With or Without Kershaw, L.A. Must Improve Rotation

We’ve looked at the offense. We’ve looked at the bullpen. But perhaps the most likely place for the Dodgers to make a splash in the next year is the rotation.

Zack Greinke spurring L.A. for Arizona took the Dodgers by surprise. The team responded by signing Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda. Through half the season, it’s obvious Greinke wasn’t adequately replaced.

Kazmir has a 4.67 ERA through 16 games. Maeda has a 2.91 ERA but has had ups and downs. Obviously, Maeda is proving to be the more effective acquisition, but the Dodgers rotation outside Clayton Kershaw owns a 4.40 collective ERA. Compare that to the Cubs, Giants and Nationals; it isn’t good enough.

The problem is largely placed on consistency. Alex Wood was recently moved to the 60-day disabled list. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy are working their way back. L.A. has relied on rookie sensation Julio Urias for eight starts. Brock Stewart was promoted and made his debut in a loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday.

It’s great to have youth, but a team with a $240 million-plus payroll shouldn’t be relying on three rookies (Maeda is considered a first year player) in its rotation. That’s inexcusable on the front office’s part. It expected to keep Greinke, and when he bolted, the supposed excellent pitching depth would be tested. 

[graphiq id=”2NW9qqI6Kpf” title=”Los Angeles Dodgers 2016 Payroll Obligations” width=”600″ height=”463″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/2NW9qqI6Kpf” link=”http://mlb-teams.pointafter.com/l/28/Los-Angeles-Dodgers” link_text=”Los Angeles Dodgers 2016 Payroll Obligations | PointAfter” ]

Los Angeles has depth, no question. But a handful of fourth or fifth starters isn’t going to fill the void Greinke left behind Kershaw. With Kershaw now on the disabled list, the rotation could fall into shambles.

Which takes us to the trade market. L.A. acquired Bud Norris in the moments this piece was being written, but Norris is nothing more than a stop-gap while Kershaw is sidelined. If he pitches well, he may stick, but either way he hits free agency after the season. The Dodgers need to continue improving their staff beyond Norris.

Urias isn’t being traded, but his friend and top prospect Jose De Leon might be. There have been rumors going back to last offseason of the Dodgers pursuing elite starters. It appears the organization wants a star studded rotation and will continue to attempt to land an impact player.

Before Norris, a report connected L.A. with Tampa Bay Rays starter Erasmo Ramirez. The interest in a Ray is no surprise given Andrew Friedman’s connections there.

Ramirez is more of what the Dodgers have. In 32 games, he’s posted a 3.68 ERA. L.A. is targeting him as a “rotation stop-gap,” according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, but Ramirez only has one start on the year. The match makes sense, but Ramirez would be another name added to a deep list of bottom of the rotation/long-relief options in a few months. He isn’t the difference maker the team needs, and with Norris on board, those talks may be dead.

[graphiq id=”ammjlndi245″ title=”Erasmo Ramirez Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB” width=”600″ height=”523″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/ammjlndi245″ link=”http://baseball-players.pointafter.com/l/13392/Erasmo-Ramirez” link_text=”Erasmo Ramirez Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB | PointAfter” ]

On that note, we’ll visit some of the best rotation upgrades available. The market is weak, thus expensive. Boston, Miami, Texas and other contenders will add to the bidding. Much of this will be with an eye towards the offseason, when it will be easier to make a deal for a starter.

ICYMI: Front Office Needs to Act

Because the market is so poor midseason, rather than look at five possibilities, we’re going to focus on three “more realistic” scenarios and what it’ll cost L.A. The No. 1 priority on this list is perhaps my top trade target at any position, but more on that later.

3) The Tampa Bay Rays

The aforementioned Ramirez trade is just one option for a L.A.-Tampa Bay deal.

Jake Odorizzi or Matt Moore would be solid additions to the Dodgers. A year ago, Drew Smyly would’ve appeared to be an upgrade, but he has struggled and looks more likely to find himself out of the Rays rotation rather than in the Dodgers’. Archer isn’t going anywhere, but his season has left plenty to be desired as well.

[graphiq id=”aSistu1kd8h” title=”Jake Odorizzi Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB” width=”600″ height=”523″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/aSistu1kd8h” link=”http://baseball-players.pointafter.com/l/12160/Jake-Odorizzi” link_text=”Jake Odorizzi Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB | PointAfter” ]

Odorizzi would serve the role Kazmir was paid to do: Be a very good No. 3 starter. Moore gives them upside.

First, Odorizzi. He would be L.A.’s No. 3 starter. He’s gathered a 3.93 ERA in 16 starts. He’s not special, but at the right price could give the Dodgers the reliable innings they need.

