Another free-agent starting pitcher signed a new contract on Tuesday and once again, it was not with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Mike Leake, whom the Dodgers reportedly had some level of interest in at one point, joined the St. Louis Cardinals on a five-year, $80 million deal.
By now the headlines are writing themselves, and arguments as to whether the Dodgers front office is patiently awaiting the right moment to strike or are an incompetent bunch are rampant.
The truth lies with the former, while public perception favors the latter. No matter one’s opinion, what can’t be denied is whether the Dodgers need to address their starting rotation.
Since Zack Greinke signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija joined the rival San Francisco Giants. Los Angeles then saw an agreement with Hisashi Iwakuma come undone due to a failed physical.
Conventional wisdom holds the Dodgers are likely to trade for a starting pitcher as elite free-agent options are no longer available. Their focus appears to on trading for Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, though signing Japanese native Kenta Maeda also remains a plausible course of action.
Aside from the two right-handed starters, the Dodgers are also open to adding lefties, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
The Dodgers, in dire need of a right-handed starter, are interested in Japanese righty Kenta Maeda, as Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reported. But believe it or not, the team still is considering lefty starters, too.
With that, Los Angeles is said to be in contact with Scott Kazmir and may be the best option for Wei-Yin Chen:
So, while the Dodgers explore both Maeda and the trade market, they’re also talking to free-agent lefty Scott Kazmir. Some rival executives even think they could be the team for former Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen, who reportedly wants a five-year, $100 million deal.
The Dodgers were previously reported as being among the teams interested in Chen. Though that was prior to it becoming apparent the 30 year old, a Scott Boras client, is seeking a five-year, $100 million contract.
Chen spent the past four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. He went 11-8 with a 3.34 ERA, 4.16 FIP and 1.22 WHIP in 2015. The southpaw posted a career-best 2.8 WAR last season, to go along with a 40.5 percent ground ball rate and 7.20 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Opponents hit just .170/.209/.239 with runners in scoring position off Chen in 2015. However, he allowed sixth-most home runs among American League pitchers last season, and his ERA was seventh in the AL.
For his career, Chen is 46-32 with a lifetime 3.72 ERA, 4.14 FIP and 1.25 WHIP. As has been the case for several free-agent pitchers this offseason, Kazmir’s list of suitors has been fluid.
Like with Chen, the Dodgers were previously linked to Kazmir. The 31 year old was a combined 7-11 with a 3.10 ERA, 3.98 FIP and 1.21 WHIP with the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros last season.
Kazmir posted a 2.38 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 1.09 WHIP and averaged 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings with Oakland. His ERA, FIP and WHIP increased to 4.17, 5.19 and 1.39, respectively, in 13 starts for the Astros. Moreover, Kazmir’s strikeout per nine innings dropped to 6.6 with Houston.
Signing Chen would require the Dodgers to forfeit their first-round pick (currently No. 23 overall) in the 2016 draft as he rejected the qualifying offer from the Orioles. Los Angeles was on track to lose said pick with their agreement to sign Iwakuma.
Kazmir was not eligible to receive a qualifying offer from the Astros by virtue of being traded midseason. Thus, signing the left-hander will not cost Kazmir’s new team their pick.
It should be noted the Dodgers received a compensatory pick for losing Greinke to the Diamondbacks, and will receive another if or when Howie Kendrick signs elsewhere.
As for the Dodgers’ predominantly left-handed starting rotation, it currently projects to feature Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Alex Wood. However, Ryu is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder .