If you asked Dodgers fans which bullpen piece they wanted in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, I can guarantee you that the answer would not have been Corey Knebel. Yet that’s where we stand after the news broke that the Dodgers had acquired the right-handed reliever on Wednesday evening.
With recent rumors about the team’s potential interest in Milwaukee closer Josh Hader, it seemed much more likely that the Dodgers would make a run at him during this offseason. What we have instead is another example of what makes this front office different from everyone else.
A Diamond in the Rough
2020 Stats (15 appearances):
- 13.1 Innings Pitched
- 6.08 ERA
- 15 hits allowed
- 15/8 Strikeouts to Walk Ratio
- 10.1 SO/9 Innings
Corey Knebel is coming off of a less than stellar 2020 season with the Brewers. In his first action since recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2019, the righty seemed to have lost some life on his pitches. A fastball that routinely touched 97 MPH in 2018 fell down to 94 MPH in 2020 and his offspeed pitches just didn’t have the same spin rate as before. Taking these things into account, it’s okay to wonder what the Dodgers were thinking by acquiring him from the Brewers.
At the end of the day, it becomes a simple question about the potential risk versus the potential reward. It wasn’t long ago that Knebel was an All-Star caliber pitcher for the Brewers. Back in 2017, his 1.78 ERA and 126 strikeouts made him one of the best relievers in baseball. A change of scenery and an extra offseason to fully recover could make all of the difference in helping him find his previous success. Considering how little the Dodgers will have to give up to acquire him from Milwaukee, this was a great pick up by LA.
Dodgers Get Corey Knebel! Can He Regain Elite Status With LA?
How He Could Help the Dodgers in 2021
The Dodgers are already loaded with pitching depth, and this move only adds another potent arm to the bullpen mix. Having said that, however, the Dodgers are set to lose some key pieces in free agency during the offseason. With the potential departures of Blake Treinen, Pedro Baez, Jake McGee, and Alex Wood, Knebel becomes an intriguing option out of the pen.
At 28 years of age, there is still plenty of time for Knebel to figure things out as he continues his recovery from surgery two years ago. The potential is still there, and a shortened season does not portray the most accurate representation of what kind of pitcher he will be post-surgery. He showed steady improvement as last season went on, and the LA brass clearly thinks that there is still something left in the tank. This Dodgers front office has a knack for finding diamonds in the rough and deserves the benefit of the doubt after helping countless players jumpstart their careers in Los Angeles.
Corey Knebel may not be the flashy signing that fans have been hoping for, but he has the potential to be a real difference-maker next season. And don’t forget… the offseason is still young.