Coming into the offseason, one of the biggest needs for this Dodgers team will be addressing what to do about Kenley Jansen. Let me preface the rest of this with a few points regarding Kenley.
First, I love Kenley Jansen. He’s a fan favorite, the Dodgers all-time save leader and just down right fun to watch. Second, if I were the Dodgers, I would back up a dump truck full of money to Ken’s front door and then also hand him a blank check. I would also promise him my first born son to raise as his own. I am not the Dodgers, however, so the realist in me needs to look at what kind of contingency plans are out there to solve for a Kenley-less existence once the Yankees or Nationals inevitably give Kenley all of King Midas’ gold.
Unlike the third base market, free agent closers are quite bountiful.
Melancon is talented and often quite undervalued because he doesn’t have high strike out numbers or elite velocity. He maintains his excellency by minimizing hard contact and keeping the ball on the ground. Similar to Kenley, Melancon has a cutter that he throws a majority of the time. Dissimilar to Jansen, Melancon also has a 4-seam fastball, a curve and a splitter that he is able to mix in and locate well. He’s a little older (31) than Kenley, so he may not require as long of a deal. Since he doesn’t have the high strike out numbers, he may even come in nearly half as expensive as Kenley while providing similar results. He also won’t cost a draft pick, as he is not eligible for a qualifying offer due to being traded during the season. Overall, I could see Melancon being the front office’s first pivot if Kenley signs elsewhere.
He’s talented and lights up the radar guns, but he’s also a garbage human that I would not want to see in Dodger blue. You likely know the story on Chapman by now. Signed out of Cuba by the Reds, he throws a baseball harder than anyone in the modern era. He also throws it a lot, throwing it roughly 80% of the time. He has a slider, about the same way that I do, so he only throws that try to keep hitters off balance. He strikes out a ton of batters and the radar gun puts butts in the seats, so teams are also going to back the dump truck full of money up to his house, as well. This ownership group has already ruled out acquiring Chapman once this year, so I find it hard to believe they would want to write an 8 or 9 figure check for a man with strongly questionable character traits.
Tyler Thornburg (Milwaukee)
Thornburg came into the year as a relatively unknown pitcher in the Brewers organization, mostly because he had shown limited flashes of brilliance mixed in with a whole lot of mediocrity. He took a huge leap forward this year by changing up his pitch usage. He throws his mid-90s heater around 65% of the time, but swapped his main secondary pitch this year, opting to throw his curveball more instead of the change. The results were encouraging, as Thornburg pitched to a 2.15 ERA/2.83 FIP and struck out 34% of the batters he faced. He’s a flyball pitcher which are the types generally known to succeed in Dodger stadium, but he has been known to walk a few too many. If there’s a chance he could be had for cheap or in a package deal for another unnamed Brewer player, he could be quality option for a few years, as he isn’t a free agent until 2020.
Wade Davis (Kansas City)
It wasn’t that long ago that Wade Davis’ was in the conversation for most dominant relievers in baseball, and rightfully so. Since converting to relief, Davis’ has dominated for Kansas City. In addition to striking out roughly 33% of the batters he’s faced over the last 3 years, Davis also limits hard contact against him. Since 2014, Davis has given up exactly 3 dingers and stranded 90% of his inherited runners. However, he was diagnosed with a forearm strain during July and missed the entire month of August. He was effective upon returning, however. As a free agent in 2017, Davis would be a 1-year player with a chance to re-sign in the next offseason. And if we acquired him during the winter, he would be eligible to receive a qualifying offer if it still exists after this years’ collective bargaining negotiations. All of this could bring his value down and make a trade easier to swallow as Kansas City may look to retool its roster to maintain competitiveness.
David Robertson (Chicago AL)
The Dodgers were rumored to have targeted Robertson in 2014, as he was coming off a great year with the Yankees. Instead, he signed a 4-year, 46-million dollar deal with the White Sox. He’s struck out 32% of the batters he faced and has 2 more years of team control before he goes for his second round of free agency. If the White Sox decide to rebuild, he could be a decent back end option to help bridge the gap and see what’s available on the farm.
Jeanmar Gomez (Philadelphia)
Gomez saved 37 games for the Phillies, getting off to a great start before turning back into a pumpkin in mid-August. He throws a low-90s fastball, mixing in a splitter and a slider. He doesn’t strike out many, but he does limit hard contact against him. He’d be a decent addition to the bullpen if the cost were low, but I wouldn’t really trust him with the 9th.