On a personal note, I prefer Moore. Three years ago, he won 17 games as an American League All-Star. He propelled the Rays to a 4-0 win over the Red Sox on Wednesday. After a disastrous start, Moore is showing signs of being the player he was before injuries took their toll.

He’s allowed two or fewer runs in three of his last four starts. His 4.67 ERA is more a product of a terrible start than his recent emergence. Tampa Bay would ask for an average prospect or two – similar to what the Dodgers surrendered for Norris. If Moore regains just a modest amount of his old form, he has the upside of a steady No. 3 for this season and beyond, if L.A. retains him.

[graphiq id=”lRDBguzplUp” title=”Matt Moore Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB” width=”600″ height=”523″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/lRDBguzplUp” link=”http://baseball-players.pointafter.com/l/11397/Matt-Moore” link_text=”Matt Moore Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB | PointAfter” ]

2) Julio Teheran, Braves

Stats: 3-7, 2.46 ERA in 106 IP (16 starts)

I have been critical of Teheran in the past. He has silenced his critics with the best run of his career.

If Teheran was on even an average team, he’ d be a Cy Young candidate (well, in the conversation with Jake Arrieta for second place). Teheran is No. 2 in WHIP (Kershaw) and No. 2 in BABIP (Marco Estrada). He is fourth in 1-2-3 innings (48) behind Kershaw, Sale and Johnny Cueto (acknowledged by Buster Olney, ESPN). He is tied with Jose Fernandez for the second best WAR at 3.4 (Kershaw, 4.6). In his last start, Teheran hit a career-best 23 consecutive innings without allowing a run.

Sounds like an ace, which is why it makes little sense for Atlanta to get rid of him.

He is signed through 2019 with an option for 2020. The highest annual salary in the deal is the $12 million option. In this pitching climate, that is a steal even if Teheran cannot maintain his current level of play.

As Sports Illustrated points out, Teheran’s giving up 1.2 homers per nine innings and his FIP (3.71) indicates a regression. Remember: Teheran’s 2015 season was underwhelming. His 4.04 ERA was his worst since 2012. He allowed a career-high 189 hits, 99 runs, 90 earned runs, 27 homers and 73 walks. Teheran is near the top of the list for any team needing a starter, but 2015 cannot be ignored.

[graphiq id=”5nCT4YKhDKd” title=”Julio Teheran Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB” width=”600″ height=”515″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/5nCT4YKhDKd” link=”http://baseball-players.pointafter.com/l/16210/Julio-Teheran” link_text=”Julio Teheran Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB | PointAfter” ]

On the flip side, Teheran was strong in the two seasons before, and Atlanta can sell 2015 as an anomaly if it shops him. General Manager John Coppolella has repeatedly stated the Braves won’t trade Teheran. Jon Heyman reported an Atlanta executive told him it’s “99.9 percent” Teheran isn’t moved. He is 25 years old and signed below market value. There’s no motivation to trade him unless it’s a substantial overpay.

The unlikelihood Atlanta moves him is high, but the Dodgers and Braves clearly have chemistry with the multiple deals they’ve agreed upon. There’s also the risk of surrendering premium prospects only to see Teheran lose his touch. A deal would start with De Leon, and Atlanta would probably want MLB-ready offense too. They’ll likely ask for Joc Pederson, but it’s hard to see the Dodgers doing that. Cody Bellinger (corner outfield) or Alex Verdugo would be logical fits in Atlanta. Los Angeles would be better served playing wait-and-see on a Fernandez or Sale rather than assembling a package for Teheran.

1) Sonny Gray, A’s

Stats: 3-6, 5.03 ERA in 78.2 IP (14 games)

Gray has been awful in 2016, but Los Angeles should give him a change of scenery.

The disappointing performance of Gray is well known. Third in Cy Young voting just a season ago, Gray has completely collapsed – or so it appears. He started the season with a 6.19 ERA and mercifully was placed on the disabled list on May 20.

Since returning from the DL, Gray has been rejuvenated. His ERA is 3.32 after healing is much more indicative of his ability. He’s also regained control, lowering his walks by roughly three a game (a major issue with him early in the season). Prior to 2016, Gray’s season ERA totals were 2.67, 3.08 and 2.73. If we are to believe 2015 was a fluke for Teheran, why can’t the early portion of 2016 be a fluke for Gray?

Gray’s FIP in 2015 (3.45) hints that he was not as dominant as advertised, but it’s also a testament to his recent rebound’s legitimacy. His FIP in 2014 was almost identical at 3.46. In other words, the recent 3.32 ERA is more on par with his norms than his collective 5.03 ERA. For those wondering, Gray’s overall FIP this season is 4.52, also a career-low.

