The Dodgers awoke last July 31 with the best record in the Major Leagues. The team's record that month was a sublime 20-3, including five walk-off victories. Not completely satisfied, the Dodgers dealt for Yu Darvish moments before that day's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Now Darvish is a Cub, having agreed to a six-year, $126 million contract with the opponent Los Angeles vanquished in the National League Championship Series last fall.
And so the question has returned, days from the start of Spring Training: How likely are the Dodgers to -- once again -- augment one of the best rotations in the Majors?
The Dodgers want to add a right-handed starter. Otherwise, they would not have offered Darvish a six-year contract, as reported by MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. Fortunately for the Dodgers, free agents Jacob Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb remain available.
At the moment, four of the Dodgers' projected starting pitchers are left-handed: Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Kenta Maeda, who threw 134 1/3 innings last regular season, is the lone right-hander. (The need for a right-handed starter is perhaps greater now than in 2017, given the additions of Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria by the arch-rival Giants.)
One significant change from last year at this time: Right-hander Walker Buehler, the No. 13 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, could be a Major League rotation option as early as the first half of this season. Buehler debuted with the Dodgers as a September callup last year, compiling a 7.71 ERA in eight relief outings. He did not appear in any postseason games.
The Dodgers also must acknowledge another benefit of bringing in Arrieta, Lynn or Cobb on a multi-year contract: Kershaw can opt-out of his contract after the 2018 season and leave an extraordinary void in the Dodgers' rotation next year -- and for many seasons to come.
More implications of Darvish's deal with the Cubs:
• One industry source said the market conditions are now ripe for the Brewers and Twins to each land one of Arrieta, Cobb and Lynn. The Brewers and Twins were known to have pursued Darvish, and Minnesota's need for a reliable starter is especially pronounced after the news of Ervin Santana's right middle finger surgery.
• With Darvish -- and Todd Frazier -- having signed elsewhere, the Yankees' free-agent options are coming into focus. They have monitored Lynn's marketplace this offseason, but it's unclear if they can fit him into the roughly $15 million they have budgeted for spending between now and Opening Day. The Yankees' payroll is not yet close to the $197 million luxury-tax threshold, but general manager Brian Cashman wants to allow flexibility for Trade Deadline moves.
• On Saturday afternoon, one rival team executive mentioned the Nationals as a legitimate suitor for the remaining free-agent starters. A.J. Cole currently projects to have the fifth spot in Washington's rotation. At age 26, he has yet to throw more than 52 innings in a Major League season.
The longstanding relationship between agent Scott Boras and the Nationals could play a role, as well. Boras represents Arrieta, along with the top three starters in the team's rotation: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Giovany Gonzalez. And one of Boras' most prominent clients, Bryce Harper, is entering his contract year with the Nationals.