The team with Major League Baseball’s richest payroll and an abundance of pitching depth in April started a 28-year-old career minor leaguer on Wednesday, who the manager barely met this week and who made is big league debut Tuesday in relief.
His name is Jake Reed. And you’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of the guy.
That’s where the Los Angeles Dodgers stand right now. After Clayton Kershaw went on the IL with forearm inflammation Before Wednesday’s game in Miami, the roster was left with only a trio of the pitching depth it was celebrated for during spring training – Walker Buehler, Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin – giving way to the cliché but true adage that a team can never have enough starting pitching.
While Buehler comes with no concerns for now, Urias is being taxed with the biggest workload of his career and Gonsolin hasn’t thrown more than 81 pitches since returning from a shoulder injury. Add that to Kershaw’s forearm concerns, Trevor Bauer being on administrative leave while he’s investigated for assault allegations, Dustin May being lost for the season after Tommy John surgery, and David Price and Jimmy Nelson being turned into bullpen arms, and the Dodgers are suddenly scrambling to piece together innings 20% of the time.
This leads to a couple of conclusions as the All-Star break approaches. First, the inconsistent offense that has still managed to dress itself with pretty metrics needs to be better. Meaning no more atrocities like the first two games against the Marlins this week where the offense was 4 for 11 with runners in scoring position and 25 runners left on base, losing both games by a run. And by the way, the Dodgers are a stunning 11-16 in one-run games (.407 win percentage), and it’s not because of the pitching. The evidence is partly in the team’s negative Clutch stat, via Fangraphs.
Second, this front office is now just as likely to feel the pressure to add an impact starter before the trade deadline as its rivals to the north and south – the first-place Giants and third-place Padres. We’ve seen President of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman be aggressive at recent deadlines, adding names like Yu Darvish and Manny Machado. If Kershaw’s injury lingers beyond the break and Bauer’s situation keeps him off the mound for significant time, the Dodgers might have to be aggressive again.
Friedman has spent a lot of prospect capital in some of those recent trades, including the one that landed Mookie Betts. And while they still have guys in the minors who make other front offices clamor, the front office is likely to be stingy with those assets.
This is where the offense can save everyone.
While the rotation is taking shots, the offense is getting healthier. Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger are back from IL stints. Betts’ nagging back issue seems to be manageable without too many days off. And Corey Seager is getting closer to returning from a fractured hand.
When healthy, this is a lineup with the potential to be filled with All-Star caliber hitters and more than its share of MVP candidates. And when healthy, it should be potent enough to prop up a thin rotation and still have the Dodgers looking like the best team in the National League.
Their rotation depth is depleted now. The bats are healthy enough that they should find more overall consistency. The division is a real race between three teams. And the trade deadline is coming fast.
Those are all facts, but it’s not panic time yet for the defending World Series champs. If Kershaw, Bauer and Seager get back into uniform in short order, the Dodgers are still the team to beat in the NL.