Hey, remember that guy?
The Incumbents: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, & Hyun-jin Ryu are obviously all going to be back, and make for a pretty nice trio. Chad Billingsley (Tommy John surgery) should be ready relatively early in the season, but can’t really be counted on. Josh Beckett (thoracic outlet syndrome) is also on the road back, but he’ll be 34 and his last four seasons have been terrible (2010), surprisingly good (2011), mediocre (2012), and terrible/injured (2013). You wonder if either or both end up working out of the bullpen. Free agent Ricky Nolasco was a nice addition after coming over from Miami in July, and would probably love to return. Chris Capuano will be a free agent when the team declines his 2014 option, and late season addition Edinson Volquez is a free agent as well.
Organizational Options: Matt Magill & Stephen Fife each saw time in the bigs in 2013, and provide good depth to have on hand even if none of us wants to see them any more than absolutely necessary. Zach Lee is probably just about ready for a shot in 2014, Chris Reed may not be far behind, though I still believe his future is in the bullpen, and Ross Stripling could be a possibility later in the year.
I think we learned this year that there’s no such thing as too much pitching, so the play here is probably to add at least one more starter, then let Beckett / Billingsley / Fife / Magill / Lee variously fill out the fifth spot as needed.
Trade Options: Will we ever stop hearing about Cliff Lee trade rumors? Probably not, especially when the Phillies look to be on the downturn. Yovani Gallardo could likely be had, but his declining velocity is a concern, and while I’ve long liked Brett Anderson, rumored to be on the block, he’s just constantly injured. I imagine the Brewers would be thrilled to move Kyle Lohse, also, but no thanks.
The big name out there is David Price, of course, and the Dodgers will likely be connected to him all winter. I can’t argue that the idea of adding Price to Kershaw, Greinke, & Ryu is just beyond absurd, but if the Rays were able to pry Wil Myers and more away from Kansas City for a lesser pitcher in James Shields, I can’t imagine what they get for Price — probably more than the Dodgers have to offer, unless you really want to give up Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Zach Lee, and Julio Urias, and even then maybe that’s not enough. In a similar vein, might the Tigers make Max Scherzer available? He’s headed into his final year before free agency and will likely have a Cy Young in his pocket. The price will be massive, of course, but worth considering.
Free Agent Options: Nolasco, of course, and we’re familiar with him at this point. There’s no shortage of names here, really. Matt Garza is probably the biggest, and wouldn’t require draft pick compensation since he was traded to Texas (where he was disappointing) during the season. Hiroki Kuroda is coming off yet another very good season as he starts his usual dance of “Yankees or California or Japan,” and assuming New York extends him a qualifying offer, I again have no interest in losing a first-round pick for him at age 39. There’s an interesting group of formerly-great starters who could probably be gambled upon for short-term deals, like Josh Johnson, Dan Haren, Johan Santana, or Roy Halladay. (I’m convinced the latter two are cooked, though.)
There’s more. Ubaldo Jimenez shook off a few down years to have a very good season for Cleveland, and might be in line for something like 4/$50m; Ervin Santana also turned his career around in Kansas City and should be an interesting case. Bartolo Colon will be 41 and is just about impossible to predict, but you can’t deny his success in Oakland; Similarly, I have absolutely no idea what to think about Scott Kazmir. And there’s tons of back-end guys like Scott Feldman, Bruce Chen, Bronson Arroyo, Jason Hammel, Phil Hughes, Paul Maholm, Mike Pelfrey, & Jason Vargas. Finally, we talked about Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka yesterday, who should be on the Dodger radar.
The Verdict? The more I think about Tanaka, the more I like him, and I hope the Dodgers get him. But the more I think about him, I think the Yankees just have to come away with him, because they have a mess of a rotation and dollars to spend, even as they try to stick under $189m. Since the posting fee won’t count towards that, it makes all the sense in the world for them to go all-out. If they do, I think we’ll hear the Dodgers be connected in trade rumors for Price, but won’t see anything come of it, and then probably surprise us all by signing both Nolasco and someone like Garza or Haren. It won’t matter, though; We’ll still see Fife by May 15. We always will.