The Dodgers’ 2011 Rotation

Los Angeles fans might be focused on the closer's position today, but as we look ahead to next season, the Dodgers will go into the offseason with three-fifths of their starting rotation on the free agent market.  Here's a tentative look ahead at what the Dodger rotation might look like (barring injuries or any other unforseen incidents) on the next Opening Day.

Firstly, let's look at the starters who are under the club's control.  Clayton Kershaw can be safely pencilled in as the Dodgers' number one starter next season, so if you hear any news about him this winter, it will likely be the Dodgers exploring long-term contract talks.  (Kershaw is eligible for arbitration after 2011.)

Chad Billingsley's name has been mentioned in trade rumors for everyone from Roy Halladay to Roy Oswalt, but the right-hander has remained in Dodger blue.  Billingsley has paid off the team's faith in him by developing into a solid starter: a 3.59 career ERA and a 2.05 K/BB ratio over five seasons.  He has even shown signs of harnessing his control issues by posting a career-low 3.2 BB/9 ratio thus far in 2010.  Billingsley is making $3.85MM this season and has two more arbitration years left, so he might be another target for a long-term deal. 

Looming over any contract talks for either pitcher (or any offseason move for the Dodgers) is the ongoing dispute over the Dodgers' ownership stemming from the divorce between Frank and Jamie McCourt.  One would think that L.A. would find enough money to lock up their two young starters, especially with the likes of Manny Ramirez's contract coming off the books.  The Dodgers have shown that they've been willing and able to spend a bit in the wake of the McCourt divorce, but if a sudden cash crunch pops up in the winter, it's possible that Billingsley could be swapped instead of given what could be substantial arbitration raises for the next two years.

That leaves the Dodgers' three pending free agent starters: Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly and Vicente Padilla.  If last year was any indication, L.A. won't offer salary arbitration to any of them, though it seems quite unlikely that Lilly or Kuroda would accept.  Lilly seems destined to test the market for a big deal and will no doubt get attention from several teams.  Given the Dodgers' payroll uncertainty, it seems safe to presume that Lilly will be pitching elsewhere in 2011.

Kuroda is approaching the end of the three-year, $35.3MM contract he signed with Los Angeles in 2007, and has been the definition of a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher since coming to the majors from Japan.  Kuroda will turn 36 in February and has a couple of DL stints to his name, which will probably keep him from getting a long-term deal.  It's easy to picture a number of teams bidding on the right-hander, so again, the Dodgers could be priced out of the market. 

Padilla has put up very good numbers (3.29 ERA, 8.2 K/9 ratio in 22 appearances) since signing with the Dodgers in August 2009, though his L.A. stint has been marred by a two-month stint on the DL this year with a forearm injury.  Padilla agreed to return to the Dodgers on a one-year, $5.025MM contract for this season, and given his love of pitching at Dodger Stadium, it's possible to see Padilla return on something akin to a two-year, $14MM deal, possibly with an option year and some incentive clauses.

What will the Dodgers do to fill these holes in the rotation?  Help could come from within in the form of John Ely, who threw eight quality starts out of 14 in Padilla's place this season and looked like he belonged in the majors.  Charlie Haeger and Carlos Monasterios also started games for L.A. this year, but Haeger pitched terribly and Monasterios projects better out of the bullpen.

Down on the farm, L.A.'s best pitching prospects seem at least a year or two away.  Right-hander Josh Lindblom (the Dodgers' second-round pick in the 2008 amateur draft) looked to be on the fast track to the majors after he zoomed from A-ball to Triple-A within two years, but Lindblom struggled badly (7.06 ERA) as a starter at Triple-A Albuquerque this year and was converted back into a reliever.

Two Dodger pitching prospects made Baseball America's midseason top 50 prospects list (right-handers Ethan Martin and Chris Withrow) though both are struggling with control issues.  Martin has a 5.7 BB/9 ratio and a 5.57 ERA in high-A ball this season, while Withrow (the #48-ranked prospect in BA's preseason list) has a 4.8 BB/9 ratio and a 5.84 ERA in Chattanooga.  With this relative lack of major league-ready arms coming up, it makes the deal of James McDonald for short-term rental Octavio Dotel at the trade deadline seem pretty curious.

