The Dodgers have needed starting pitching in past offseasons.
However, in Andrew Friedman’s tenure as president of baseball operations, they’ve never entered a winter coming off the kind of rotation struggles they endured this past year.
After leading the majors in rotation ERA each of the previous four years (and ranking top-five in the four seasons before that), the Dodgers slipped to 20th in that category with a 4.57 ERA in the regular season, then watched their starting pitching implode in a three-game sweep against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the playoffs.
Because of that regression, Friedman acknowledged that the club needs to be more aggressive in its pitching pursuits this winter — signaling a potential shift in strategy after the Dodgers settled for lower-cost alternatives like Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney and Noah Syndergaard the past couple offseasons.
“It’s reasonable to say that [our aggression level in the pitching market] would be more than what it has been when we come off years of top production,” Friedman said.
General manager Brandon Gomes echoed that sentiment.
“Right now, [we’re focused on] adding a starting pitcher or two,” he said, “and making sure that we are striking the balance of depth and keeping a high-end top tier of pitchers.”
There should be plenty of targets to pursue.
Blake Snell, Aaron Nola, Jordan Montgomery, Sonny Gray and Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto will headline the free agency class. Corbin Burnes, Tyler Glasnow and Dylan Cease are all established aces who could potentially be traded by their current teams.
Any of them would immediately upgrade a Dodgers rotation currently expected to include Walker Buehler (in his return from a second Tommy John surgery), Bobby Miller (who will be entering his first full-length MLB season) and a couple other younger arms like Ryan Pepiot, Emmet Sheehan or Gavin Stone.
Such an addition would also represent the Dodgers’ biggest offseason pitching acquisition since their infamous signing of Trevor Bauer three years ago.
Of course, a move of that caliber wouldn’t come cheaply (Snell and Yamamoto could command more than $200 million, while any trade would require significant prospect capital in return). In recent years, the Dodgers have often bypassed pitchers requiring such lofty prices.
Then again, the team hasn’t encountered rotation woes as pronounced as this past year either, seemingly leaving them no choice but to be more aggressive in the pitching market this winter.