Many of the Dodger blogs have been discussing the 5th starter spot and with good reason as the candidates even before they threw a pitch this spring were less then inspiring. A Dodger Thought commentator posted what he thought were the contenders for the 5th spot for the 29 teams in an attempt to show how lousy many teams 5th starters are and that we are in the same boat as most teams. It was a good effort but I don't think it applies to the Los Angeles Dodgers situation.
We are expected to be the class of the NL so if we are going to compare 5th starters lets compare our possible solutions to the other teams who are expected to compete for the World Championship not the KC Royals of our world. Arizona is at least even with us when it comes to talent as we try to retain control of our Divisional Title and one simple game might end up seperating us at the end of the season, so I don't think we can be very cavaliar about our pitching depth.
When you look at the contending teams you see quite a bit of talent and some downright studly talent. Using the Depth Chart from Baseball HQ
NYY - Chamberlain
Bos - Buchholz, Masterson, Penny, or Smoltz
TB - Price or Neiman
Clev - Pavano or Slowly
CWS - Colon or Poreda
Det - Robertson or Porcello(Kershaw2008)
LAA - Moseley, Adenhart, and Escobar in two months
SEA - Morrow, Smith, or Olson
NYM - Livan Hernandez or Freddy Garcia
PHI - Park or Kendrick or Happ
FLO - Andrew Miller
ATL - Glavine or Hanson
CHI - Marshall, Heilman, or Samardzija
MIL - Looper
ST - Piniero
ARI - Scherzer
LAD - Schmidt, Vargas, Milton, Estes, McDonald, Stults
If it wasn't for James McDonald our choices would be just as bad as the Mets, Phillies, Cardinals, White Sox, and Indians. Teams like the Yankee's, Boston, TB, ARI, SEA, ATL, and the Tigers all have potential aces vying for the 5th spot. Chamberlain, Price, Buchholz, Porcello, Scherzer, Hanson, and Morrow are some of the brightest arms in baseball. At the next level are Masterson, A Miller, Adenhart, Poreda, Neiman, Samardzija, and our McDonald. James McDonald might be the only solution we have who could be better then 5th spot dreck.
Since this team is going for it this year, it would seem that Frank might want to stretch the wallet one more time and see if Pedro has something left to give. Ned has brought in some lousy options in Milton, Estes, and Vargas. This is just an opinion but I think we have as much chance of getting something out of Schmidt that the White Sox have of getting something out of Colon, and I don't think to many of us would be counting on much from Colon.
Now it is true that whoever is pitching in the fifth spot in April is not as important as who is taking that turn come July but I'd rather start out with better options so by the time we hit July we have found someone who is doing the job for a team expected to contend. Sure we might be able to win the pennant without a solid 5th starter but do you want to bet that Justin Upton doesn't break out, that Scherzer goes Dreifort, that Chris Young isn't what BP thinks he is? Normally I'd say yes, I'd gamble on McDonald being able to do the job, but this year we have a joker in the deck. Pedro is available and available for what I'd call cheap. He's cheap because he's been hurt and wasn't very good in 2008. We don't need vintage Pedro we just need a Maddux like 5 innings from him per start. Can he give us that? I don't know but I want to find out.
If Pedro is not the option then I'd turn to McDonald and Stults but I'd hate to have them as the first option when Schmidt falters because there is no one behind them.
The Dodgers need a 5th starter and Pedro needs somewhere to pitch. Lets use this joker to trump the boys to the East.