Between the ownership issues and Joe Torre's possible retirement, there are still enough changes to come in Los Angeles that it's hard to predict exactly what the Dodgers will do with their rotation next season.  Barring any payroll increase, however, it seems likely that L.A. will look to low-cost veterans who might take a Padilla-esque short-term deal to revive themselves pitching at Chavez Ravine. 

In his examination of Cincinnati's 2011 rotation, MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith noted that Aaron Harang is likely to have his option declined by the Reds in the winter.  A pitcher like Harang, who has struggled but still put up decent peripheral numbers over the last three seasons, could regain his All-Star form in moving from the Great American Ballpark to Dodger Stadium.  Free agent NL West veterans like Kevin Correia or Jeff Francis (who will likely have his $7MM option declined by the Rockies) could be possible Dodger targets as well.


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44 Comments on "The Dodgers’ 2011 Rotation"


Dave_Gershman
5 years 21 days ago

The one thing that the Dodgers can bank on, they have some really nice pitching depth in the lower and higher levels of the minors. Someone who I really like that Mark said, Josh Lindblom who was picked in the great 2nd round of the 2008 draft.

I do think the Dodgers will trade for a starter, but I don’t think it would involve taking on more salary. I also don’t think they are paying big money for anybody like Javy, De La Rosa, or Ted Lilly.

I think with his progression, Kershaw needs to carry that rotation along with Billingsley. I don’t think it would make sense for the Dodgers to rebuild due to the fact that their rotation will be somewhat short of a great rotation, but if they can re-visit the Paul Maholm talks for example and give some of their young guys a chance, they might find something useful.

Dirtbag Blues
5 years 21 days ago

I think it’s a pretty good bet Ely will make th rotation next year. Everything will go back to the McCourt issue. If Frank comes out ok in the divorce, the Dodgers may have a fair amount of money to spend and could push for a good starter or two. If the ordeal is still going on, or Jamie gets a big enough payday, the Dodgers will probably have to settle for 2 Vicente Padillia-type guys, and may have to trade for one of them. Either way, their rotation sould be good enough next year, the biggest issues will be helping out the bullpen and adding some power to the lineup.

drumzalicious
5 years 21 days ago

If the divorce thing gets settled I could see them going after a few FA. Maybe even surprise everyone by going after Cliff Lee.

dirtydez
5 years 21 days ago

Manny comes off the books right? They could grab Lee/Crawford and call it a summer.

5 years 21 days ago

NO MONEY.

5 years 14 days ago

Manny will probably not be playing for the Dodgers after this year, but they will still be paying him $8.33MM a year until 2013… hardly what I would call “off the books”.

They may be able to afford C.J. Lee, P, for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, and Evan Crawford. LF for the Daytona Cubs, but they would still have to trade for them… then call it a summer.

5 years 21 days ago

The McDonald trade was awful regardless of whether Withrow is ready to contribute next year or not. Even If McDonald busts, it’s a horrific trade.

And we threw in Lambo.

JOY.

lasordaforpresident
5 years 21 days ago

McDonald never cut it as a starter, and we never converted him to a reliever, and Lambo failed multiple drug tests and showed that smoking pot was more important than his baseball career. Yes we gave up too much for Dotel but neither was a cornerstone or fixture in our lineup. Not a good trade but we didnt give up our future by anymeans.

5 years 21 days ago

McDonald never got a real chance to start and learn and grow in the role, and he was dynamite out of the pen in close to 50 innings/appearances if memory serves me. Both were cost-controlled young talent we gave away for literally nothing. They both could have been easy contributors for upwards of a combined 10 years.

AWFUL TRADE.

lasordaforpresident
5 years 21 days ago

I agree if we moved McDonald to the pen he would have been able to contribute for the big league club be a setup guy or a bridge to Kuo and Brox. He did do real well in the bullpen, but he had several opportunities to step up and claim the starter role, both last year and this. He couldnt throw enough strikes with his curveball which worked in the minors. Lambo we could have kept for another year to see if his first month and a half were signs of his rebounding from last year, but I think its a better message to send to the other players that fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, he failed several drug tests and wasnt taking his Dodger career seriously. Dotel does equal nothing, but we could have sold high on McD and Lambo two years ago when both were top 100 prospects, but all LA does is sell, and sell low.

5 years 21 days ago

McDonald had like 4 starts last year, one this year (in which he was solid), and like 6 innings in Spring Training this year. That’s not nearly enough time to give a player. Haeger (who I like as a long-relief/spot-start guy) got more of a chance, as did both Ortizes.

