Many have forgotten that the Dodgers acquired Peralta from the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s not a closer, but he’s a consistent arm that can give Don Mattingly some confidence in the final inning. The 38-year-old doesn’t have the flashy stuff usually reserved for a closer, although his wisdom could help the Dodgers tread water.
Peralta had his worst year in the past four in 2014, finishing with a 4.41 ERA. Despite the higher ERA, Peralta’s advanced stats still support his case to be an above-average reliever.
Howell was the team’s best reliever not named Kenley Jansen in 2014, even with his late-season struggles. The left-hander doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but gets outs when needed. He’s finished with a sub-2.40 ERA the past two seasons in Los Angeles, and is used to the bright lights of the Dodgers.
It appeared to be nothing more than fatigue as the reason for Howell’s swoon at the end of the year, and with more depth in the bullpen, Howell should be able to rest more in 2015. He saved 17 games for the Rays back in 2009, and could be the one Mattingly counts on to close games.
One of the few returners from the 2014 bullpen and the only one with legitimate closing experience, League goes from the trading block earlier in the winter to possible candidate to close. The right-hander shook off a tough 2013 to recover with a 2.57 ERA in 63 appearances last year.
League saved 37 games for the Seattle Mariners in 2011, and began the 2013 season as the Dodgers closer before being bumped due to poor performance. He is in the final year of his contract, and will be looking to produce to prolong his career.
The one other bullpen acquisition from the offseason is Hatcher. The right-hander has never closed before in the big leagues. He did save 33 games in Triple-A in 2013. Last year was his first full season in the Majors and Hatcher finished with a 3.38 ERA. Now that he’s comfortable, he could be a candidate for a breakout year.
Hatcher is a dark horse to be the closer, but he does throw the hardest of the other main candidates. His previous closing experience, although brief and in the minors, is helpful because of the mentality needed.
The Rest of the Field
Juan Nicasio – Nicasio has struggled as a starter in the big leagues, but settled to become a competent reliever in 2014. His stuff is suited for short bursts and could be potentially lethal in the ninth inning.
Pedro Baez – The hard-throwing right-hander reached the Majors last season and became one of the more consistent arms in the bullpen. His mid-90s fastball would be suited for closing.
Carlos Frias – Another hard-throwing young talent that made his debut in 2014, Frias is more of a starter who can come out of the bullpen. Focusing his velocity on an inning at a time could make Frias another dark horse candidate.
Paco Rodriguez – Rodriguez isn’t a flamethrower but he’s been able to get out since his debut in 2012. It would be tough to justify the left-hander as a closer because of his ability to get left-handers out in other key spots.
Yimi Garcia – Garcia is another prospect that made his debut last season. He ended the year with a 1.80 ERA in eight appearances and will be fighting for a spot this spring. His stuff is better suited for the middle innings though.
Sergio Santos – Invited to Spring Training on a minor-league deal, Santos is a former closer looking to make his way back into a prominent role. Santos has the experience and the ability to close, it will be a matter of finding his rhythm this spring.