Dodgers would be spending on one of the more durable aces in the game. He’s made at least 30 starts in the past six seasons. In those six years, he’s had an ERA under 4.00 four times and won at least 15 games in four of those years. Scherzer has cleared 230 strikeouts in the past three seasons and has a combined 12.7 WAR the past two seasons.
All signs point to Scherzer being the real deal and worth the cost. So what are the downsides?
Well, Scherzer is 30 years old and is seeking at least a six-year commitment. Will a 36-year-old Scherzer be effective enough for $25+ million? Possibly, but likely not. However, by the time 2020 is here that amount of money could turn out to be a bargain.
Scherzer missed a few starts last season due to shoulder inflammation that could be troublesome in the future. Any pitchers’ next pitch can be their last pitch for a season, and shoulder inflammation is quite common among pitchers. Ryu went on the disabled list twice last season because of it, and still had a strong season. Scherzer has thrown over 450 innings (including postseason) since 2013, and the inflammation can be handled with a change in offseason workout and training regimen.
While it hasn’t been said, will Scherzer be willing to be the third man in the rotation? Money talks and if he gets the deal he is seeking, then it won’t matter where in the rotation he falls. Being able to play for a World Series contender and joining the likes of Kershaw and Greinke should outweigh any potential pride issue.
The Dodgers are being very mindful of the future with their recent moves and that’s something they must consider with Scherzer. Greinke has an opt-out clause after this year and could decide to leave Los Angeles for a bigger payday somewhere else. That leaves a large void in the rotation that won’t likely be filled by anyone in the farm system. Scherzer could give the Dodgers a security blanket in case Greinke does leave.
In the past two years, the Dodgers have been on the cusp of a World Series, only to fall short. Both years Kershaw was forced to pitch on short rest in the playoffs because the back of the rotation has been suspect. Ryu in Game 4 is much different than Ricky Nolasco or Dan Haren in Game 4. This move not only helps out in the regular season, but also in October.
So while the Dodgers seem to be cautiously spending, it’s time for one more power move to solidify the rotation and take that extra step needed to win their first championship since 1988.