Having said all that, immutable baseball tendencies would have moved the 2004 staff more toward the middle of the pack, just as the terrible season suffered by Los Angeles last year will improve their lot '04. When you subtract what was arguably their best starter, Kevin Brown, and their best setup man, Paul Quantrill, a definite decline would seem imminent.
Dan Evans constructed most of the record-breaking '03 staff, signing free agent Hideo Nomo, Tom Martin and Wilson Alvarez, trading for Guillermo Mota, Paul Quantrill, Odalis Perez and Paul Shuey. Darren Dreifort pitched as well as he ever has but only lasted 10 starts before he went out with injuries. The conversion of Eric Gagné from an unrealized starter to the premier stopper in baseball capped the staff. So where do we go from here?
Wonderkinder Edwin Jackson, who sparkled in the late autumn sun last year, has apparently been given the number 5 slot in the rotation to lose. His 1.42 earned run average over three starts set Dodger hearts thumping but at the tender age of 20, he may have a bit more trouble sustaining that through the long summer. Even if he stumbles, it is apparent that he will be around for a long time.
Mota will step into the setup role vacated by Quantrill. The once erratic right-hander lowered his earned run average from 4.15 to 2.75 and worked in 76 games last season. Many think he is a stopper-in-waiting and was requested by a number of teams in the offseason with just that in mind.
Jeff Weaver, who came from the Yankees in the Brown trade, may be a much better fit than people think. Revising his mechanics to revert to his Detroit days when he was one of the top young pitchers in the American League, getting groundballs instead of strikeouts should kickstart his career, as will working in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium.
Darren Dreifort, pounded by many for his five-year, $11 million per contract, has attempted to live up to the pay checks he has received, has undergone a couple Tommy John surgeries, a torn labrum in his hip and surgery on his right knee. Despite all that, he has stubbornly attacked the painful rehab after each procedure and has presented himself for duty. With a little luck, a commodity he has been lacking for some time, he could be an extremely valuable ‘addition' to the 2004 mix.