LOS ANGELES -- With the signing of Hisashi Iwakuma currently in limbo, the Dodgers are forced to look elsewhere for starting pitching additions, something they might have done anyway even if the deal for Iwakuma had already been finalized. The latest reported target for Los Angeles is Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Tampa Bay has a stockpile of young pitching, and while ace Chris Archer would obviously be a fantastic addition, his combination of age (27), performance, and team-friendly contract (four years, $23 million guaranteed left per Cot's Baseball Contracts, plus two affordable club options that could push it to six years, $41.25 million) make Archer arguably even a tougher pitcher to acquire than Marlins ace Jose Fernandez.
Odorizzi, who turns 26 in March, has two years, 42 days of major league service time, so four years until free agency, and would certainly fit the Dodgers' desire to add young talent to the organization whenever possible.
The right-hander was 9-9 with a 3.35 ERA and 3.61 FIP in 28 starts for the Rays in 2015, with 150 strikeouts and 46 walks in 169⅓ innings.
The market value for cost-controllable young pitching was torn asunder with the Diamondbacks' acquisition of Shelby Miller, who has one fewer year of control than Odorizzi but also one more year on his track record and has proven more durable and effective. Miller has averaged 187 innings the last three years, including 205⅓ in 2015, wile Odorizzi set a career high with his 169⅓ innings in 2015, just slightly more than the 168 innings he threw in 2014.
Odorizzi made 31 starts in 2014, but was limited to 28 starts in 2015, missing five weeks in June and July on the disabled list with a left oblique strain.
For Miller and left-hander Gabe Speier Arizona sent to Atlanta a 25-year-old productive outfielder with nine WAR in two major league seasons in Ender Inciarte, a top-50 prospect in pitcher Aaron Blair, and the 2015 No. 1 overall pick in shortstop Dansby Swanson. It is unclear what Odorizzi might cost, but safe to assume it would be much less than the Braves' haul.
The Iwakuma deal is not officially dead, and just because the Dodgers and Rays have talked about Odorizzi doesn't mean a deal is imminent. But the Dodgers will surely add some starting pitcher this offseason, at least one, to slot somewhere with Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood.
The remaining group of free agents seem underwhelming outside of perhaps Scott Kazmir, who wouldn't cost a draft pick and given his injury history might not command a long-term deal. Then again, he would still need to pass a physical, which - as we have seen this offseason - is far from a sure thing.
With Julio Urias and Jose DeLeon knocking on the door, and Jharel Cotton and Ross Stripling added to the 40-man roster this winter, the Dodgers have young pitching getting closer to the major league level. While the Dodgers wait for Hyun-jin Ryu coming off shoulder surgery - a possibility to start the season, but a May return sounding more realistic - and for Brandon McCarthy rebounding from Tommy John surgery and likely ready at midsason, any interim Dodgers starting pitching gaps are much more likely to be filled by the group of Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias, Joe Wieland or Zach Lee than any of the quartet listed above.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Wednesday it was unlikely that a rookie would open the 2016 season in the starting rotation.
"It's possible in that I don't like to rule anything out, but I prefer to let guys get past the opening day bell, go get their legs under them in Triple-A," he explained. "Then the guys who are throwing the ball the best get an opportunity if it arises.
"That being said, there are certain guys who might impress in spring training, just saying this generally. And we have to make sure we're doing it for the right reasons, not just because a guy had a few good starts in the Cactus League."