[graphiq id=”6KNhqBz2MAJ” title=”Sonny Gray Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB” width=”600″ height=”515″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/6KNhqBz2MAJ” link=”http://baseball-players.pointafter.com/l/6267/Sonny-Gray” link_text=”Sonny Gray Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB | PointAfter” ]

Billy Beane is a tough nut to crack. When he sees value he makes the deal, but there’s no way Gray’s value will be at its highest this season. More likely, the Dodgers move for him this winter.

Boston is often linked to Gray, as is Texas and the other usual candidates. The cost will be a tough pill to swallow, but Gray is the No. 2 ace the franchise needs.

There are other risks to be mindful of: What if Gray isn’t as good as we think (again, his career FIP indicates such)? Gray isn’t much of a strikeout guy and isn’t showing any improvement there. While his walk rate has improved, walking 4.5 batters a game was a concern. Gray will command a heavy salary after 2019, but that won’t be an issue for the Dodgers. The price to acquire him might be.

It starts with De Leon. Like Atlanta, Oakland will ask for MLB hitters it won’t get from Los Angeles. Even with Gray’s value low, L.A. would have to blow Beane away to get it done. Unlike Teheran, it’s a move I’d make.

Think of the recent Cole Hamels and Shelby Miller deals. Miller was a clear desperate overpay, but it speaks to the demand for exceptional pitching. A slightly more expensive deal than Hamels is a fair starting point. With Philadelphia kicking it financial aid, Texas gave away its No. 3, 4, 9, 16 prospects along with an additional minor leaguer and a MLB pitcher in Matt Harrison. Gray is cheaper and younger than Hamels.

To Dodgers: P Sonny Gray, P Sean Doolittle

To Athletics: P Jose De Leon, OF Alex Verdugo, P Walter Buehler, IF Willie Calhoun, OF Johan Mieses

ICYMI: Dodgers Acquire Bud Norris

Ouch. That’s L.A.’s No. 2, 6, 7, 11 and 25 ranked prospects by MLB.com. In return the team receives Gray and bullpen arm Sean Doolittle. When one considers Gray’s controllability, the A’s lack of urgency and the small market of top tier starters, it could be argued that’s a lower estimated price. Perhaps his recent struggles don’t equate to four top 11 prospects, but Oakland would be better off holding onto him and hoping he becomes an All-Star caliber ace again rather than move him for less. Doolittle could demand more in a separate trade too, but L.A. grabbing both in a single transaction would be quite the coup.

If Gray is in Dodger blue, he would form a big three with Kershaw and Urias at least through 2019. After Maeda, Los Angeles can pick from its bag of average pitchers to fill the last spot. The team is sacrificing two tremendous pitching prospects, but not only could withstand the blow, but also gain the win-now piece that could elevate the team in the postseason.

San Francisco, Chicago, Washington and New York boast at least two aces. If the Dodgers want to eliminate them in the playoffs, they’ve got to do the same. It’s as simple as that.

It’s a risky move which goes against Friedman’s mentality. At some point, he’s going to have to swing for the fences. Unless one of the “eliminated” aces is shopped around, Los Angeles shouldn’t hesitate opening its wallet for Gray.

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Gabe Burns

Gabe Burns is an award-winning journalist. He serves as a reporter and editor at the DodgersNation news desk. He additionally works as editor-in-chief of The Spectator, Valdosta State University's student paper. Gabe's work has been featured on a number of platforms, including Draft Breakdown and Pro Football Spot. His byline has been cited in media such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. Aside from covering Dodgers baseball, Gabe enjoys watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Orlando Magic and Tampa Bay Lightning. He can be followed on Twitter at @GabeBurns_DN.


  1. I totally agree..the bargain basement bin has not been a good place for them to shop. We have mediocrity all up and down this team. An immediate upgrade would boost the fans confidence and no doubt kick the attendance up a little. Just think how many butts will be missing from the seats without Kersh pitching….Fried brains has shown himself to be incapable of the block buster deal, which at this point is exactly what the Dodgers need.

  2. I agree that Teheran starts at the Hamels package, and the Dodgers just do not have that ML ready position players to make such a move.  Their best position players are at AA, and both Bellinger and Verdugo are two years away.  I just do not see Teheran as an option.  With respect to Sonny Gray, the players listed seems high, but I will concede that the Dodgers FO needs to do something to push this team forward, and not stay in a wait and see mode.  I think De Leon and Verdugo are the hardest to lose (especially Verdugo) but Sonny Gray could be special and Doolittle has been solid this year and a need for LAD ( a potential 8th inning LH set up).  Maybe they could make it special and try to include Reddick or Valencia.

    Texas gave up a lot to get Hamels, but if Yu Darvish can make it all the way back and Colby Lewis can come back and finish off his good start, they will be strong  contenders for the WS, which should be each team’s goal. If they do win it all, I doubt that Texas will look back and regret moving all of those top prospects to get Hamels.

