This week the Dodgers were outbid by the Yankees in their pursuit of right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole. Not exactly a shocker for Dodger fans. Since the start of the Friedman era, the Dodgers have yet to really outbid anyone, let alone the Yankees. They have typically opted to scrape the bargain bin for the diamond in the roughs. To their credit, it has worked pretty well. Additionally, the Dodgers have won seven consecutive division titles and have advanced to the World Series twice in that time.
However, this off-season was supposed to be different.
It was what the off-season they’ve been targeting for some time — the reason they’ve worked hard to get below the luxury tax threshold. Add in an early NLDS departure from the 2019 postseason following a record 106-win season and more pressure was put on the front office to make some kind of splash in this free agent market.
So far, Stephen Strasburg is off the table, and now Cole. Additionally, star third baseman Anthony Rendon is gone now too, but this article is about pitching.
I don’t blame the Dodgers for not going nine years on Gerrit Cole, but they didn’t even seem in the hunt on Strasburg. So, as far as starting pitchers go, who’s left? Hyun-Jin Ryu and Madison Bumgarner.
Just looking at the arms, looking at the numbers, and putting the politics of it aside, what move helps put the #Dodgers rotation in the best position in the regular season AND postseason in your opinion?
Commentary welcome as well.
— Clint Pasillas (@realFRG) December 11, 2019
Many have clamored for the Dodgers to re-sign Ryu, but so far little has been spoken about how “in” the Dodgers are with him. And while Los Angeles has overlooked their team ace from a season ago, other teams have made their pitch.
Ryu was fantastic in 2019. In fact, he’s always been great, when healthy. Key phrase being, “when healthy”. Ryu’s career has been marred with various sidelining injuries. Scott Boras, Ryu’s agent, will likely spin the injury time as less innings on his arm. With Strasburg and Cole off the market on 7 and 9 year contracts, the Cy Young runner-up will likely seek a 4-6 year pact.
Pushing age 33, the Dodgers know Ryu isn’t likely to start an injury-free trend, which is probably the hesitancy to re-sign him — especially until he’s 37 or 38 years old.
Moments after the Cole signing it was reported that the Dodgers would shift their focus to Madison Bumgarner.
#Dodgers will now shift their focus to free-agent left-hander Madison Bumgarner, sources tell The Athletic.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 11, 2019
The news immediately turned the Dodger Twitter-verse into a pillow fight of opinions.
With Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg off the table, do you want the Dodgers to sign Madison Bumgarner?
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) December 11, 2019
Some admire his grit, intensity and postseason lore. Others can’t get past his tantrums and history against the Dodgers. Furthermore, in 2019 Bumgarner’s stats were very comparable to that of Kenta Maeda who costs just $3.1M per year. Bumgarner’s rumored to be seeking around $20M a year. While Maeda’s value is certainly team friendly and would likely solicit more on the market today, Bumgarner is clearly seeking compensation for the pitcher he was between 2013-2016.
Current Rotation Status
Despite falling short on Strasburg and Cole and despite Ryu and Bumgarner having their flaws, the Dodgers are still sitting on a good foundation. Their starting rotation can be built from the likes of Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling, Julio Urias, Dustin May, and/or Tony Gonsolin.
Rotation options include: Buehler, Kershaw, Maeda, Stripling, May, Urias, Gonsolin.
I feel like another top of the rotation guy is needed but that can also be traded for mid-season. That’s rotation is good enough for the regular season. They should add someone now though (Boyd)
— Blake (@ByBlakeWilliams) December 9, 2019
I’m in agreement with Blake here, acquiring another quality starter would definitely bolster the rotation. I don’t even think it needs to be a Cole or Strasburg-esque starter. A health-ish Ryu would be plenty as would a golden years Bumgarner, whoever the Dodgers could get on a shorter contract.
That said, their current foundation could be enough to carry the club to the trade deadline. At that time they could trade for a pitcher to put them over the top. Additionally, Rich Hill could be a bonus add-on as he is questionable free agent. He could likely be a cheap buy since he will miss at least half of 2020, but also because the surgery he opted for and is recovering from is experimental and teams may not be sure what to expect.
Despite how it seems the Dodgers have not “lost the off-season”. Two top-tier starting pitcher free agents demanded a whole lot of money and years. The Dodgers made a genuine attempt to acquire one of them.
The Dodgers' offer for Gerrit Cole was eight years for $300 million, per sources. It included deferrals.
The Angels' offer was south of $300 million over eight years with deferrals.
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) December 11, 2019
At the end of the day they swung and missed, but all is not lost. If they can add a solid starter, some additional bullpen help, and that right-handed power bat they’ve been seeking, they’ll have improved and won in my eyes. At this point, it doesn’t matter whether the front office signs or trades for that help. What matters is that they stay in the game and do what they’ve done for the past seven years, keep the Dodgers in contention.