In similar fashion to which the Los Angeles Dodgers addressed their starting rotation, they’ve retooled the bullpen without lavish spending. Rather than handing over $36 million to Andrew Miller or signing Zach Duke to a three-year deal, the Dodgers completed trades that landed them Chris Hatcher and Joel Peralta.
While both Hatcher and Peralta are welcomed additions for a bullpen that faltered last year, particularly in the postseason, the Dodgers are said to be in search of a late-inning reliever. We examined Francisco Rodriguez as a potential option, though ESPN’s Jim Bowden believes another reliever would fit well with the Dodgers.
Bowden ranks Casey Janssen as the fourth-best free agent available and explained why he believes the right-hander should make a return to Southern California:
The Dodgers accomplished many of their offseason goals, including an improvement defensively, upgrading clubhouse chemistry and getting younger, with Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal ready to shine at the major league level. However, let’s not forget it was their bullpen that got them sent home last October, and they haven’t done enough to improve it this offseason. Sure, there was the pickup of Joel Peralta, but he also saw his ERA balloon to 4.41 in 2014 (even though his FIP was a more respectable 3.40). Also, Peralta’s average fastball continues to decline, as does his curve ball. Chris Hatcher and Juan Nicasio were both solid pickups with power arms, but neither has a proven track record.
It’s possible that Janssen could be signed at a bargain rate. He has 90 career saves and a lifetime 3.52 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, all of those numbers while pitching out of the often-challenging AL East. He was dominant from 2011 to 2013 and could bounce back this season. If he proves healthy, the Dodgers would be his best fit, especially considering he has expressed a willingness to set up for Kenley Jansen and doesn’t need to close.
Despite beginning last season on the disabled list, Janssen appeared in 50 games, making it the fourth-straight year he’s pitched in at least that many games. The 33 year old has also earned 81 saves over the last three seasons with 10 blown saves.
Selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the fourth round of the 2004 draft, signing Janssen would be another attempt by the Dodgers to turn a closer into a setup man, which hasn’t been met by rosy results thus far. Another potential cause for concern is Janssen’s ERA and WHIP have risen in each of the last three seasons.
Brandon League joined the Dodgers as a closer, but struggled and eventually lost the job to Kenley Jansen. Since that point, League has been inconsistent in roles ranging from setup man to mop-up duty. Brian Wilson was effective after signing with the Dodgers in 2013 and he appeared to solve the setup-man dilemma.
However, once the 2014 season rolled around Wilson looked nothing of the reliever he was when he joined the Dodgers, and he was released in December, three days after being designated for assignment. The Chris Perez experiment was another that didn’t work out in the Dodgers’ favor.
Considering that Janssen is on record as saying the Dodgers are a team he’s interested in pitching for and it doesn’t appear as though he’ll command an excessive salary, it could lead to the UCLA product joining his hometown team.