The Payoff Pitch: 2/18/2016

Clayton Kershaw...needs one more thing. (Photo by Joe T.)

Clayton Kershaw, again, keys Dodger pitching. (Photo by Joe T.)

By Those Bench Warmers

Dodger pitchers and catchers report in less than two days. Two days.
It feels like less than two days ago Chase Utley was taking out Ruben Tejada and everyone was losing their minds. Unfortunately, it also feels like two days ago Zack Greinke was a Dodger.

The prize of the free agent class left the Dodgers and signed with this year’s Padres, the highly active Diamondbacks. Greinke, a fan favorite and one of the most intelligent and interesting players in the major leagues, will be sorely missed by the Dodgers. The team replaced him with Hisahsi Iwakuma Scott Kazmir.

A repeat of Kazmir’s solid season (7-11, 3.10 ERA) and the return to form of Hyun-jin Ryu (shoulder surgery) won’t be enough to replace Greinke’s skill (or great stories), but if Clayton Kershaw is praising the rotation depth, then we are too.

That depth comes in the form of Kenta Maeda, coming over from Japan, Alex Wood and Joe Blanton reincarnated as lefthander: Brett Anderson. Mike Bolsinger and the eventual return of Brandon McCarthy give the Dodgers 8 guys who could find a spot in most MLB rotations, plus top prospects Julio Urias, Frankie Montas and Jose De Leon waiting in the wings. Prospects Ross Stripling and Jharel Cotton round out a deep well of pitching for the Dodgers, one that could be accessed in a trade for a big time starter to fill Greinke’s shoes.

And that’s where we find the real benefit of the new owners and front office. Old Dodger regimes may have settled on signing veteran, past-their-prime free agents Cliff Lee or Tim Lincecum (Ned Colleti may have signed this former Giant on the first day of free agency). This front office has a plan in place: building a contender now while looking towards the future. They may have missed out on superstarters David Price and Johnny Cueto and secondary stars like Jeff Samardzjia and Doug Fister, but with the top farm system, savvy front office, and pieces to work with, we all could be less than two hours away from a major Dodger blockbuster trade.

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Some of the moves by the front office have been steals (stealing Alex Wood and Luiz Avilan), and others have been confusing (sending away Juan Uribe for nothing). But their overall approach and growth of the Dodger brand earns them the benefit of the doubt. The Dodgers franchise and their fans have hope, and that hope should turn into championships in the near future.

Next week we’ll have part one of our five-part series previewing each NL West team and predicting their fate for the 2016 season.

Those Bench Warmers are Derek Cheng (on twitter @DCheng110), Rob Diaz (@_RobJoc) and Riley Saxon (@coachrileysaxon). They enjoyed their time on the bench during their playing days and produce a weekly Youtube show on Tuesdays.). Those Benchwarmers can be reached by email at or on twitter @warming_beches.

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