On Having Too Many Starting Pitchers

November 30, 2012 at 7:10 am | Posted in Chris Capuano | Leave a comment

I think one of my favorite side effects of this whole “opulence, I has it” approach to team building the Dodgers have taken is the idea that they can’t or won’t do something because of decisions that were made during the previous era under completely different circumstances. This manifests itself mainly in the fact that the team is expected to get at least two starting pitchers despite already having six veteran starters under contract for 2013, a situation which apparently gives fans and media members the vapors.

Setting aside for the moment that fully two-thirds of that group – Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, & Josh Beckett – fought injuries in 2012 and that this suddenly makes Aaron Harang & Chris Capuano the durable ones (!), there’s a huge difference between having too many starting pitchers under contract and having the best pitching available to you. Does Zack Greinke improve the rotation? Of course. James Shields, Anibal Sanchez, even Cliff Lee, who they may be still interested in after being unable to acquire last summer? Certainly. It’s an improvement over what you have, so you do what you can to add them to your roster. That’s not to disparage Capuano & Harang, who were surprisingly decent additions last winter, just that they were signed less because they were the best talent available and more because they were the best talent available for the meager pennies Frank McCourt had left Ned Colletti.

I can already hear the cries that this attitude only applies to teams who are unspeakably, embarrassingly wealthy, but that’s true only to a certain extent. There’s nothing wrong with having, for example, Harang at the back end of your rotation and being fine with that because you just don’t have the resources to upgrade upon him. There’s absolutely something wrong with having the opportunity to improve and saying, “no, we can’t because we already have Aaron Harang.” If holding a contract on one year of Harang’s time is preventing you from acquiring someone better simply because he exists, well, you’re doing it wrong.

Not that I believe the Dodgers are taking that attitude, of course. I’m all but absolutely certain that they’ll sign Hyun-jin Ryu before his 30-day window expires on December 10, and they’ll get at least one of Greinke (who reportedly was at Dodger Stadium on Thursday) or the other names, if not two. It’s not at all inconceivable that they’ll have eight or nine starting pitchers under contract at various points this winter.

What that means is that at least one – but probably two – of Capuano, Harang, Beckett, & Lilly are headed out the door, even if it means eating some money. Where to? Well, there’s about a million different scenarios you could dream up, so it’s nothing but speculation to try to dream up trades to every other team in the league. (Two of the more recent fun ones are the White Sox “looking for a lower-end starting pitcher” and the Pirates potentially being willing to move Joel Hanrahan, coming off a bizarre high strikeout / high walk / high homer season, now that he’s getting expensive and they stretched to sign Russell Martin but still have rotation holes to fill.)

Exactly which of that foursome goes, to where, and for whom isn’t all that important at the moment. The simple fact is that the Dodgers have the means to upgrade and the need to do so, and the presence of a few extra veterans on the back nines of their careers shouldn’t be an impediment to that – nor, do I believe, will it be.

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