Finally, some news came during a slow offseason when Yu Darvish reportedly agreed to a six-year deal with the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.
While some may think the Los Angeles Dodgers are better off without the right-hander because of his World Series struggles, the fact of the matter is that Darvish is an All-Star starting pitcher that just joined the team’s NLCS opponent the past two seasons.
It can be argued that the Dodgers would have made the World Series even without Darvish; however, the 2017 team is a bit different from the 2018 team shaping up.
So, what should the Dodgers do in response to Darvish’s signing with the Cubs?
1. Well, they can do nothing.
It’s not the flashiest response and it won’t win over the part of the fanbase that disagrees with the front office decisions, but it’s a very likely scenario.
On one side, the reigning NL West champs are primed to take the division for the sixth straight season even if they don’t make another move. The rotation currently stands as Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu. It’s a solid rotation as-is, and guys like Brock Stewart, Wilmer Font, and top prospect Walker Buehler can fill in if needed.
Also, the Dodgers shift in strategy in recent years has put more reliance on bullpen depth throughout the season rather than starting pitchers. There is much more depth in the bullpen than in the rotation currently.
On the other side, the rotation is left-handed heavy and is a bit health-reliant. The trade of Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir to the Atlanta Braves, along with Adrian Gonzalez, helped financially but it hurt depth-wise. The team doesn’t have the numbers to withstand injuries and would leave them scrambling or turning to younger players before they may be ready should injuries occur.
The one bright side the Dodgers can hope for is Buehler and Julio Urías in the second half of the season. Buehler is expected to start the year in Triple-A to monitor his innings, and Urías is recovering from shoulder surgery and is on track to return in July. While the two pitchers are very talented, it’s still a risk to expect too much from their two young arms.
While the team can survive without Darvish, it would have been a huge boost overall had they brought him back.
2. They can sign a starting pitcher.
Darvish was the prize of the SP free agency pool and the options left are very slim. Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb are the three best starters left. All three are right-handed, which would add some balance to the rotation; however, all three were extended qualifying offers and would cost the Dodgers a draft pick if signed.
Arrieta is the best of the three and could settle in as the No. 3-4 guy in the rotation. He’s fallen off a bit since his Cy Young season and has reportedly been looking for big money so that should ensure the Dodgers stay away. Lynn and Cobb would fit better because of their price but there have been no reports of the Dodgers being interested in any of them. Lynn and Cobb could prove more valuable than Maeda or Ryu; however, the potential upgrade may not be more valuable than the draft pick they would cost.
3. They can trade for a starting pitcher.
This option is the most intriguing and could bring back a starting pitcher worth getting excited about.
The name the team will be linked to is Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays. His name has floated around for a couple years now but the talks have never really ramped up to that extent. There are others out there such as Archer’s teammate Jake Odorizzi, Detroit Tigers’ Michael Fulmer, and Toronto Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman. The last two names listed are more of fit-based than fact-based. With the lineup essentially set, the Dodgers have the prospects and flexibility to swing a deal like this but they’ve been hesitant to pull a deal that big.
The likelihood of a deal happening now is slim-to-none. It appears the Dodgers are heading into the season with the current roster and will make adjustments if the need presents itself. The more likely scenario is what’s happened the past two summers: trading for a starting pitcher at the deadline. Darvish and Hill were acquired the past two deadlines, and both were less costly because of their impending free agency.
At this point, the Dodgers acquiring a young starting pitcher under team control would appear to be their best bet. It just appears that it will depend on a few factors and could come at the deadline rather than in the next month before the season starts.
Letting a pitcher like Darvish walk is tough to see but the Dodgers are in a good place because of previous moves and the development of their farm system. They are on track to be one of the top teams in the National League, and as we’ve seen previously, the front office isn’t afraid to make moves at the deadline.