With the winter meeting set to begin next week, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has made it very clear that starting pitching is his top priority. But quite frankly, the free agent market for starters is very bleak. There are several top-of-the-rotation guys out there who are not free agents, but they would cost the Dodgers a great deal in top prospects (which they have few of) and/or a lot of money (which they seem to have a lot of).
Here are the names being tossed around as being on Ned Colletti’s radar:
- Zack Greinke (free agent) – In a year when top-of-the-rotation free agents are at a premium, Greinke is at the very top of the list. And though he may be the best pitcher available, he is not the best pitcher in game – not by any stretch. Unfortunately (for everyone except Zack Greinke, that is), he may very well become the highest paid pitcher in MLB history simply because of the weak free agent market. It is rumored that the 29-year-old Greinke wants a six year deal at $25 per year ($150 million). This would top Matt Cain’s 6-year/$127.5 million deal and even C.C. Sabathia’s record 7-year/$161 million deal (which averages out to $23 million per year). We’re talking Zack Greinke here folks, not Roy Halladay or Justin Verlander.
- Anibal Sánchez (free agent) – The soon-to-be 29-year-old right-hander has pitched in the big leagues for seven seasons and has a 48-51 record and a career ERA of 3.75, which ain’t bad. His career WHIP is 1.346 which ain’t all that good. He has a career K/9 of 7.6 and a BB/9 of 3.3. Is this the kind of guy that you want to give a 6-year/$90 million contract to (which is what he is seeking)?
- Kyle Lohse (free agent) – Although Lohse is coming off the best season of his 12-year MLB career, he is 34 years old. And while this might not be a big concern for the next couple of years, it will become a huge concern towards the tail end of the 5 or 6 year deal that he will undoubtedly be seeking. Unfortunately, any team seeking the services of Lohse will also be forced to give up a first round draft pick.
- Ryan Dempster (free agent) – There’s old and then there’s Ryan Dempster old. Dempster will be 36 in May and although he may be one of the best Cubs pitchers in the past several years, he is anything but the best MLB pitcher in the past several years. Dempster’s 15-year career ERA is 4.33 and his WHIP a staggering 1.430. Dempster is quite a character and a hoot in the clubhouse, but in all honesty, who gives a hoot? Signing Dempster to anything beyond a two-year deal would be a disaster and any team doing so will get exactly what they deserve.
- James Shields (non-free agent) – Shields is unquestionably one of the best pitchers in the game right now, but he will not be a free agent until 2014. This means that any team wanting his services will undoubtedly have to give the Tampa Bay Rays a boatload of top prospects and probably a ton of money as well. While the cash thing certainly isn’t a problem for the Dodgers, the prospect thing definitely is. Quite frankly, to get the soon-to-be 31-year-old Shields, the Dodgers would probably have to give up both Zach Lee and Chris Reed, not to mention top outfield prospect Joc Pederson – and even that might not do it. That said, Shields is a Southern California native (Newhall, CA) and would undoubtedly love to play for his hometown Dodgers.
- Ryu Hyun-Jin (non-free agent) – Although the Dodgers won the ($25.7 million) bidding rights to negotiate with the soon-to-be 26-year old Korean superstar, they can walk away from the Boras client without spending a dime on him if they choose. The Dodgers have until December 10 to sign the left-hander and if they do not, he must remain with his current Korean team and will not be available until next year when the bidding process will repeat itself. That said, Jin has made it very clear that he wants to pitch in the MLB and undoubtedly does not want to wait another year to do so. This certainly bodes well for the Dodgers; however you know darn well that Boras certainly isn’t going to give the Dodgers any kind of a deal on his client. I suspect that with the bidding fees, Jin could cost the Dodgers upwards of $50 million for a 5-year deal. My thought is – why not, since the Dodgers seem to have the money.
- Zach Lee (Dodgers Minor Leaguer) – Zach Lee was the Dodgers first round draft pick in 2010. The 21-year-old right-hander is still the Dodgers top pitching prospect and could very well make it into the Dodgers rotation in 2013, however he will most likely not be on the Opening Day roster. Although Lee has zero MLB experience, he did okay at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga this past season going 6-6 with a 4.39 ERA. And though his WHIP was 1.331, he had a very impressive K/9 of 7.6 and a BB/9 of 2.5. I sincerely believe that Zach will be in the starting rotation in 2013 – I’m just not sure that it will be with the Dodgers – if they go after James Shields, that is.
- Chris Reed (Dodgers Minor Leaguer) – Like Zach Lee, Chris Reed will probably be MLB-ready at some point during the 2013 season, but here again, it may not be with the Dodgers if they go after Shields. The 22-year-old Reed was the Dodgers first round draft pick in 2011 (do you see a pattern here?). Like Lee, Reed spent the 2012 season at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga where he posted an ugly combined record of 1-8. Although the left-hander’s ERA was 3.97, his K/9 was 8.8 and his BB/9 was 4.4. Reed also played in the 2012 Arizona Fall League, however he did not fair well there either. If the Dodgers have a choice of keeping Zach Lee or Chris Reed in a trade for Shields, I would hope that they would keep Lee – but let’s be real here, if you’re the Tampa Bay Rays, who would you take?