Restoring the rosters: No. 2 – Los Angeles (NL)

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
No. 13 – Cleveland
No. 12 – Minnesota
No. 11 – Arizona
No. 10 – Los Angeles (AL)
No. 9 – Toronto
No. 8 – Boston
No. 7 – Colorado
No. 6 – Montreal/Washington
No. 5 – New York (AL)
No. 4 – Philadelphia
No. 3 – Atlanta
It’s finally time for what I viewed as the two powerhouse teams. While No. 1’s presence at the top of the rankings will probably come as a surprise to many, everyone should have known the Dodgers would rate highly, even if not one of their former Rookie of the Year winners is still in the league.
Rotation
Ted Lilly
Chad Billingsley
Clayton Kershaw
Edwin Jackson
Hiroki Kuroda
Bullpen
Joakim Soria
Jonathan Broxton
Ramon Troncoso
Pedro Feliciano
Takashi Saito
Hong-Chih Kuo
Chan Ho Park
With four guys who have pitched like All-Stars this year, this rates as the best rotation any team has produced. Kuroda is another above average starter for the fifth spot, and even if you didn’t want to include Japanese players in the rankings, you could just go ahead and plug in some guy named Pedro Martinez instead.
The bullpen also rates in the top three, thanks in large part to Soria’s presence. The Dodgers signed him out of Mexico in 2001, but he made just four appearances in Rookie ball for the team before getting hurt and eventually released.
Depth is an obvious strength as well. Missing out on spots were Cory Wade, Dennys Reyes, Wesley Wright, James McDonald and Eric Stults. No Eric Gagne either, of course.
Lineup
LF Shane Victorino
C Russell Martin
RF Matt Kemp
1B Paul Konerko
3B Adrian Beltre
CF Franklin Gutierrez
2B Willy Aybar
SS Alex Cora
Bench
1B James Loney
OF Delwyn Young
INF Andy LaRoche
C David Ross
INF Chin-Lung Hu
The lineup isn’t quite as strong, mostly because of the middle infield. Aybar can hit, but he’s a weak defensive second baseman. Cora lacks range at shortstop these days, and I’m not sure that Hu isn’t the better option there. There are also Ivan DeJesus Jr. and Devaris Gordon on the way, so things could get better at shortstop before long.
The outfield defense would be absolutely phenomenal. Gutierrez might well be the game’s best center fielder right now, and Victorino and Kemp both rate in the top 10 or so. I’d love to see what Lilly could do in front of that group.
Summary
The Dodgers produced five straight Rookies of the Year in the ’90s: Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo and Todd Hollandsworth. All are out of the league now and the team hasn’t come up with one since, but obviously, the talent has continued to flow. Given the job done by the scouting department, it’s more than a little remarkable that the club went 19 years without winning a postseason series before advancing to the NLCS last year.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.