After losing Brad Penny to the Red Sox, Greg Maddux to retirement and Jason Schmidt to a moneybags lifting-related shoulder injury, the Dodgers are shopping for a starting pitcher or two. Both Tony Jackson of the Daily News and Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports agree Ned Colletti is considering Jon Garland, Braden Looper and/or Randy Wolf.
Meanwhile, Derek Lowe, one of the Dodgers' most consistent starters in recent history, seems certain to land anywhere but back in Los Angeles. Lowe hasn't accepted a three-year, $36 million offer from the Mets and is rumored to be talking to the Braves.
Lowe is far from an ideal free-agent signing; he turns 36 this season and has seen his name in the gossip pages one too many times. Yet those drawbacks are outweighed by the reasons to bring him back:
1. If you're going to sign an aging pitcher, sign one who induces a lot of ground balls. Lowe, second only to Brandon Webb in GO/AO (ground out to fly out ratio) last year, also pitches especially well at Dodger Stadium. Writes ESPN.com's Rob Neyer, "Lowe has shown no signs of slowing down, and healthy pitchers who rely on hard sinkers have generally aged gracefully."
2. The Dodgers can afford him. Lowe won't be commanding CC Sabathia dollars, and with $36 million to $45 million of expiring contracts coming off the Dodger payroll—not including the recent dumping of Andruw "Deadweight" Jones—Colletti should have the financial flexibility to sign Lowe.
3. He's steady. As Chad Billingsley matures into the anchor of the Dodgers' rotation, the less seasoned or less predictable pitchers—Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda—would benefit from another stable performer. Lowe is no "Professor" Maddux, but he's got that veteran presence Colletti values so dearly.
4. He's clean. Have you seen Lowe without a cap? If the dude were taking steroids, he'd also be Rogaine-ing that baldness away.
5. He's the best left. Sure, Sabathia would have been nice. But he's gone. As is A.J. Burnett. Even Randy Johnson has been signed. Ben Sheets is intriguing, but do the Dodgers want to take a chance on another injury risk? Lowe is the best remaining starting pitcher on the market.
With the NL West coming off another weak year, winning now is an option for all its teams. (Except the Padres. They're just a mess.) Unfortunately, neither the Dodgers nor Lowe seem interested in defending their division championship together again.
Sources: Braves, Lowe agree on deal (ESPN.com)