MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Dodgers' best rotation options may be in farm system

Dodgers' best rotation options may be in farm system

The Dodgers don't intend to take a step back in 2016. On this, they've been clear. Onward, etc.

Hisashi Iwakuma, who re-signed with the Mariners after he reportedly failed his physical with the Dodgers, appeared to be a nice addition to Los Angeles' rotation in the wake of Zack Greinke signing with the D-backs. 

But where do the Dodgers go from here?

Hot Stove Tracker

Is Japanese righty Kenta Maeda on their radar? Or will the Dodgers be prompted to push even harder to acquire Sonny Gray, Jose Fernandez, Jake Odorizzi or another high-end young starter?

Here's one: Chris Archer. What would it take to lure him from the Rays? Answer: probably four players, including shortstop Corey Seager. Worth it? Absolutely.

In other words, how nervous should the Dodgers be about a rotation that has Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood and Mike Bolsinger penciled into the first four spots?

After that, there's Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is recovering from an elbow injury. And there's Brandon McCarthy, who could be available in the second half of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Even that front four has questions. Anderson made 31 starts for the first time in his career. That's one less than he'd made in the previous four seasons combined.

On the other hand…

The Dodgers do have pitching depth in the Minor Leagues, lots of it. On Wednesday, they acquired 22-year-old right-hander Frankie Montas and his 100-mph fastball. He's widely viewed as Major League ready, or close to it.

Dodgers stock up on prospects

If there's a debate, it's whether Montas would best be used as a late-inning specialist similar to the way Aaron Sanchez (Blue Jays) and Aroldis Chapman (Reds) are being used.

What Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman may be struggling with is how much to trust all those young starters to be able to produce at a high level in 2016. He'd surely go for a Fernandez or a Gray if they were available, but after those two, are his internal options better?

In St. Louis, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak is dealing with some of the same issues. He has eight or nine potential starters for 2016, but there are question marks about both their health and experience.

Mozeliak went hard for David Price, just as the Dodgers went hard after Greinke. Unable to sign either, neither club may see any other option as being quite as appealing.

Montas joined the Dodgers on Wednesday as part of a three-team trade with the Reds and White Sox. The Dodgers traded away three prospects and received three in return as their part of the deal: Montas, outfielder Trayce Thompson and second baseman Micah Johnson.

Justice on Dodgers' deal, future

Montas is the one with the highest ceiling, the one who has turned heads for a couple of years. Friedman has accumulated so many hotshot pitching prospects that he's nicely positioned to do something big.

Here's the flip side of that. The Dodgers could open the season with a Triple-A rotation of Julio Urias, Jose De Leon, Jharel Cotton and Montas.

All are highly regarded prospects, and Urias has probably drawn more attention on the trade market than any two of Friedman's other young players.

Part of Friedman surely would like to stay the course, keep accumulating talent and build, build, build. But he's also in a win-now mode, and Iwakuma's situation ratchets up the uncertainty.

That said, no one should feel sorry for the Dodgers. They've still got more options than most teams because of that Minor League depth.

Four years ago, the Athletics arrived at Spring Training with an impressive amount of young pitching. They didn't know how quickly they'd contribute. But they rode a bunch of young guys -- Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin -- to a division championship.

The Dodgers have a similar amount of pitching depth. They'd obviously like more certainty, and that's what they'll explore. But they're far from desperate.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.