Do the Dodgers need bullpen help?
If you had asked me this question a month into the season I would have told you that this was easily the #1 priority for the Dodgers. Fans across Los Angeles dreaded anyone not named Kenley Jansen coming into the game because it simply wasn’t going to end well.
However, the Dodgers bullpen has quietly transformed into one of the best in all of baseball. In fact, the Dodgers bullpen ERA is No. 1 in MLB just slightly ahead of Houston and Baltimore while also racking up the 5th most innings pitched.
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Frankly, the Dodgers bullpen is the biggest reason the Dodgers are where they are today. Instead of 2.5 games back and looking to bring in big name players for the home stretch, the Dodgers would likely be considering being sellers at the deadline instead of buyers if it wasn’t for the bullpen.
BUT … this doesn’t mean that the bullpen is set and it doesn’t mean that the Dodgers are content with leaving it as it is. Rather, the Dodgers will likely try to pull a 2014 Royals and make a deep playoff run on the back of a dominant bullpen.
Is Wade Davis the answer?
Recent reports from Jon Heyman have indicated that the Dodgers have shown interest in Royals reliever Wade Davis,
“Although the Dodgers have one of the best closers in the game in Kenley Jansen and, by ERA, the top bullpen in the NL (3.01), Wade Davis is someone who interests the Dodgers.
Baseball president Andrew Friedman is doing his thing, putting together an excellent no-name pen. But word is, the Dodgers are still looking around for a pen piece, and if they get a great one like Davis — with whom Friedman is familiar from their shared time in Tampa Bay — perhaps they can counteract all their rotation questions borne of injury trouble.”
So this leads to the question, is Wade Davis the answer to creating an elite bullpen?
Outside of the clear elite closers in baseball (Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman) Wade Davis is pretty much as good as it gets. Bringing in someone of Davis’ caliber would essentially shorten the game to 6 innings with Adam Liberatore, Davis, and Kenley Jansen shutting it down.
This would be huge considering that the Dodgers starting pitching is 17th in MLB for innings pitched. This would also be beneficial because Kenley Jansen’s contract expires at the end of the 2016 season and it appears as though there hasn’t been much progress on an extension at this time.
Davis on the other hand is signed through the 2017 season and would give the Dodgers a fallback option in case Jansen decides to leave Los Angeles.
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How good is Wade Davis?
Over the last few seasons, Wade Davis has established himself as one of the games elite relievers and closers. Davis has a career ERA of 3.54 but that doesn’t tell the full story.
When you consider that Davis has started 88 games in his career and didn’t really start relieving until the last few years, his numbers make more sense. When you look only at the 4 seasons that he solely pitched out of the bullpen you realize just how good he is.
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In those four seasons (2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016), Davis has a combined ERA of just under 1.50. In fact, Davis finished last season with an ERA under 1.00 and he finished 2014 with an ERA of exactly 1.00.
What is Wade Davis worth?
A player of Davis’ caliber will definitely demand a large return. After seeing what the Yankees received for Aroldis Chapman earlier this week and with the Dodgers farm system as deep and as talented as it is, the Royals will certainly want a number of top prospects for Davis’ services.
I imagine that players like Corey Seager and Julio Urias are out of the question, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Jose De Leon is the center piece of the deal. However, reports today from Joel Sherman indicate that there is actually a way the Dodgers could acquire Davis without giving up any top prospects.
Sources: Royals trying to package Ian Kennedy in a potential Wade Davis deal. Dodgers a strong match. Covet Davis and can take on Kennedy $.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 28, 2016
At first glance this seems like something the Dodgers might be willing to do to get Davis into the bullpen. When you look closer though it becomes clear that this is actually a very big barrier to the potential trade.
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For example, Kennedy is not even a full season into his 5 year/$70 million contract he signed just this offseason. Plus, Kennedy’s contract is structured in a way that he is only receiving $7,500,000 this season. This means that the Dodgers would owe in excess of $62,500,000 over the course of the next four seasons.
Whether the Dodgers would be willing to do this is yet to be seen but I imagine that this might be the breaking point. Friedman & Co. did take on a few huge contracts when they first arrived in Los Angeles but that was almost solely to acquire Adrian Gonzalez and show the city that they meant business.
Since then the Dodgers have clearly been trying to avoid long term expensive contracts like Kennedy’s. Couple that with the fact that most Dodgers fans are still bitter about Kennedy hitting both Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke in 2013, leading to a bench clearing brawl, and it simply doesn’t seem like a good fit.
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Will Wade Davis actually be headed to Los Angeles?
If the Royals insist that the Dodgers take on Ian Kennedy in order for this trade to happen, I do not expect that we will be seeing Davis in Dodger blue. However, my gut tells me that the Royals are just taking a stab at moving Kennedy, but won’t let it be a barrier to completing a deal if the Dodgers refuse to take him.
After seeing the Dodgers nearly acquire Aroldis Chapman this offseason, it is clear the Dodgers want to bolster the bullpen and because of that this actually feels like one of the more realistic trades that could happen in the next few days.
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