We knew that Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw had been dealing with some back trouble recently, to the extent that he returned to Los Angeles for further examination. On Thursday, we learned that Kershaw is headed to the disabled list for the second time in his career after receiving an epidural.
The official diagnosis on Clayton Kershaw is a mild disc herniation. The Dodgers say he will not require surgery.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) June 30, 2016
The Dodgers do not have a timetable for Kershaw's return.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) June 30, 2016
Losing Kershaw for any length of time -- and it's unclear when he'll be ready to return, exactly -- hurts regardless of the team structure in place; he's one of the game's few truly irreplaceable players. Still, it's worth noting that the Dodgers' predilection for depth over impact hasn't paid off.
Since joining the Dodgers, Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi have employed a portfolio approach to building their rotation. Rather than splurge on David Price or Zack Greinke, the Dodgers brought in downmarket types like Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir. Their thinking appeared to be that, in assembling numerous injury risks, they'd either find a way to keep them healthy, or they'd luck out and the injuries wouldn't coincide. Again, whatever the plan, replacing Kershaw was never going to be possible, but the Dodgers already had four starters on the DL before Kershaw flew back to L.A.
In addition to having fewer and fewer healthy arms, the Dodgers have fewer and fewer upside plays. Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-jin Ryu are each rehabbing, but neither profiled as better than a mid-rotation type before their injury troubles; top prospect Julio Urias is already in the majors, so he's not coming to save the day again; and the Dodgers' various Triple-A options -- Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias, Ross Stripling, and Jharel Cotton -- were just passed over in favor Brock Stewart, who, by the way, figures to stick in the rotation now following a shaky debut on Wednesday night.
You may hear more today about a young man named Erasmo, as @Ken_Rosenthal mentioned the other day.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) June 30, 2016
The Dodgers, then, are stuck in that awkward spot where they have neither impact nor depth on their side. They're expected to look for help outside the organization -- perhaps calling Friedman's old coworkers in Tampa Bay about Erasmo Ramirez -- but even then, is that going to be enough to keep them relevant in a congested National League Wild Card race? Probably not.
As such, it might not be that Kershaw's injury made the Dodgers into a flawed team so much as Kershaw's genius was what kept us from noticing how flawed they were in the first place.