With Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers and catchers set to report for Spring Training on Thursday, there was a palpable excitement floating in the air. However, it was dampened Tuesday night with news closer Kenley Jansen will miss 8-12 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left foot.
Dodgers president of baseball operations and general manager Farhan Zaidi used the offseason to address the bullpen that was consistently inconsistent throughout the 2014 season but as was the case with starting pitchers, the Dodgers didn’t spend big to sign the likes of an Andrew Miller or Casey Janssen.
Just last week Friedman identified what he believes is key for a strong a bullpen and spoke of his desire to have balance with right and left-handers; four days prior to Friedman’s remarks, Zaidi was complimentary of the retooled bullpen.
The additions of Chris Hatcher, Juan Nicasio and Joel Peralta figure to have a positive impact, but none of the right-handers are the obvious answer to filling the void left by Jansen. Nonetheless, Friedman said the Dodgers will use Spring Training to evaluate their options, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
We are always on the lookout for ways to improve our team,” Friedman said. “That said, we will most likely take time this spring to assess guys in our camp and then go from there.”
Along with Hatcher and Peralta, relievers Pedro Baez, J.P. Howell and Brandon League are among those whom the Dodgers may rely on as a closer during Jansen’s absence. Of the aforementioned pitchers, League has the most experience as a closer, converting 74 saves in his 11-year career.
However, since being traded to the Dodgers in 2012, League has failed to match his 2011 form and slowly lost the closer’s role to Jansen. In light of Friedman’s comments, the Dodgers reportedly were searching for a reliever as recently as Monday; presumably already aware of Jansen’s prognosis.
It’s conceivable someone from the Dodgers’ list of non-roster invitees, which includes David Aardsma, David Huff, Ben Rowen and Sergio Santos could emerge as the answer, though it would come as a surprise.
The free agent market of closers is relatively thin and wouldn’t necessarily come at a bargain price. On the surface, signing Francisco Rodriguez or Rafael Soriano would immediately give the Dodgers a formidable closer but on top of the financial cost, the bullpen could become a tricky situation upon Jansen’s return.
As it stands, the Dodgers bullpen which ranked 22nd in 2014 with a 3.80 ERA and third-worst in the Majors with 206 walks, will begin the year without Jansen, who was their most consistent reliever last season.
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