2012 in brief: Former ace is far from the flamethrower he once was, but provided adequate outings after being acquired from Boston in August.
2013 status: Signed for $15.75m and expected to be part of the rotation.
In some ways, Josh Beckett was one of the most surprising parts of the big Boston deal. Adrian Gonzalez was the centerpiece, Carl Crawford was the price, and Beckett was… what, exactly? We worried about his declining velocity & litany of injuries, and tried to figure out what sort of pitcher the Dodgers might be getting:
So performance-wise, it seems like there’s a lot to be worried about. Now that all being said, there’s been a lot written about how bad the situation had become in Boston, and if even half of it is true, Beckett is probably thrilled to be somewhere new. It’s hard for me to say that being unhappy in a media fishbowl causes you to lose velocity off your fastball, so I won’t, but how many times have we seen a pitcher leave a bad situation to come into a pennant race and get recharged, at least for a short time. Or for a guy to leave the tougher league to come to the land of big parks (tonight’s start aside) and pitchers batting? I’m going to try to not put too much emphasis on a start in Coors Field, which could easily go poorly, but for the rest of the season it’s potentially not too difficult to see something of an improvement over his Boston numbers, if only from avoiding the designated hitter.
Really, it comes down to expectations on this for me. If you’re expecting Beckett to be the ace who led Boston to the title in 2007, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. But if Beckett can merely come to the Dodgers and be a mid-rotation starter, someone good enough to help get the club to October and bounce Blanton when Billingsley returns, maybe even potentially be your fourth starter should things get to that point in the playoffs, that’s something useful. It’s not unrealistic, I don’t think, to expect that from him.
That’s basically what happened. Beckett allowed only one earned run in four of his seven starts, and he was occasionally very good (nine strikeouts against one walk against Arizona on September 1), and sometimes less so (allowing four earned runs against the Giants on September 7, though much of that can be placed on Don Mattingly). Beckett increased his strikeout rate slightly with the Dodgers, but couldn’t say the same about his velocity, which continued to decrease, and his 3.82 FIP seems just about right for his brand of “usably decent” that he seems to be these days. For a fourth starter, you could do worse – even if, with Clayton Kershaw & Chad Billingsley injured in September, Mattingly said he’d be forced to go with Beckett as his #1 starter if the Dodgers made the playoffs.
I’ll admit that “decent #4 starter” isn’t exactly what you hope to get for around ~$31m over the next two seasons, but if he remains healthy it’s not atrocious, either. Besides, you also have to factor in that some of the cost was necessary to acquire Gonzalez, and as long as the Dodgers can say that they have at least two or three starters better than Beckett, he’s a nice enough guy to have around at the end of your rotation.
That’s if he even is around, because as we’ve said, the Dodgers are going to sign at least two starting pitchers and that means that a few guys from the Beckett / Lilly / Capuano / Harang group are going to be gone. But I tend to think that Beckett will stick around, both because of his salary and the reports that the Dodgers had been interested in him for a while. If the winter continues as we hope it will, there’s a chance Beckett could even be the #5 starter, and that’s a pretty good situation to be in; if we’re really lucky, he’ll continue his streak of being good every other year and bounce back in 2013.
Next up! Man, remember Ted Lilly?