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Monday, December 31, 2012
Overstocked rotations worth watching

By Christina Kahrl

Aaron Harang
The Dodgers should wait to see how their starters work out before looking to move a pitcher like Aaron Harang.
This time of year, it's easy to look at 40-man rosters around the game and wonder how teams are going to fit everybody into their regular-season rotation. The overstocked starting staffs of the Dodgers and Cardinals might seem to demand action, for example, but not so fast. Credit their general managers and a few other decision-makers with sitting tight.

Consider the Dodgers. It might seem that their cup runneth over after adding Zack Greinke and Korea's Hyun-Jin Ryu. On paper, they have eight plausible options in their rotation, including Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly.

That number gives you a sense of mass that's far more certain than the identity of the Dodgers' final five. Billingsley was hitting the mid-90s during rehab work in November, but there's ongoing concern over his elbow. Lilly is supposed to be all the way back from shoulder surgery in spring training, but we'll see how he looks once he reports. Capuano's second-half fade in 2012 on top of a long list of surgeries (including two Tommy John procedures) don't add up to a sure thing.

So they have to make a deal, right? Staff-filling No. 4 pitchers like Harang and Capuano aren't liable to bring much in return. The Dodgers might be asked to eat considerable cash given the back-loaded deals Ned Colletti gave the two pitchers.

If you're Colletti, why hurry or worry until you see what shape everyone is in, and who's ready to go in the latter half of March?

Similarly, the Cardinals' situation looks good on paper, but perhaps not so much when you ponder their past. Getting Chris Carpenter back to round out a rotation featuring Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and either Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly or top prospect Shelby Miller might allow GM John Mozeliak deal from a position of strength.

But would the Cardinals, after getting by without Carpenter and Wainwright at the same time for most of the past two seasons, trade either in their final seasons before free agency? That would hamper the Cardinals' bid to win one more title armed with both, and absent somebody coughing up a top-shelf middle infielder, they're not a team with many needs.

Sticking with the NL Central, the Reds' decision to move Aroldis Chapman back into the rotation might make it seem like Mike Leake is extraneous. But why should Walt Jocketty deal Leake before seeing how well the Cuban Missile takes off while pitching every fifth day? And where would dealing Leake leave the Reds should anyone get hurt in the early going?

You don't even have to be a contender to want to join the ranks of hoarders. The Cubs' decision to sign veterans Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, Scott Baker and Carlos Villanueva during a busy winter doesn't mean that both Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija are out of their jobs. But it could mean that Matt Garza is now a bargaining chip who would become available after he shows that he's healthy this spring.

Baker is also working his way back from injury, so there will be plenty for the Cubs' brass to monitor. The freedom to deal a pitcher as good as Garza can be in his last year before free agency -- and the possible draft compensation he'd create on departure -- could bring in some sorely needed talent to their rebuilding effort.

Which all goes toward saying that right now it's sensible to carry six or seven or more starters and let events and availability dictate your actions if you're a GM. Wait and see who breaks down, on your team or everyone else's, because inevitably somebody will.

Sensible as this may all be, some people are hurt by it. Kyle Lohse is the most obvious example. If a club wants to add a veteran starter, why go two years on a likely one-year wonder like Lohse, when you might wait and see if Garza is healthy and if the Cubs like one of your prospects?

On the other hand, if you're one of those teams that really could use Harang or the like to round out your rotation and complete your offseason plans, it's easier to wait out the next two months until the Dodgers may have to make a move than it is to sign him on the market.

If you're worried about a seemingly incomplete rotation on your hometown nine, don't sweat it -- the talent pool isn't just made up of who's left on the market, it also includes everybody on the other 29 teams. And if you're wondering about who's going to round out your starting quintet, don't worry -- it might just be a Dodger TBNL.

Christina Kahrl covers baseball for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter.