Quick, name the returning starting pitchers the Dodgers will have in 2011…
It’s shouldn’t take you that long to figure it out because there are two: Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley.
Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente are all entering free agency and Carlos Monasterios does not qualify as a starting pitcher in my mind. Ever.
So what should the Dodgers do with these guys? They need to offer arbitration to all three of them.
Most pundits are talking about how the Dodgers don’t have the financial flexibility to do that just in case they all accept, but the chances of that happening are less than zero.
If Ned Colletti doesn’t realize that, then he will only prove that he’s as dumb as I think he is.
The only one who will even consider accepting is Vicente Padilla, and if he does, fine. Because of an injury plagued 2010 season, he probably won’t make much more than he made this year ($5.05 mil) which is about as cheap as you’ll find a decent starting pitcher on the open market. Padilla also has something to prove after being injured for a good portion of this season, so bringing him back on a one-year deal would give him incentive. There is a chance he would decline because he no longer wants to work on a one-year deal, and that would bring the Dodgers a draft pick. If he declines, maybe work on bringing him back if the right deal presents itself.
Now, as for Kuroda and Lilly, it’s simple. In a weak market for starting pitching, these guys are two of the top available and like I said, there is literally no chance they accept arbitration and they would both bring back draft picks.
After they decline arbitration, work on re-signing one of them, and I think it should be Lilly. I say this because A) he’s a lefty and it would be nice to have more than just one, and: B) he would consider giving the Dodgers a slight discount because he wants to pitch for his hometown team, and clearly pitches well at Dodger Stadium.
I think Kuroda is going to try and cash in on what is probably his last chance at a big contract, and the Dodgers probably won’t even give it a serious try.
To recap: The Dodgers must offer arbitration to all three guys, they must re-sign at least one, and hopefully two of them.
The free agent market is thin on pitching, and there is literally nothing in the Minors that will be close to competing for a rotation spot next spring.
With quite a bit of cash coming off the books, the Dodgers (even as cheap as they are right now) can afford two of these guys.
Can they afford two of them and perhaps Cliff Lee? Or do they re-sign one, go after Lee and piece together the final spot? This is another post for another time, but clearly pitching is a big concern heading into next year.