Friday, February 8, 2013
Should Dodgers deal excess arms?
By Jason A. Churchill
We've discussed quite a bit here at Rumor Central the idea that the Los Angeles Dodgers could trade a starting pitcher this offseason. The club signed two free agent starters since the end of the 2012 season and already had six when the season ended, thanks to the trade with the Boston Red Sox that resulted in Josh Beckett donning blue and white. First grade math says that's eight starting pitcher candidates, and the modern game suggests they only need five.
The Dodgers, led by Clayton Kershaw and new acquisitions Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, also boast Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly and Beckett.
Some clubs like to keep a sixth starter on the club in case of injury, and in that scenario the Dodgers could move one or two of the excess to help upgrade in other areas. Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, though, opines that it might be a good idea for the club to keep all eight starters.
Dilbeck's reasoning is sound: Not only is Lilly coming off shouler surgery, but Billingsley has some question marks surrounding his right elbow, even if he told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that his arm feels "absolutely great." Meanwhile, Capuano and Harang are both 35 years of age and Beckett's right arm is fast approaching 2,000 career innings. Moreover, despite starring in the Korea Baseball Organization for years, Ryu is still a bit of an unknown commodity, and Kershaw battled a hip injury down the stretch in 2012.
General manager Ned Colletti should feel comfortable trading one of the group, however, since the Dodgers can always dip into the minors for a replacement should injury strike in 2013 like it did in 2012. Chris Withrow, Chris Reed, Zach Lee and Matt Magill are all near the point where they can contribute.
Capuano has an injury history of his own, but may have some trade value after a strong 2012; his contract is team friendly, too, at $6 million for 2013 and an option for 2014 at $8 million.
If the Dodgers keep all eight pitchers, the club could play it conservatively early in the season, perhaps employing a loose six-man rotation to keep everyone healthy, with two starters in long relief. Still, it's difficult to see a way this plays out where all of them are around, so a trade (or two) is likely at some point soon.
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs writes that Capuano, in particular, could be a valuable piece to hang onto:
Dave CameronCapuano a key insurance policy
"From a performance perspective, it's not entirely crazy to think that Capuano could be the Dodgers' third or fourth best pitcher next year, even if he begins the year in the bullpen. Having him around not only gives them depth in case of an injury but also could allow them to upgrade on a weak rotation spot during the season."