The Dodgers always, always sell low, it’s a shame.

vtadave
5 years 20 days ago

Kinda like when they solid low on Milton Bradley and earlier, Raul Mondesi, right?

thegrayrace
5 years 20 days ago

The Dodgers didn’t exactly sell high on Bradley. Andre Ethier was hardly regarded as a top prospect at the time…

5 years 20 days ago

So Dotel will provide as much value as Ethier? (even though his value isn’t as high as many fans think it is)

gigantes2425
5 years 20 days ago

did you look up the 2 prospects they threw in for lilly? they’re a few years away from the majors, but they have really good numbers in the minors.

5 years 19 days ago

Yes, all of their trades have been awful.

5 years 21 days ago

The Dodgers pitching is ATROUCIOUS

lasordaforpresident
5 years 21 days ago

Bullpen yes, starting hasnt been that bad, Kuroda, Bills and Padilla are doing pretty good, and Kershaw is still an ace in progress but not there yet. Starting pitching didnt matchup well with other aces but the starters have done their job in 2010, offense, defense and bullpen have cost us the season, along with McCheap and his divorce.

5 years 21 days ago

The pitching is the last of our worries.

booch11
5 years 21 days ago

this is an idiotic statement. LA’s pitching has been top notch (other than their closer of late).the offense can’t score.how many 1-0, 2-0 losses has this team encountered?or won by the same score.broxton has been bad.bellasario bad since he came back (with near zero rehab — hard to rehab against major leaguers).pitching is NOT this team’s problem.

lasordaforpresident
5 years 20 days ago

I believe we have been shut out 14 times this year, with 13 blown saves, the amount of runners stranded and missed scoring opps are pretty high as well.

stolenmonkey86
5 years 21 days ago

DEFERRED MONEY! Manny will be getting paid $8.3m next year (not that much less than he was paid in 2010) and the year after. Andruw Jones will still get $3.2m per year until 2014, and the Dodgers will still be paying something for Juan Pierre next year.

gigantes2425
5 years 20 days ago

isn’t it almost 9 for pierre? for some reason thats what im recalling. not sure though.

withpower
5 years 21 days ago

Sell the team to someone who will fund one of MLB’s premier franchises the way it ought to be funded.If anyone else owned the team, who could take the payroll up to 120MM to 130MM, the Dodgers would be MUCH, MUCH better than they currently are.Instead it just seems like the negativity builds a little bit in the clubhouse and around the team after every ‘not quite’ season — and they’ve had like 3, 4, 5 of them in a row.

lasordaforpresident
5 years 21 days ago

I was happy to see that Cuban didnt get the Rangers, maybe he would be interesting in conquering LA and take over a team with solid young position players and pitchers, and with a few tweeks and additions can make this a much better team.

gigantes2425
5 years 20 days ago

the MLB doesn’t want cuban. there was no chance that he would have got the rangers.

lasordaforpresident
5 years 20 days ago

No argument here, MLB prefers people without money, who will buy a MLB team on credit, disgrace it, treat the fans like idiots (they have a 85mil payroll not 110, and they paid 14 million in rent on a stadium they own to take the money away from the team) http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-0815-dodgers-rent-20100815,0,3330724.story. Tell the fans they want to build from within then punt the first round pick, and remove themselves from international signings.

Cuban is the opposite…he has money, has money to spend, and wants to win a championship

5 years 18 days ago

Marc Cuban…Buy the Dodgers, rescue us from this divorce mess!!! It’s really hurting our team. In the front office and on the field!!!

5 years 21 days ago

Its time for Torre and company to move on. This is a poorly coached team that will never get to the next level with current mgmt.

booch11
5 years 20 days ago

i agree with this statement. with a power stricken manny out of the lineup, this team has struggled. they weren’t hitting much better with manny btw.i recall hitting coach eddie murray getting fired back in 07 after having a much stronger hitting team.do we really want torre (or God help us, hos chosen one, Mattingly) at the helm again?Has Matt Kemp improved or regressed under torre’s tutelage.Hire Wallach — he’s a catcher, knows how to coach and has done a remarkable job coaching the isotopes with a roster that changes nearly everyday.BUT, my fear is, they’ll go the way of mattingly and Wallach will go on to take some team to the world series (like Mike Scioscia has).can’t hit – can’t field – and their is an overall bad attitude on the team.at who’s desk does the buck stop?

vtadave
5 years 20 days ago

Yeah that Tim Wallach was a great catcher, wasn’t he?

