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Dodgers: Five Free Agent Relievers To Consider for the 2021 Season

Focus is on the pitching staff



The Dodgers have eight free agents who could be leaving the Dodgers. Seven of them were on the World Series roster; Justin Turner, Blake Treinen, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, Alex Wood, Pedro Baez and Jake McGee. There is a lot of depth in the farm system but replacing all of those players will not just come from the farm system. My hope is most, if not all of those players come back to the team. If not then the trade market and free agency will be two avenues Andrew Friedman will pursue to fill out the team.

A few days ago Andrew Friedman stated the Dodgers have two priorities; a right-handed bat and “also then trying to get as many diversified looks as you can in the pen”. He spoke of adding one or two new bullpen arms. We’ll take a quick look at the arms in the current bullpen and then check out some options.

The Current Bullpen Options

The first six players are pretty much locks to make the team. The rest are either future starters or fringe pitchers you may not want on a playoff roster. I do like the idea of both White and Gray starting out in the bullpen. Their stuff could really play up but we really don’t know what the Dodgers plan for those two. Let’s also remember that Caleb Ferguson is out for the year after Tommy John surgery. Bottom line, they need to either re-sign some pitchers or get some new ones.

The current group does not have a closer and I’m not sure that the Dodgers really want a dedicated closer anymore. They had five different pitchers get a save in the 2020 postseason. This article will focus on pitchers that provide different looks compared to what the team currently has in the bullpen.

Kirby Yates

I’ve seen a lot of Kirby Yates down in San Diego and his pitch mix impresses me a lot. He throws around 60% four seam fastballs at 93-94 MPH with a slit-fingered faster ball the other 40% of the time at 85-87 MPH. Check out the difference on how each of the pitches move:

He comes with plenty of risk as he missed most of the 2020 season with a bad shoulder. In both 2018 and 2019, however, he was an elite reliever and he could come very cheap. A side benefit of having Yates is that Tony Gonsolin also throws the splitter and he could learn from Yates. He does turn 34 in March.

Mark Melancon

The soon-to-be 36-year-old Mark Melancon relies heavily on a cutter and a knuckle curve.

The cutter averages 92 MPH and the curve 82 MPH. Melancon had a nice 2020 despite striking out only 14 batters in 22.2 innings pitched. His ERA in the postseason was 0.00 and he was the primary closer for the Braves. I would not trust him as a closer, but he could get some key outs. He does throw the cutter a lot, like Kenley Jansen, so they would not be ones to pitch together. To have him come in after someone like Dustin May or Walker Buehler would be a nice contrast.

Keone Kela

Keone Kela will turn 28 in April and suffered from a forearm injury in 2020 which caused him to miss most of the season. Kela was born in Los Angeles and went to high school in Carson. He relies on a 96 MPH four seam fastball and an 82 MPH curveball.

When Kela was in Texas he did some closing. With the Dodgers, he could fill many roles. Over his career, he has thrown 216.2 innings and allowed only 160 hits and struck out 266 batters.

Trevor May

I like what this article by @FutureDodgers said about Trevor May. There is nothing terribly spectacular about him but he has a solid three pitch mix of a 96 MPH (touches 99) four seam fastball, an 85 MPH slider and a 88 MPH changeup. He used to throw a curveball but abandoned it in 2020. I wonder if the Dodgers would bring that pitch back if he signed with them.

He struck out 38 batters in 23.1 innings but gave up 5 home runs. I would really like to see what the Dodgers pitching coaches could do with May. Plus, one starter and one reliever named May sounds good to me.

Rich Hill

Yes, that is our old friend Rich Hill and he would be a reliever with the Dodgers. If anyone can provide a different look to the bullpen it would be Hill. He throws his curveball at various arm angles and can still get batters out. He was down about 2 MPH on most of his pitches but he could be a cheap option. The Dodgers fulfill his desire to have a chance of winning a World Series and he has great familiarity with them. To have someone like Hill in the bullpen provides added leadership while also knowing that he’s not the ace or the closer.

Final Thoughts

I just scratched the surface on the number of relievers that are available. Since many teams will be watching their costs the Dodgers could make a solid impact on the bullpen market. There are other more expensive options like Liam Hendriks and Trevor Rosenthal, but I don’t see the Dodgers going overboard on signing relievers. Another name I did consider was Chris Archer but I did not think he’d want to go into the bullpen yet. The Dodgers have probably three openings in the bullpen if Treinen, Baez or Wood don’t re-sign so they could really need to sign some relievers. It should be fun to watch.

NEXT: What Adrian Gonzalez Thinks the Padres Need to Finally Beat LA

Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

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  1. Won’t be as many openings as article implies unless conditions allow for a 28-man roster again. Let’s hope that they do not. If Floro is an “almost cinch”, we are in trouble. Why would Rich Hill even be mentioned? Get Trienen back.

    • I think Hill is a great idea. Pitchers with good off-speed stuff are apparently the new thing that seems to be working as everyone else throws 95+. For 2 or 3 batters, it could be just what a team needs in the 6th to 8th innings.

  2. First of all, nearly all the FAs are going elsewhere because they want more defined roles and more playing time. Turner is the only one coming back. As far as the bullpen is concerned you have several folks who are also going to seek bigger roles elsewhere. So who do the Dodgers look from outside? I think they will look at one of the bigger names like Hendricks or Yates or Rosenthal because they just don’t have that shutdown guy at the end anymore, assuming that May and Urias are back where they belong in the rotation. Of those that youmentioned, Melancon is too old and Kela is apparently a jerk in the clubhouse. It will be interesting to see what reclamation project the team come up with,

    • That’s what they said about Morrow, Blanton & Jake McGee. That’s what a reclamation ‘project’ is. It’s a gamble with low risk and high reward. If you get 33% right, you can wipe out teams that spend tons on relievers (i.e Joe Kelly).

  3. Probably the relievers the Dodgers pick up will be in the following order (not saying they’ll sign all of them but how they probably value them). Not my opinion of preference, just who I think Freidman and Co will look at:
    1. Baez
    2. Wood
    3. Yates
    4. T. May
    5. Hill

    I would like for them to take a look at Yates, and would LOVE for them to sign May (at a not-too-crazy deal, of course).

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