Hard to beat what the Dodger rotation has done since 2016 but what of 2020?

Below is the list of pitchers since 2016 with at least 50 starts and an ERA+ greater than 130. Dodgers have almost a full rotation on this list even though only fifteen pitchers made the cut. Kershaw hasn’t won a CYA since 2014 but still has the highest ERA+ of anyone on the list. Ryu is the second Dodger on this list, but he just signed with Toronto, the first Dodger free agent I fully expected the Dodgers to re-sign. The cost was high, but he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for the last two years.  Those not familiar with the Dodgers might be surprised to find that on a per-game basis, Rich Hill has been better than Gerrit Cole at suppressing runs while on the mound. Walker Buehler barely made the cut but he did.

Player               WAR  GS ERA+ From   To   Age
Clayton Kershaw     17.4 102  164 2016 2019 28-31
Max Scherzer        28.0 125  160 2016 2019 31-34
Corey Kluber        19.4 101  153 2016 2019 30-33
Justin Verlander    27.5 135  151 2016 2019 33-36
Jacob deGrom        24.4 119  151 2016 2019 28-31
Hyun-Jin Ryu         8.3  69  145 2016 2019 29-32
Kyle Hendricks      16.2 117  142 2016 2019 26-29
Mike Clevinger      12.7  84  141 2016 2019 25-28
Chris Sale          20.1 116  140 2016 2019 27-30
Stephen Strasburg   18.7 107  136 2016 2019 27-30
Mike Minor          14.4  60  136 2017 2019 29-31
Rich Hill            9.1  82  135 2016 2019 36-39
Zack Greinke        17.7 124  133 2016 2019 32-35
Gerrit Cole         16.3 119  130 2016 2019 25-28
Walker Buehler       5.3  53  130 2017 2019 22-24

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/27/2019.

Headed into 2020 the Dodgers have currently lost two of those four pitchers. Ryu is definitely gone. Rich Hill is still unsigned but even if he signs he won’t be pitching until the middle of summer.

Even with those two gone, the rotation still has plenty of names:

Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Dustin May, Julio Urias, Ross Stripling, Tony Gonsolin are the names left in the hat. As I said, I expected the Dodgers to sign Ryu but with Ryu gone, the Dodgers could use more names in that hat.

I don’t want to trade May or Urias to get another name in that hat unless that name is Mike Clevinger. There are other free agents, pitchers who were injured in 2019 who had prior success.

Dustin Nosler thinks Jeff Nelson should be a target.

Nelson has No. 2-type stuff and has the requisite spin rates on his fastball and curveball the Dodgers like. He’s going to be cheap and could help alleviate some of the concerns in the rotation.

I agree with Dustin on Jimmy Nelson. There are other free-agent targets like Nelson but none with his upside.

Aaron Sanchez, Taijuan Walker, and old friend Alex Wood are intriguing to me. I’ve also always liked Danny Salazar. Paul Sporer of Fangraphs took a look at three of these names. 

Maybe Nick Dika of Fangraphs was a year too early on Aaron Sanchez when he predicted he would be a top 30 pitcher in 2019. He was dead on about Cody Bellinger being the 2019 MVP back in March.

Sanchez’ last two seasons have been completely derailed by finger injuries, managing to log only 141 underwhelming big league innings since 2016. Between blister issues and a freak finger injury in 2017, Sanchez’ right hand hasn’t been fully healthy in two seasons. The last time it was, Sanchez won the American League ERA title. Sanchez’ fastball, curveball and changeup all graded out favorably by Pitch Values in 2016 and with healthy fingers, he should be able to tweak his pitch mix and utilize them effectively once again in 2019.

Oh, did I mention Homer Bailey? Probably not, but the funny side of me would love it if they signed Homer after releasing him and paying him $22 Million to not pitch for them in 2019 while watching him put him exactly league average work as a starter for the Royals and A’s. Homer was shockingly the 50th ranked FA by Fangraphs. The Dodgers still owe him $5 Million in 2020. Good thing they got Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray in that deal. That walk rate while with the A’s was 1.8, the best of his career.

None of these will be necessary if the Dodgers pull off a deal for an established starter. They are still being linked to Mike Clevinger which would be quite a coup to pull him from the Indians, and David Price which would be interesting only if Mookie Betts comes along with him.  I haven’t seen any other rumors involving a trade for a starting pitcher from another team.

It would not surprise me if the Dodgers try a few low-cost free agents and head into the season to see how May/Urias/Gonsolin/Stripling handle the rotation along with the free agents. As usual, they can fill the hole in the rotation if there is one with a trade before the deadline.

Oh, and by August Josiah Gray will probably be ready to show us what he can do.

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