  3. AlwaysCompete  If you win a WS title, all is good. If you just come close, the fan base will be pissed off. I do not believe that Terhan would take a Hamels like package since the guy is no where near what Hamels was when he was dealt. Maybe one A type prospect. Losing Deleon would not hurt that much. The deepest part of the pipeline is pitching. Gray would probably take more. Terhan has a very team friendly contract and is only 24.

  4. Dodgers have the 5th lowest team ERA in MLB despite being banged up all season and they’re still in the playoff hunt.
    Good article (for a change, so much crap here now).

  5. Michael Norris AlwaysCompete 

    Michael, you
    and I will never agree on Friedman and Zaidi, and I am okay with that.You and I have never been cross to each
    other.I believe Gabe’s package to get
    Sonny Gray is probably pretty close,which
    is why I do not believe that it will ever happen (or should).But I do think that if the Dodgers do want to
    make a run this year, F&Z is going to have to push the envelope a
    little.I would like for them to take a serious
    run at Lucroy and a legit 8th inning set up guy.My preference has always been Jake McGee, who
    with the exception of two horrid games against LA and SD, has been very good as
    a closer.Since he is a lefty, I checked
    to see how he did against two right hand dominant good hitting NL West teams;
    SF and AZ.He had 6 out of 7 saves.He would be a solid setup reliever and give
    LA an option next year if Jansen decides to go elsewhere.But Colorado traded Corey Dickerson for him,
    and the Dodgers do not have a Corey Dickerson (2014-2015 version, not 2016).
    The Dodgers
    do not need an Ace, and I do not think that a solid #2 will be available at the
    Deadline, but I have not changed my mind that Jake Odorizzi would be a good #3
    and drop in nicely after Maeda.I do not
    know the cost, but he is available, and I hope the Dodgers make a run at him.
    I am okay
    with moving De Leon if there is a solid return, but I am not at all comfortable
    with losing Alex Verdugo.I think he has
    the makings of a legit perennial all-star OF.At 20 he is one of the top offensive players at AA where the other high
    level prospects are 22.Bellinger is
    another who after a horrible start after coming back from an injury, is in the
    top 10 of OPS at AA.I would not want to
    move either of them.

  6. What an absolute mess the front office has dealt the team and the fans this year. By not pursuing top quality starting pitching in this past offseason, they have taxed the bullpen into a tailspin such that they pitch about half of all innings pitched on the team. This article should have been written at least six weeks ago. The title alone spells out the obvious: “With of Without Kershaw, LA Must Improve Rotation”. At this point it’s anyone’s guess what is the best way out of this fiasco. I’m tempted to rely on young new pitchers for the remainder of the season rather than risk purchasing more of the same low quality stop gap performers. It’s all way too risky. Wait till the offseason and relentlessly pursue solid starters, get rid of several BP relievers for some top quality relievers (pitching is 90% of the game). Write this season off. Sad indeed.

  7. Knowing what we know now based on how the team has performed overall, there is little if no quarantine the Dodgers would survive the first round of playoffs, assuming they could be fortunate enough to land a post season spot. Your optimism is good but I think their chances are slim and none. Me thinks that 5th lowest team ERA will quickly balloon now that Kershaw Is out. Personally, I think Ryu and McCarthy will need to prove themselves all over again IF and WHEN they ever return.
    Good article, and yes, there is so much crap here now.

  8. AlwaysCompete Michael Norris  I think Friedman is weak kneed and afraid to pull the trigger. As far as McGee, well I do not think the Dodgers hold him in as high regard as they did, and usually inter division trades, if they happen, take place in the winter meetings. The Dodgers do not need and ace, but they do need a solid #2, and Maeda is no #2. He is doing ok, but you need that shut down guy. I doubt they go after Gray, but I would like to see it. Some A’s writer was suggesting that the A’s try to pry Thompson from the Dodgers since they have so many outfielders. He was also suggesting that Doolittle would probably get the job, done or be part of a bigger package that included Gray, and in his mind, Reddick.  I think Terhan is a better option. But that is my opinion. I think he can be had for a couple of lower tier prospects and one A listed guy. And I would be ok trading Cotton or Deleon. Too much talent on the way up behind them, and both have regressed some this year. I doubt the Dodgers would consider moving Bellinger at all since he is A-Gones heir apparent. As for Lucroy, my problem with dealing with Milwaukee is that they most likely will not trade the guy unless the Dodgers take Braun too. And I never want to see that guy in a Dodger uni. Friedman is more likely to deal with the Rays, so Odorizzi might be up there on his list..but the Dodgers do need a catcher. Any deal that they make should include getting FAZ’s biggest bust Grandal as far from Los Angeles as possible….

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