5 years 21 days ago

Please Mark Cuban come to the rescue. Please.

5 years 20 days ago

this is why maholm would have been better 4 the dodger instead of lilly nd dotel 4 that matter.maholm 4 mcdonald nd lambo still a bad deal but not as bad as the dotel deal. a rotation of the starter below would be a solid rotation.
1.billingsley
2.kershaw
3.Free Agent
4.Maholm
5.Ely
Relievers
Kuo
Broxton
Troncoso
Belisario
Sherill :(
Free Agent
Free Agent/minor leaguer

lasordaforpresident
5 years 20 days ago

Sherrill isnt coming back and will be non tendered, Troncoso shouldnt be there and Bellesario might be dealt in the offseason due to his DUI last year and Houdini this year. Also Kenley Jansen is looking pretty good and will be in the bullpen as either a setup guy or pitching the seventh to get to Kuo and Brox. Johhny Cakes will regain his closer role and Kuo’s glass arm cant handle being the closer (I dont think it will be able to pitch another 1-2 seasons before breaking again)

Maholm isnt better than Lilly (who is doing his job in Dodger Blue) and wouldnt be a better improvment than Kuroda or Padilla next year. A rotation of Kershaw, Bills, Free Agent, Maholm, and Ely isnt going to get it done during the season, and definetly not playoffs. Yes Maholm for McD and Lambo would have been a better deal than for Dotel but that is pretty obvious.

ThinkBlue10
5 years 20 days ago

you didnt get it all right here. why is bills our number one? and i rather have padilla than maholm.
kenley jansen should also be in our bullpen.

coachofall
5 years 20 days ago

Dodgers are a mess. This team has no direction. They traded their catcher of the future for scotty Pods, Mcdonald AND Lambo (even with his off field issues his potential is more than that of a throw in) for Dotel. Colletti refused to accept the fact that Ethier can’t hit without protection in the lineup and that the team was going nowhere this year. A complete house cleaning from the top down is what this team needs. Let Kershaw and bills carry this staff for the next 5 years but please get someone competent in place to make personel decisions.

vtadave
5 years 20 days ago

Lucas May isn’t anyone’s primary catcher of the future. He’s strictly backup material.

coachofall
5 years 20 days ago

Didnt say he was Joe Mauer, was referring to the fact that Martin will be due a raise and his production (which isn’t a lot) could have been replaced by mlb ready May. I would rather have May for the league minimum over Martin at 6 Mil plus.

lakersdodgersyankees4life
5 years 20 days ago

No way May would be good enough to be a starting catcher. You want defense first. Also, May was getting pretty old…

gigantes2425
5 years 20 days ago

thats right. they traded their catcher for casey blake.

5 years 20 days ago

may cant catch but he can hit he’s probably a DH with the royals

thegrayrace
5 years 20 days ago

My bet is that they resign either Lilly or Padilla, or both. Kuroda is gone.

I think the chances they sign Lilly are pretty good, as Lilly is a local guy, is getting up there in age, and might want to finish his career close to home. He might value that more than going for the largest contract at this point in his career.

Padilla, he’s done well with the Dodgers and hasn’t had the clubhouse problems he had elsewhere. Other teams seem weary of him, understandably. I think he feels comfortable in L.A. and may also prefer to stay.

5 years 18 days ago

Marc Cuban, please buy the Dodgers and rescue us from the McCourts Divorce mess, It’s like a Cancer eating the team away from the inside out(in the front office and on the field)

LADodgers
4 years 11 months ago

Pitching wasnt the problem this year. Exept Broxton, I personally think he killed the whole season, every big game they were winning he would blow. Go get a decent pitcher either threw FA or a trade. But we desperatly need some offense, we lost way to many games were we didnt score ANY or maybe 1 run. Get a power hitting 3B and 1B, I love loney but we need alot more power then that. Also id hate to quit on Matt Kemp but after this year id rather have scott pods in center. Seriously the dodgers only need a few peices and i think they could be one of the best teams. Just get rid of Ned Colleti and we’ll be right back in the NL championship.