Dodgers sign Heaney, banking on upside

November 11th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are facing one of their most important winters since president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman took over in 2014. Los Angeles has 12 free agents from the 2021 team, most of whom were key contributors to a club that won 106 games.

With Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw entering the free-agent market, one area in particular that the Dodgers will look to address this winter is their starting rotation. They wasted no time in getting started.

On Wednesday, the Dodgers and left-hander officially agreed to a one-year deal. The contract, according to a source, will be worth $8.5 million.

“We think there’s real upside with Andrew,” said Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. “We wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t think there was some real upside that we can tap into, and we’ll see as we get into the season.”

Heaney, 30, had a forgettable 2021 campaign with the Angels and Yankees. He went 8-9 with a 5.83 ERA in 30 games (23 starts). His struggles were magnified after a midseason trade to the Yankees, with whom he posted a 7.32 ERA in 12 appearances, ultimately losing his spot in the rotation.

One area in particular where Heaney struggled was in preventing homers; the left-hander gave up 29 of them. Over parts of eight seasons, Heaney has gone 32-38 with a 4.72 ERA, spending most of his time with the Angels.

Despite Heaney’s recent struggles, the Dodgers are intrigued by the possibility of the left-hander having a bounce-back season due to his ability to miss bats at a high clip. Heaney had 150 strikeouts over 129 2/3 innings last season. His fastball spin rate, which ranks in the 90th percentile, is a major reason why.

Los Angeles was not alone in its interest: about a dozen teams were pursuing Heaney before he came to an agreement with the Dodgers, according to a source.

“He’s got really strong ingredients in place,” Friedman said. “We think we can get him to a place where he’s one of five on a championship-caliber team, and there’s some real upside. What that all means, that’s the beauty of baseball, so we’ll watch it play out and see.”

Signing Heaney, especially this early in the offseason, is a surprising move by the Dodgers. But with some uncertainty surrounding their starting rotation, especially for the early part of the regular season, the Dodgers wanted to pounce early on the starting pitching market and add more depth.

Walker Buehler and Julio Urías are the two headliners currently on the roster. Scherzer and Kershaw could ultimately elect to re-sign with the team, though they will be wanted by a handful of other teams in the free-agent market.

Los Angeles also has Tony Gonsolin and David Price in the mix for the rotation. Right-hander Dustin May, who underwent Tommy John surgery in May, is also expected to be in the mix to return sometime after the All-Star break.

The Dodgers also have to deal with the uncertainty surrounding Trevor Bauer, who spent the last four months of the season on paid administrative leave. He is being investigated by Major League Baseball after allegations of sexual assault.

After seeing their rotation get depleted by injuries last season, the Dodgers head into the winter looking to add as many quality arms as possible. With some adjustments, the Dodgers believe Heaney will fit right into their plans.

This will be Heaney’s second stint with the Dodgers, though both sides expect this one to last much longer. The Dodgers acquired Heaney in a trade with the Marlins in 2014 but immediately dealt him to the Angels in order to acquire Howie Kendrick.