Though I was relatively upbeat about the Dodgers signing Vicente Padilla yesterday, I’ve seen a decent amount of negativity about it from Dodger fans around the internet, many upset with Ned Colletti’s comment that the team probably can’t afford another starting pitcher now. I don’t believe the Dodgers need another starter; Padilla’s a fine #4 and guys like James McDonald, Eric Stults, Scott Elbert, and Charlie Haeger are more than qualified to fight it out for #5, just like every other team does with that spot.
Still, the questions about Padilla persist. Let’s take a look at what some of the reaction has been to the signing.
No, no he’s not. You also don’t get aces for 1 year and $5m, and that’s not what he’s supposed to be. As we’ve been through here ad nauseum, the Dodgers were never going to get an ace. There’s just not that many available and for various reasons (not all involving money) Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee weren’t options. As we should all know by now, 2010 depends in large part on Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. If they take that next step, the Dodgers have a shot. If they don’t, then they’re in trouble. That was going to be the case regardless of who was signed to fill out the rotation.
But he’s not Ben Sheets, and signing Padilla means we can’t afford Sheets now!
True, he’s not Ben Sheets. And I won’t lie and pretend that I wouldn’t have liked to have seen Sheets in Blue. But I’m sure you’ve seen the rumors regarding Sheets’ asking price, right? He’s supposedly looking for around $10m plus a player option. So that right there probably puts the Dodgers out of the conversation entirely, Padilla or not. It’s also a lot to pay for a guy who didn’t even pitch in 2009 and has been injured with a variety of different ailments almost constantly since 2004. If he’s healthy, Sheets is probably worth the money for a team that can afford it. The Dodgers can’t afford the money or the risk, and Padilla’s signing isn’t the reason.
But we overpaid for a guy who got cut last year! He’s not worth it!
Isn’t he? $5m may sound like a lot, but for what starting pitching is going for these days – remember, Randy Wolf just picked up six times that – $5m really isn’t a whole lot. Yes, he got cut by the Rangers last year, but that was seemingly more for his off-field misdeeds than performance issues. We all saw how talented he can be in the playoffs for the Dodgers when he’s got his head on straight. Save for a lousy 2007 season in Texas, this is a guy who’s been hovering around league-average nearly every year for a decade. Just look at his “average” season – 29 starts, 183 innings, 100 ERA+. That’s a great 4th starter, and that alone is worth $5m. Then take into account that he’s spent almost his entire career pitching in two of the toughest places to pitch in baseball, Philadelphia and Texas. So yeah, I think he’s worth it.
But the Angels just got Joel Pineiro!
I’ve seen some complaints that this happened the day after the Angels signed Joel Pineiro to a 2 year, $16m contract, and how this supposedly means that the Dodgers are being reactionary and getting an inferior pitcher compared to the Rally Monkeys. And sure, Pineiro had a very nice 2009. I just think people are completely overlooking the risk inherent in a guy who was absolutely horrible in 3 of the previous 4 years (3 years with 5+ ERA), and who is now leaving Dave Duncan to come to a talented division in the tougher league.
Padilla was markedly better between 2004-08 (4.80 ERA isn’t great, but it’s a hell of a lot better than 5.34 ERA). Even in Pineiro’s breakout 2009, he tailed off at the end of the year, putting up a 4.64 ERA once the calendar turned to August. Then, he gave up 7 hits and 4 runs in only 4 innings in his NLDS start while Padilla threw 7 scoreless in the same game. That’s worth an extra year and 3 times the money?
But he’s a psychopath!
Well, yeah. We’ve all heard the stories about head-hunting, run-ins with teammates, and accidental shootings. This is all true and worth being worried about. That said, this is why you sign guys to one-year contracts. Ideally, the motivation for the next contract is enough to keep him in line, and if it’s not, then the few million dollars he cost is hardly going to send your season down the toilet.
I’ve also seen in some places that the fact that he got swine flu last year is held against him too, but that seems like a stretch. Millions of people came down with that, including – possibly – me. Am I a pyschopath too? Wait, don’t answer that.
So now what? Are we done?!
Well, the front four in the rotation is pretty set with Kershaw, Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, and Padilla. There’s no shortage of talent to battle for the 5th spot, and whomever loses either bolsters the bullpen or awaits their chance in AAA. (I think Eric Stults probably has the initial advantage, if only because he’s out of options and the Dodgers didn’t refuse to sell him to Japan just to lose him for nothing).
You can say, “but Kershaw’s young! Billingsley was lousy late last year! Kuroda’s old and hurt!” and you’d be right. Just remember, no matter who the Dodgers signed to their rotation, none of those three guys were getting bumped. The season depends on their performances, and that’s been the reality for some time.