Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney entered free agency to start this offseason, and although it was Anderson who received the qualifying offer, Heaney was still a viable option to return.
Now, Heaney is the only pitcher of those two still available.
The Dodgers have some work to do around their rotation. Not an overhaul by any means, but with Walker Buehler already out for the year and Anderson moving on to Anaheim thanks to a three-year deal with Angels, more pitching depth is needed. Heaney has reportedly garnered interest from multiple clubs.
There have already been rumors about interest in Justin Verlander, but we’re not going to talk about a big name today. You’re not signing Verlander to replace your fourth starter who left via free agency. When you sign a top player like that, it’s about more than just a need; you're doing it to elevate the level of your club.
With that in mind, assuming the Dodgers fail to bring in a legitimate front-of-the-line starter — which by no means is a guarantee for a rotation that includes Julio Urías, Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, and a healthy Dustin May — the front office will work to add some depth to the backend of the rotation, especially with Anderson’s departure.
There is an intriguing parallel to set with both Anderson and Heaney. One that illustrates why it is actually easier for the Dodgers to bring Heaney back rather than Anderson, even if they rate Anderson higher, which is shown by the fact he received a qualifying offer.
Heaney’s Achilles hill makes him a more likely signing
One of the mantras of this Dodgers regime is to avoid long-term commitments in almost every area, except for the really high-end superstars. Remember the Bryce Harper pursuit four years ago, in which the team was willing to offer the highest average annual value, but on a short-term contract.
Before last year, the team brought in Heaney and Anderson on one-year deals to basically eat some innings for this squad, whether as a backend starter or long-reliever was yet to be decided.
Both Anderson and Heaney pitched very well when they were out there, but ultimately Anderson was the only one able to remain healthy for the whole season, with Heaney spending half of the year on the shelf with recurring shoulder problems.
That was the main reason why Heaney didn't even get considered for a qualifying offer, and Anderson did. You can argue even if Heaney had pitched somewhere closer to 160 innings rather than 80, that Anderson was still inherently better, but the gap was not that large. Heaney did have a 35.1-percent strikeout rate, and a 1.087 WHIP, somewhat close to Anderson’s 1.002 mark.
The Dodgers were willing to offer Anderson the qualifying offer of $19.65 million, but he found more security with a three-year, $39 million deal with the Angels instead.
Similarly, the front office is also willing to bring back Heaney, but it’s not going to offer him a long-term deal, but unlike Anderson, Heaney’s injury concerns may prevent any team from doing that, making it very plausible that he returns to the Dodgers on a one-year deal.
Free agency can always throw you a curveball, and it only takes one pitching-needy team to offer Heaney that extra year or two. But even if Anderson was the safer choice to bring back, Heaney was always going to be the likeliest, primarily because of the risk mitigation that’s expected with his health problems.
Even with only the in-house names, the Dodgers rotation is pretty well figured out, leaving this team to operate at a position of advantage in the market, and not necessarily forced to commit outside their comfort zone.