Lets start off by saying that Josh Beckett more than likely wont last the season as the 5th starter. He LITERALLY in the most literal of senses wont. Just look at the Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) Beckett has. For those unfamiliar with the disease here’s an article. According to that article, some names who are currently pitching are Ian Kennedy, Matt Harrison, Shaun Marcum and Jeremy Bonderman. Chris Carpenter also retired because of this disease earlier this year. Not exactly the pinnacle of health, in fact the only one who is healthy enough to pitch as of right this moment happens to be headhunter Ian Kennedy. This disorder is something that can cause pitchers to hang up their gear for good. So even though Beckett is owed an insane 15.75 million dollars, counting on him would be incredibly foolish. Plus lets not forget he’s no spring chicken (turns 34 in May).
So a team with championship aspirations probably isn’t going to have a 34 year old TOS survivor taking the ball in the 5th spot in the rotation when there are so many question marks outside of Kershaw and Greinke in the first place. Finding a 5th starter, of course isn’t the easiest task, if every team could have a good 5th starter they would have a championship caliber rotation. So where do the Dodgers turn? Well they could go after Masahiro Tanaka or David Price and while the money in Tanaka’s case (contrary to belief this team’s resources aren’t unlimited) and prospect cost along with a 200 million dollar extension in Price’s case wouldn’t be very exciting I would love to see either in Dodger uniforms, but the longer the Tanaka situation goes, and the higher the prospect cost for Price gets (The Rays asked for Danny Salazar, Carlos Santana, AND super prospect Francisco Lindor) the more I am ready to usher in the prospect era.
Seriously, Stan Kasten has spoke for nearly two years now saying how crucial the farm is. As it’s been discussed, prospects are cheap, young, and controllable which are essential for any organization. So if you talk about how important prospects are to the organization, why wont you allow them to compete for starting slots? As of right now, there are at least 2 pitching prospects who are on the cusp of making an impact in the majors, 2010 1st rounder Zach Lee and 2012 5th rounder Ross Stripling. Probably two of the prospects with the lowest floors in the system (this also means their ceilings are limited, but that’s okay) they both are extremely polished, and both are potentially mid rotation arms. In case you missed last season’s debacle early on, every single team needs a pair of mid rotation starters.
I know, the usual argument is “if the prospects fail, then you are left with a Beckett and a Billingsley without a throwing arm”. This is true, but I think that’s the beauty of it. Zach Lee and Ross Stripling aren’t going to be competing against each other, they will be competing against Josh Beckett come spring time. Beckett reportedly is throwing with no issues right now, which makes me ask why not have Stripling, Lee, and Beckett compete for that 5th spot out of Spring Training. Trusting Beckett over a full season isn’t a good idea, but to compete with young prospects in Zach Lee and Ross Stripling giving the young guys a sense of competition and what it takes to succeed in the bigs could pay off for the Dodgers. And of course, you always have Chad Billingsley coming back midseason as the biggest of wild cards and security blankets. I don’t think anyone has an issue with having Price in the rotation but at this point the Rays would likely laugh at a Corey Seager, Julio Urias, Zach Lee, and Joc Pederson package. In fact any trade proposal not including Yasiel Puig is likely going to be shrugged off from Andrew Friedman. Also signing Masahiro Tanaka would make for a huge addition into the rotation, but the question should be asked “is having at least 60 million dollars per year allocated to 3 pitchers (Kershaw, Greinke, Tanaka) for the foreseeable future a very smart idea?”. Personally I’d lean towards no. Give the prospects a real shot to start out of spring training, I would love to have some cheap, good, homegrown starting pitchers earn a stake in the rotation for the first time since some dude named Clayton Kershaw in 2008.