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Five starters the Dodgers should eye in free-agency

The market is slim, but here are some potential names to take a look at

MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

We’re a little over three months from the beginning of Spring Training, but it’s never too early to take a look at how the potential 2020 Dodgers starting rotation will look.

There are a few guarantees as to who will be there. Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Kenta Maeda will likely find themselves in the rotation. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill will be wildcards, as they are both free-agents. Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias are all candidates, but it’s unclear as to how the Dodgers want to use them next season, or if some of them will even be with the club in 2020.

They might re-sign Hill, and slide May into the rotation, and boom, you have your five. But for the sake of this article, let’s say that doesn’t happen, and there’s a spot or two that opens up. Who should the Dodgers go after?

Before we get started, I’d just like you to know, I am all aboard signing Gerrit Cole and giving him however much money he wants. I’m also a fan of signing Stephen Strasburg as well. Unfortunately, I’m not the one handing out the checks. And if the previous years have taught us anything, it’s likely the Dodgers won’t sign either one of them.

Zack Wheeler

Behind Cole, Strasburg and Ryu, Wheeler is probably the best starter on the market. He’s entering his age 30 season, but has quietly been one of the more consistent pitchers in baseball over the last two seasons.

Since 2018, he’s gone 23-15 with a 3.65 ERA. He’s been one of the more reliable arms in the league, making 60 starts and throwing 377 innings. During that time, he has 374 strikeouts, and is averaging 2.5 walks per nine innings.

He likely won’t be getting big-time money compared to the other guys, but he could find himself getting a pay-day of near $100 million. If teams strike out on the main guys, Wheeler will quickly become the best starter available, meaning a team could get desperate and offer him more than he probably should get. I doubt the Dodgers will throw that kind of money his way, but if they can convince him to sign a deal worth two or three years, he could be a very solid No. 3 or No. 4 option.

Jake Odorizzi

Another under-the-radar starter, Jake Odorizzi made his first career All-Star game last year in his eighth big-league season. He won a career-high 15 games, while posting a respectable 3.51 ERA. He made 30 starts, striking out 178 in 159 innings of work. His ERA+ of 131 was near the top among American League pitchers.

There’s a chance Odorizzi returns to Minnesota, as the Twins offered him a $17.8 million qualifying offer. Maybe he accepts that and tests the free-agent market next season. If he doesn’t, the Dodgers will have the chance to sign an All-Star pitcher for the middle/back-end of the rotation.

Madison Bumgarner

Wouldn’t this be something.

Out of the five names I’m going to mention in this article, I think this one is the most unlikely to end up in Dodger Blue. But hey, stranger things have happened.

After 11 seasons with the Giants, Bumgarner enters free-agency. There’s still a chance that he re-signs with San Francisco, but there are likely going to be a plethora of teams that will be willing to throw a lot of money his way.

He’s still fairly young, having just turned 30 this past season. His 34 starts tied the most he’s ever made in his career, so he appears to finally be healthy again. Granted, his ERA of 3.90 is the highest it’s been in his career, but he posted a low WHIP of 1.13, while having a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly five-to-one.

The main reason a Bumgarner-to-LA move would be great is largely due to his postseason success. He was arguably the best postseason pitcher of the past decade, and you can make the case he is one of the better postseason pitchers of all-time.

In 102 career postseason innings, he owns a 2.11 ERA while holding opponents to a .201 average and .544 OPS. Who can forget his 2014 postseason run, in which he allowed only six runs over the course of 52 innings.

With the Dodgers having pitchers infamous for not being ‘October-ready’ over the years, adding one who has dominated in October would be a huge pickup.

Cole Hamels

Here’s a name that I wanted the Dodgers to acquire years back. Back when he was a Phillie, I was hopeful he’d somehow end up in Dodger blue. He still can, but it will still be a few years too late. Nevertheless, he’s still a solid arm that can be used in the back of the rotation.

In 2019 with the Cubs, he made 27 starts, posting a 3.81 ERA. He struck out 143 in 141 innings, but issued 56 walks.

He’ll be coming off a contract worth $173 million that he signed back in 2012, so he’s gotten his money. At this point in his career, he’ll likely want to contend for another championship, so LA would make sense. Plus, he was born and raised near the San Diego area, so he’ll be able to play closer to home.

Also, his nickname is Hollywood (according to baseball reference). That would just be too perfect.

Dallas Keuchel

Earlier I talked about the Dodgers adding an All-Star to their starting rotation. How about adding a former Cy-Young Award winner?

Dallas Keuchel is coming off a season in Atlanta in which he went 8-8 with a 3.75 ERA. He signed during the first-half of the season in 2019, as he was holding out to receive a big pay-day. He ended up signing with the Braves for one year, and will test the free-agent market yet again.

He isn’t the clear-cut No. 1 ace of a staff that he was five years ago, but he’s still a very talented pitcher who will be entering his age-32 season. He’s either won a Gold Glove or been an All-Star in five of the past six seasons. Maybe another team will offer him $15-20 million a year, but if the Dodgers can sign him to anything below that, it will be a major value.