This has obviously been discussed many times in various threads, but I thought I'd create an explicit topic for it. How do you see the starting rotation shaping up for next year/what rotation would you like to see?
Most seem to agree that Cliff Lee and Fausto Carmona will occupy the #1 and #2 spots at the outset, barring some blockbuster signing/trade (an unlikely event, by most accounts), although I've heard doubt among some about whether Carmona will rebound adequately to be the #2. I'll go out on a limb and say that Carmona being the Game 2 starter will be contingent on him showing a substantial return toward his 2007 mechanics and control during spring training. Personally, I'm optimistic on this front, as I think no small part of his control problems this season can be attributed to his injury and subsequent lost time. His high walk rate before the injury may remain something of a concern, however. In any event, the amount of improvement he will need to display in order to hang on to the #2 mantle is obviously dependent on who else could conceivably bump him. I don't see anyone internal right now that is likely to set the bar too high for Carmona, if for no other reason than unprovenness over any substantial stretch.
The biggest questions, then, are a) what will the ranking of the internal options be? and b) who would be good options for acquisitions, either through FA or trade?
The list of internal candidates to occupy #3-5 appears to include (in alphabetical order): David Huff, Zach Jackson, Aaron Laffey, the recently impressive Scott Lewis, Anthony Reyes and Jeremy Sowers. Adam Miller is another possibility, although it appears to be increasingly likely that he'll be shifted to relief work. I doubt anyone considers Brian Bullington a serious candidate, but feel free to argue on his behalf. Have I left anyone off?
I doubt Zach Jackson will receive much serious consideration, barring some stellar performances between now and the end of the Cactus League season. I suspect the top two (i.e. those who would make the opening day roster assuming one external acquisition) of the remaining 5 will be Laffey and Reyes, probably in that order, but easily swappable dependent on spring performance, with either Huff or Sowers rounding out the last spot if there is no new acquisition. Although I feel an affinity, and hope the best, for Sowers, I'm not convinced he's going to figure out how to return to a solid, major league viable form, let alone his own 2006 form any time soon, and that Huff may deserve a look. That said, more long term practical considerations (e.g. option situations) may come into play, and give Sowers the edge. Scott Lewis has been impressive in his first two starts, but his very limited playing time at Triple-A will probably mean that he starts 2009 there.
The second issue is what new acquisitions can we reasonably hope for? Top of the line FA acquisitions like Sabathia are obviously unrealistic for our market. Probably even someone like A.J. Burnett would be too steep, though if other holes can be filled cheaply enough, he might be a possibility (I doubt, for example, that he will command as much as we offered Sabathia), and at 32 makes something like a 3-year deal perhaps reasonable. If the team has enough confidence in guys like Laffey and Reyes, then a FA acquisition of Paul Byrd/Scott Elarton caliber, such as Derek Lowe, to be a #4 or #5 guy may be a possibility. If the team wants to add a #2 or #3 type starter, however, I would assume it will have to come via trade, likely moving outfield depth (e.g. Ben Francisco, Franklin Gutierrez) and/or a multiple player package including relatively young, cheap AAAA types (e.g. Josh Barfield, Michael Aubrey, Ryan Garko) and/or prospects. I have to imagine Shin-Soo Choo will be floated as well if the return is good enough.
Zach Greinke is one attractive possibility that's been discussed, although it's unclear what the asking price would be. He may be worth a high price (e.g. Choo), but the respective number of years must be taken into account. Admittedly, I don't pay enough attention to other teams and their guys' contracts and organizational needs to offer up many of my own suggestions on this front.
Summary: I see the rotation looking one of two ways.
1. Cliff Lee
2. Fausto Carmona
3b/4a. Aaron Laffey
4b/5a. Anthony Reyes
(6.) Jeremy Sowers
(7.) David Huff
(8.) Scott Lewis
with the actual order of 6-8 having a great deal of flexibility depending on performance and when they're called on. And, of course, any of those guys could be part of a trade for an infielder (or even a closer?).