This afternoon, the Los Angeles Dodgers were told that they had the best starting pitcher in the National League in 2011. While they won’t be looking to sign a top arm to join Clayton Kershaw in their 2012 rotation, LA is looking to fill out its staff with a veteran starter. Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweeted today that the Dodgers have narrowed their search to include free agents Hiroki Kuroda, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Jeff Francis.
In 2011, Kershaw and the rest of the Dodgers’ starting pitchers posted the third best team ERA in the majors (3.41) behind only the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies.
Kershaw, Kuroda, Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley all made at least 32 starts for LA. The normally reliable Jon Garland, a Dodgers’ free agent acquisition last winter, was a major disappointment, hitting the disabled list for the first time in his career and only making nine starts.
Heading into 2012, Kershaw, Billingsley and Lilly are set to return to LA while Garland and Kuroda are free agents. It’s undecided if Kuroda will pitch again, but if he does return next season it will likely be with the Dodgers. Garland is gone.
This leaves the Dodgers with two holes in their rotation. One of those spots will likely be filled by one of the franchise’s young arms. Rubby De La Rosa was impressive over his 10 starts for LA in 2011, striking out 55 in 55 2/3 innings while maintaining an ERA of 3.88.
LA is apparently looking to fill the other void via free agency. Because they’ve been connected with him for so long, my guess is that their top choice would be Kuroda. The 36-year-old has been very consistent since joining the Dodgers’ rotation in 2008. Over his four years in LA, Kuroda has a career ERA of 3.45. The Japanese native posted his first 200+ inning season in 2011, finishing the year with an earned run average of 3.07.
The other three pitchers LA is interested in all started at least 28 games in 2011. Harang has the best track record of the bunch (4.25 career ERA), while Francis is the youngest (30). Who they choose is TBD, but it appears the Dodgers are set on adding a veteran free agent starter this winter.
For more on the Dodgers, be sure to check out Lasorda’s Lair.
You can check out all of the available free agents by position below.