Monday, March 22, 2010

Should the Dodgers have traded for an ace?

In a piece that made the rounds Friday (and, graciously, mentioned this little corner of the internet), Fox Sports' Ken Robo Rosenthal suggests that the Dodgers should be using their economic might to stifle the rest of the division. In the coulda-shoulda-woulda department, Rosenthal writes:

The Dodgers should have capitalized upon their revenues, traded for an ace at one of the last two non-waiver deadlines and reached the World Series by now. 
They should be dominating the NL West, a division in which no other team approaches their financial might. Instead, they're fretting over their starting rotation, which lacks an ace at the top and depth at the bottom.
Addressing the second point first: I'm not sure lack of an ace or having enough depth at the bottom is the Dodgers' problem. If having an ace is important in the first place--which is debatable--then Clayton Kershaw is that guy. Or, at least, if he's not, then there aren't more than a dozen "aces" in baseball. And Chad Billingsley is not very far removed from being included in this sort of conversation. Dodger Divorce believes in Chad.

As for lack of depth at the bottom...I'm not seeing that as an issue. A winning team can give 30 starts to some combination of Eric Stults, James McDonald, Scott Elbert, Carlos Monasterios, Charlie Haeger, and the long-lost-Brothers Ortiz. Indeed, depth seems to be a strength.

To me, it's spots three and four that provide cause for concern. If Billingsley or (especially) Kershaw goes down, we're mostly screwed anyway. And there's plenty of arms for that fifth spot, should it be the revolving door we expect. Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla, slated for the third and fourth slots, are absolutely crucial to the team's success this year. Whether it's injuries (Kuroda) or inconsistency (Padilla), each gives us significant cause for concern.

If one or both of those two fails to give the Dodgers 175+ decent innings (a possibility, if not a likelihood), than that menagerie of mediocrity currently battling for the fifth spot extends its reach into the middle of the rotation. This is where things could get dicey for the Dodgers.

Having spent my March supply of alliteration, I'll move to the suggestion that the Dodgers definitely should have traded for one of the aces on the move. This group, off the top of my head, includes CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Jake Peavy, and maybe Johan Santana, depending on how far back you want to go. Would the Dodgers have been better off with at least one of those five on the roster?

Absolutely. But at what cost? I think it's entirely safe to assume that trading for one of them would have cost the club at least one of the two core stars, Kershaw and Kemp. It probably would have included at least one of the secondary impact players, a group which includes Billingsley, Andre Ethier, and Jonathan Broxton. Even if money wasn't an issue, would a year or two of one of the pitchers above been worth it?

Maybe. But it's this gray area which makes it a little harsh to say the Dodgers should have traded for a pitcher meeting the accepted, traditional definition of "ace." I'm the first one to acknowledge that the Dodgers should be terrorizing the NL West on an annual basis. Rosenthal's right; no other team in the division should have more financial clout. But let's not jump to the conclusion that there's no reasonable argument for holding onto premium young talent.

Tomorrow morning, my Five Questions: Los Angeles Dodgers season preview will run at The Hardball Times. Expect guarded optimism about...well, about everything. And, finally, rest in peace, my dear Kansas Jayhawks. Joe Posnanski wrote a typically-sublime post-mortem.


  1. Just read the LAT story and Jamie's innuendo's about Frank's affairs. I fear the divorce by both lawyers and assorted PR people will be like fingernails on a blackboard all year long. Hope there is a way whatever happens that it ends quickly.

  2. McCourt needed to buy Cliff Lee and blew it!