Let's be honest here. The Dodgers starting rotation is not good. The Bullpen is usually pretty strong, but it has turned into quite an adventure getting to that point (especially in last years NLCS). The LA offense is very good and only getting better as those young bats gain more experience, but the Dodgers aren't going to be a legit championship contender until the starting rotation improves.
Kershaw has been improving and he is close to being a number one starter, but he's not quite there. The Dodger's 2008 stud on the mound, Chad Billingsley, was not so stud like down the stretch. In the post season the two most reliable starters were Randy Wolf and Vincente Padilla, who are now both Free Agents. The Dodger's need some help on the mound.
But that's the beauty about this time of year. There are a ton of free agent pitchers who can help LA get to the next level. But first thing's first. Let's take a look at the Dodger's starters who are Free Agents this year.
Randy Wolf: Last season, at the age of 32, Wolf started more games (34), and pitched more inning's (214.1) than any other year in his 11 season career. He had a record of 11-7 and an ERA of 3.23. Not too shabby. The ERA is respectable and he would have more wins if his team would have backed him up on the nights he took the mound. Wolf was the most consistant, reliable starting Pitcher for the Dodger's last season. It seems like Randy Wolf is as old as dirt because he has been pitching in the Big Leagues for 11 seasons, but he is only 32 years old. He is a crafty finesse pitcher and he is a good clubhouse guy. Out of all the Dodgers Free Agent starting pitchers this is the only one who absolutely needs to be resigned by LA. Wolf even helped his own cause this season with his bat. Wolf only had a batting average of .162, but he had 11 RBI, 5 runs scored with a HR. And in a span of two games Wolf went 4-5 with a homer and 5 RBI. The Dodgers need to keep Wolf. He is too reliable to let get away.
Jon Garland: Garland only served a breif stint in LA. After being traded from the Diamondbacks to the Dodgers mid-game where all he had to do was pack his things and walk over to the Dodgers clubhouse, Garland started only 6 games for LA and had a record of 3-2. with an ERA of 2.72. Not bad, but his total stats for 2009 read something like this: 11-13, ERA 4.01. His record was affected by being on a bad Arizona club, but batters had a .282 batting average against him and Garland only struck out 109 batters. Garland has pitched in the league for 10 seasons and has put up very average numbers. LA will not gain much from keeping this guy around.
Vincente Padilla: Padilla was a good shot in the arm for the Dodgers at the end of last season. And then he went and got shot in the leg. Although he was a valuble asset last season, I think it's time the Dodgers part ways with Vincente before it's too late. For his entire career he has been very hit or miss and he has a reputation for being a bad teammate in the locker room. That's not a good thing to have among the young Dodgers players. It was said that he was good in the Dodger's clubhouse at the end of last season, but that is only a tiny portion of his 11 seasons career. I would guess that the ugly side will show up again.
Jason Schmidt: It's about time the Dodgers can be rid of this guy and his monster contract. Since coming to LA after an All Star caliber stay in San Francisco, Schmidt has started only 10 games in 2 years with a record of 3-6 and an ERA of 6.01. And in those 10 starts he average only 4.1 innings. Good riddance.
Eric Milton: Another veteran pitcher with very pedestrian numbers. He has a career record of 89-85 with an ERA of 4.99. Not good. Milton spent most of last season in the minor leagues. Once again there is not a whole lot LA can gain by keeping Milton around.
Assuming that LA resigns Wolf and lets those other clowns go, this is what their roster of starters would look like: Billingsley, Kershaw, Wolf, Kuroda, Stults. Not bad, but not necessarily good. They can deinitley use a little help.
Now let's look at a few starters who are Free Agents this year who the Dodgers may want to take a look at (besides Roy Halladay):
John Lackey: One of the games best pitchers today. He has been pitching right down the freeway for 8 seasons and has been quite successful. In the last 2 years Lackey is 23-13 and he has a lifetime postseason ERA of 3.12. Put simply, the guy knows how to win. He has been the Angels number 1 pitcher. Since he came into the league Lackey has done nothing but produce. His rookie year he was 9-4 with a 3.66 ERA and , oh yeah, a World Series ring. He would be a great addition to the Dodgers rotation and make an immediate impact. It's be a pretty simple transition from Anaheim to Los Angeles. And let's not forget, Lackey is still young. He just turned 31 and has a lot of years ahead of him in the league. He should be priority number 1 for the Dodgers. Let your Free Agent pitchers go, drop that dead weight, and sign a guy who knows how to win.
Rich Harden: Somewhat of a rough year last year. Harden was 9-9 with an ERA of 4.09. But look at his career stats. 50-29/3.39 and 783 strikeouts. And he is only 28. Here is another guy that knows how to win and can make an immediate impact oon the Dodgers rotation. He's had a little trouble staying healthy but he durable enough to make an impact.
Joel Pineiro: He has had some rough spots in his 10 year career, but he looked impressive last year. He made 32 starts with an ERA of 3.49 and 2 complete game shutouts with 5 hits between the two of them. He is not a huge name, and for the most part he doesn't put up great numbers (career: 87-79/ 4.39), but he is a solid pitcher that could be a decent middle/end of the rotation guy.
Justin Duchscherer: Great pitcher with one major problem. He can not stay healthy. In his career he has started 27 games with a record of 12-10 and an ERA of 3.03 and 115 strikeouts. But that is over 7 seasons. He has been injury proned his entire career. If, and that's a big if, he can stay healthy, he could be a great asset for the Dodgers. His track record of injuries should drive down his price so he could be a steal. It's a risk. He missed all of last season after undergoing elbow surgery, and then being diagnosed with clinical depression. Like I said, it's a risk, but it could pay off HUGE.
Whether the Dodgers sign one of these guys or somebody else, they need to sign somebody. Their pitching is what is holding them back at this point. Historically the Dodgers have been known for their stellar pitching. If they can regain that reputation, then watch out.