The free agent class of relief pitchers could provide some help for the Dodgers. The best relief candidate, the other Will Smith, has already signed with the Braves for 3 years and $39M. Soon after the Braves followed that up by signing Chris Martin (not from Coldplay) for 2 years and $14M. There aren’t many sure fire relievers out there but we can see from the two pitchers the Braves signed that they won’t come cheap.
Returning Bullpen Pieces
The only sure things for the Dodgers are ones that were on the playoff roster, in my opinion. The following pitchers should be almost locks to be in the bullpen if they are not traded. It is also very possible that other starting pitching candidates could be part of the bullpen for parts of the season. One of the biggest questions for the Dodgers is if Kenley Jansen can return to his dominant form. If not, the Dodgers will need some closer options.
There are many in-house candidates for the bullpen that are on the 40-man roster.
- Scott Alexander
- JT Chargois
- Caleb Ferguson
- Dylan Floro
- Yimi Garcia
- Victor Gonzalez
- Casey Sadler
- Dennis Santana
- Josh Sborz
There is a lot of potential in the list above but there are better options in the free agent market. We’ll take a look at some of those options in this article.
The following pitchers would be an upgrade over the non-locks above. That is my criteria for ones that are pretty much sure-fire upgrades.
Pomeranz is the most intriguing member of this group. In his two months with the Brewers he was pretty dominant out of the bullpen as his fastball plays up at 95-97 MPH. Hudson had a very good 2019 while Harris has been consistently good for a few years. However, Hudson has an injury history a mile wide and Harris is 35 years old. Smith offers a different look and Stammen offers durability. Kinzler doesn’t strike a lot of batters out, but gets a lot of ground balls.
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This set of pitchers would probably be a 7th or 8th option in the Dodgers bullpen, so they should not be given significant contracts. Anything more than a 1 year and $2M contract would be a bad idea.
McHugh is almost similar to Ross Stripling in that they can both start and relieve. Liriano used to be a decent starter and is now close to the end of the road. He still might have something left. Jeffress is good every other year so he might be worth the risk. Cishek is another low slot thrower. Strop, is going to be 35 and has had his moments. If Diekman could ever get better control he would be very good. He throws 95-97 MPH with an excellent slider.
Recent Injury History
Probably the most upside comes from this list of recently injured pitchers.
Both Betances and Morrow are dominant when they are healthy. Betances threw 8 pitches in all of 2019 and Morrow didn’t throw any. I would like to see the Dodgers make some very serious offers to both with heavy incentive-based contracts with a big option for the second year. Jones, Cingrani and Vizcaino would probably warrant a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
The table below captures some essential statistics (h/t to FanGraphs). For Drew Pomeranz it includes his statistics when he was a starter for the Evil Ones. I omitted Betances because he only threw 8 pitches. Nate Jones barely threw much at all but there was enough to include him. I highlighted some of the key numbers that stand out, both good and bad. Notice the K and BB/9 for Jake Diekman. Nobody intrigues me more but can a pitching coach actually fix the control issues for a 32 year old?
What I Would Like To See
To be honest, there aren’t any sure things in this group but there are some interesting possibilities. The Dodgers have about $40M in payroll to spend before they are hit with the luxury tax. I would like to see them spend around $10-12M on the bullpen this off-season. I’m tired of them running out of options during the post-season. Get me Drew Pomeranz or Daniel Hudson at $7-8M AAV (Annual Average Value) with someone like Dellin Betances for $2M with a lot of incentives. Another combination like Craig Stammen and Jake Diekman at $2-4M each (with some incentives) along with an incentive based contract for Brandon Morrow also makes some sense.
I know the Dodgers don’t like to spend a lot of money on the bullpen, and there are already some good internal options. However, signing more options that Dave Roberts might grow to trust is important. Let’s be honest, managing the bullpen is easily Doc’s biggest weakness. I’d like the bullpen to be Roberts Proof.
Much does depend on what the Dodgers do to fortify other perceived weaknesses on the team (lineup balance, infield defense and top of the rotation).
I think the biggest question mark is the closer spot. Nobody knows what Kenley Jansen might bring in 2020. I’d like the Dodgers to look for some insurance policies. If Jansen is good again, that is ideal. If he is not then there needs to be some good options.