Two days before pitchers and catchers report and the Los Angeles Dodgers have already had their first significant injury.
Closer Kenley Jansen will be out 8-12 weeks after undergoing surgery to remove a growth in his left foot. The 27-year-old could miss at least a month of the regular season, depending on his recovery process. With that in mind, the first question is: who will replace the hard-throwing right-hander?
The Dodgers have a few options already on the roster, and it would appear that their intention is to do just that. We take a look at those options, and a couple that aren’t yet on the roster.
Francisco Rodriguez, or KRod, is one of the first names that came to mind when thinking of a possible solution. The right-hander has saved 348 games in his career, including 44 last season with the Milwaukee Brewers. Rodriguez would instantly fill the void left by Jansen, as well as improve the bullpen depth.
Rodriguez got off to an incredible start last year, starting the season with 19 consecutive scoreless appearances. He struggled a bit, but ultimately ended with a 3.04 ERA. His numbers show a regression in recent years, and it is unlikely he would welcome a setup role once Jansen returns.
Another 13-year veteran right-handed closer is on the market in the form of Rafael Soriano. The 35-year-old saved 32 games for the Washington Nationals, and has 117 saves in the past three seasons.
He struggled at the end of the season, sporting a 7.36 ERA over his final 16 appearances. While he’s had success, Soriano’s regression and ability to implode would not give the Dodgers the consistency they need in the ninth inning.
While Joba Chamberlain doesn’t have the closing experience of the other two right-handers, it would be beneficial because he would be able to adjust upon Jansen’s return. Chamberlain spent last season with the Detroit Tigers, finishing with a 3.57 ERA in 69 appearances.
Chamberlain has never saved more than three games in his career, and has dealt with injuries in the past; however, 2014 was his first full season since 2010 so he could be over those injuries.
The Philadelphia Phillies are looking to rebuild, and a 34-year-old closer isn’t exactly the best way to do so. While the Phillies are notorious for high asking prices, general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. has to realize that he must drop his demands in order to make a deal. Papelbon saved 39 games for the team last season with a 2.04 ERA.
It doesn’t appear the Dodgers want to make a deal and give up their future for a few weeks of a closer. Papelbon is a closer at heart, meaning he wouldn’t likely welcome a move from closer when Jansen is healthy. While he would fill a temporary need, the Dodgers don’t need to risk their future.
Kimbrel hasn’t been mentioned as a trade option before, but with the Atlanta Braves in sell-mode in anticipation of their new stadium in 2017, they could be inclined to move their All-Star closer. The right-hander has led the league in saves the past four seasons and is just 26, making him an investment worth the Dodgers time.
The Dodgers would have to approach the Braves for a possible deal because Kimbrel hasn’t been shopped to our knowledge. Though he is young, the hard-throwing closer has a lot of miles on his arm in recent years and could be subject to fatigue.