While the highlight of the Dodgers’ offseason is of course the signing of superstar Shohei Ohtani, the club has worked hard to overhaul its starting rotation after the unit struggled to a collective 4.57 ERA last year, a figure that ranked 20th among major league clubs. They’ve been very successful in that regard, signing NPB star Yoshinobu Yamamoto while dealing for and extending right-hander Tyler Glasnow. The club appears to have recently rounded out its rotation mix (give or take a possible reunion with long-time franchise face Clayton Kershaw) with the addition of veteran southpaw James Paxton, though MLB.com’s Juan Toribio recently reported that the club recently looked into making a bigger splash even after adding Yamamoto and Glasnow.
Per Toribio, the club “looked into” trades for Corbin Burnes, Dylan Cease, Shane Bieber, and Jesus Luzardo in the aftermath of the club adding Yamamoto and Glasnow back in December. Since then, Burnes has been dealt to the Orioles while Cease appears increasingly unlikely to move before Opening Day after being frequently connected to the Dodgers earlier in the offseason. Bieber and Luzardo, on the other hand, had not yet been publicly connected to the Dodgers this winter. It’s unclear if the Dodgers retain interest in either hurler with Paxton now on board, but either would certainly be an intriguing addition for the league’s most aggressive club this winter.
Bieber, 28, is coming off a down season relative to his own lofty standards as he posted a 3.80 ERA and 3.87 FIP while being limited to just 21 starts by a bout of elbow inflammation. Still, the two-time All Star and 2020 AL Cy Young award winner has been among the best pitchers in the league over the past half decade, with a 3.07 ERA and 3.12 FIP in 114 appearances dating back to the 2019 season and would figure to improve virtually any rotation if traded for, including that of the Dodgers. Bieber has also indicated a willingness to negotiate an extension with his new club in the event that he’s traded, meaning its feasible that a trade could net the Dodgers a longer-term asset than Bieber’s one year of team control would otherwise imply.
While the Guardians figure to attempt to remain competitive in a weak AL Central division this year, they’ve shown a propensity for dealing star players elsewhere before they reach free agency as demonstrated by deals shipping out players such as Corey Kluber and Francisco Lindor. What’s more, The Athletic’s Zack Meisel reported back in December that the Guardians are unlikely to increase payroll above last year’s levels in 2024, leaving them with little room to upgrade their flawed positional mix without shedding salary or trading an asset. A Bieber deal would allow the club to accomplish both of those goals, potential adding a hitter as part of the return for the right-hander while also freeing up $13.125MM in the club’s budget for other additions.
Luzardo, 26, struggled early in his career as a member of the A’s but has flourished in the years since he was acquired by Miami. In the past two years, Luzardo has made 50 starts to the tune of a 3.52 ERA with a 3.40 FIP. The 26-year-old southpaw has struck out an impressive 28.7% of batters faced during that time while walking 7.9%, establishing himself as the #2 starter in Miami behind ace Sandy Alcantara. With Alcantara expected to miss the 2024 campaign due to Tommy John surgery, however, Luzardo is currently penciled in as the staff ace ahead of the likes of Eury Perez, Braxton Garrett, and Edward Cabrera. Important as Luzardo may be to Miami’s rotation entering 2024, the club is nonetheless reportedly open to dealing him or another piece from the rotation, with only Perez reportedly untouchable in trade talks. Luzardo is under team control through the 2026 season.
While the addition of either Luzardo or Bieber would certainly bolster an already impressive Dodgers rotation, their recent addition of Paxton along with the uncertainty surrounding Kershaw’s future with the club leaves how an additional starter would fit into L.A.’s rotation puzzle questionable. On paper, the club’s rotation appears to be full as things stand with Yamamoto, Glasnow, and Paxton joining Walker Buehler and Bobby Miller. Talented as that group of five is, however, there’s plenty of questions surrounding that group’s durability. Glasnow and Paxton both have lengthy injury histories, Yamamoto has spent his career to this point pitching just once a week overseas, and Miller’s 138 2/3 innings of work last year between the majors and minors was a career high. Meanwhile, Buehler is coming off more than a season lost due to Tommy John surgery and even Kershaw, if brought back into the fold, isn’t expected to pitch until August as he rehabs from shoulder surgery.
While youngsters like Emmet Sheehan and Gavin Stone could certainly contribute meaningful innings to help the Dodgers overcome the lack of certainty in their rotation mix, the addition of a surefire starting arm such as Bieber or Luzardo could help solidify the club’s overall rotation mix headed into the season. While all evidence points to the club planning on a five-man rotation this season, it’s possible the Dodgers could be more amenable to the idea of using a sixth starter throughout the season given the fact that they’ll be forced to implement a six-man staff when Ohtani returns to the mound next year.
The Dodgers are far from the only club that may be interested in the services of Luzardo or Bieber, of course; the Yankees expressed interest in both arms last month. Earlier in the offseason, the Marlins and Royals reportedly discussed a deal involving Luzardo and first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, while Bieber reportedly drew interest from teams such as the Cubs and Reds.