The Dodgers had nearly a decade of relative stability in the closer role with Kenley Jansen, and when he left for Atlanta last offseason, the team traded for Craig Kimbrel to fill that role. Very few people would use the word “stability” in describing the Kimbrel experience, and L.A. now finds themselves without a closer.
When Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts was on the Starkville Podcast recently, he was asked if he sees Andrew Friedman and Brandon Gomes pursuing a closer this offseason.
“I don’t. I don’t. I think that, certainly, there’s some guys out there that are defined closers. But, I think where we’re at, I think the bullpen next year is going to be a position of strength. We had a lot of guys finish out games for us that’ll be on the roster next year. So I just don’t see us going that route.”
When you look at the reliever market, Doc’s answer isn’t surprising. Edwin Diaz re-signed with the Mets early in the offseason, and he was the only really appealing closer in free agency. Jansen was back on the market, but he signed with Boston and the Dodgers probably weren’t really considering him anyway. Kimbrel is out there, but there’s the old “fool me twice” adage to consider. Beyond that, it’s a bunch of relievers with pros and cons but no one who screams “full-time closer.”
Of course, Roberts didn’t say the Dodgers won’t have a full-time closer — just that they wouldn’t be pursuing one from outside the organization. L.A. could decide to make Evan Phillips their closer, considering that he was their best reliever last year. On the other hand, it would be kind of silly to take a guy who excelled in a vital role and move him to a new, less-vital role, but not everyone agrees on the relative vitality of different relief roles.
There are other internal candidates if L.A. chooses to go with a dedicated closer. Brusdar Graterol has a lot of potential, and Yency Almonte was outstanding when he was healthy in 2022. But perhaps the most logical choice is Daniel Hudson, who has been a successful closer in the past and, given his age and injury history, might benefit from a more defined role in the bullpen.
One way or another, though, the Los Angeles bullpen does look like it will be a strength, as Roberts said.
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