AJ Ramos (Miami)
Ramos was an all-star for the Marlins in 2016, striking out 26% of the batters he faced and saving 40 games. He mixes a mid-90s fastball, a slider and a change with a close to equal usage ratio, but he suffers from some control problems at times. He’s arbitration eligible for the first time this winter, and he’s the type of player the Marlins would look to move. The Marlins have some younger, cost-controlled pitchers that they could throw into this role so Ramos could be had for a good-not-great trade package. If he regressed and you lost your trust, he’d make a good addition to the bullpen regardless.
Many would think that the Dodgers have 0 internal options, especially those who frequent twitter. However, contrary to common belief, the Dodgers have some really intriguing options in the organization that may be able to fill this role. A lot of the hatred toward these players is generally attributed to recency bias.
Liberatore was acquired from the Rays for Jose Dominguez and was one of the earlier moves in the Friedman era. Liberatore has struck out 25% of the batters he’s faced and limited dingers in his short big league career. He’s more effective versus lefties, so he’s quite often gotten the LOOGY treatment and he seems to always run out of gas come September. A lot of people often forget that Liberatore had a 28-outing scoreless streak over the course of 64 days from May to July. If given a more permanent role where he wasn’t frequently up and down, his arm may settle in a little more and reduce his propensity for injury.
Acquired for the failed draft pick Chris Reed, the 28-year old Dayton was a revelation for the front office. Dayton struck out nearly 40% of the batters he faced while walking just below 6%. He effectively limited hard contact, doesn’t have pronounced platoon splits and stranded 91% of the runners he faced. Thus, he sounds like a great option! But no. You already hate Grant Dayton because he allowed an elimination game dinger that made us all lose our dinner. If Dayton doesn’t move into the closer’s role, he will still be a phenomenal setup man and you will come to love him like your son.
As a self-preservation technique, it may be in Alex Wood’s best interest to move the bullpen. His jerky delivery leads to some strong deception and could be a long-term injury concern, but when his mechanics are right and he’s healthy, Alex Wood has been downright filthy. After struggling through his first 6 starts, Wood utterly dominated in his next 4 starts, striking out 34 in 23.1 innings. Being able to let loose in shorter bursts, Wood’s velocity would tick up and create even more deception. His 3 pitch mix could lend more to being unpredictable in short inning settings. He wouldn’t be the first pitcher who had trouble finding consistency in the rotation but found it in the bullpen. And bare with me for a second here, but he could be a kind of “Andrew Miller Lite” with good velocity, a biting slider and an unconventional throwing motion.
Carlos Frias, or as I like to call him Chuckie Freeze, was often injured this year and never got a chance to make an impact. He throws hard, averaging 95-96 on his fastball, which could tick up into triple digits in relief. He does struggle with control at times, but if he could maintain his control problems by being able to focus on shorter bursts, he could be a weapon out of the bullpen and in the closer’s role. He also has team control for another few years, making him an inexpensive weapon.
Sborz was drafted in the second round in 2015 out of Virginia, where he started and closed for the Cavaliers. Sborz has a plus fastball that he can throw as high as 96 and a great secondary offering in his curveball. He’s done a great job chewing up the minor leagues and has an outside chance to make the roster out of spring training. He’d be a great candidate for the bullpen, but could also make an impact as a potential closer with his previous experience. He has been worked mostly as a starter with the Dodgers, but that could change quick with their minor league starting pitching depth.
The one and only, Pedro “Peter” Alberys De La Cruz Baez, could quite possibly be the most hated reliever in the Dodger system. While I find the hatred to be absolutely hilarious, it’s understandable to a degree. Baez has mixed in strong times of effectiveness with a stretch of games where he turns into an absolute pile of mush. He throws hard, he strikes out about 28% of the batters he faces and he takes about eight minutes to throw each pitch. When he has sped up his cadence, he’s had a lot success. But he’s dinger prone, and he really seems to be at his mushiness when the chips are stacked and his performance is crucial. I am not advocating for this, but purely including it as an option to solicit your yelling and cursing on twitter, though I assure you that Baez is better than you think he is.
Are the options, both internal and external, great? Well, no.
Kenley has an outside chance of clearing 100 million dollars in free agency and tying up that much money in a closer when you have a certain shortstop you’re going to have to pay may not be advisable. Kenley may very well be the best, and most favored, option. However, it’s important to note that he’s not the only option.
I would love to see Melancon or Thornburg as my preferred fall back options, but a lot of the trade options could be worthy of consideration. Ideally, the Dodgers re-sign Kenley and don’t need to cross this path, but it’s good to know you have options.