It is no secret one of the Dodgers’ biggest needs coming into the off-season was to solidify the bullpen. In total, the net losses were Tony Watson and Brandon Morrow, the latter of which is a huge loss. Morrow brought stability to the 8th inning, bridging that gap to Kenley Jansen. Unfortunately he left to be the closer for the Cubs. His contract was to the tune of 2 years at $21 million, with a $10.5 million vesting option.
Ultimately, the Dodgers’ lack of payroll flexibility has taken them out of the running for Morrow and other high-priced relievers. Certainly there is a need to stabilize our bullpen.
The Dodgers are not expected to jump into the more expensive pool of relievers. They are panning for gold on arms with upside. I am mixing some metaphors.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) December 12, 2017
In addition to Morrow many other potential targets are off the table: Anthony Swarzak (a favorite target on this site), Steve Cishek, Mike Minor, Juan Nicasio, and Tommy Hunter are all among the names that had the pedigree to certainly help the Dodgers’ bullpen. As it stands the field for relievers is getting thinner. For the Dodgers, it appears they are doing what they have done the last few years. Utilize internal talent, and look for bargain relief options. In other words, catch lightening in a bottle.
Of course there are obvious big names left like Wade Davis, however, as stated above, the Dodgers are limited in their budget. Additionally, they are not likely to sign anyone to a deal longer than 2 years. Given that, who then are the options in the current field?
Internal Relief for the Bullpen?
Let us not forget that the Dodgers bullpen was third in fWAR. Even if you cut Morrow completely out of our bullpen, it was still the 7th best bullpen per fWAR. Aside from Brandon Morrow, no other relievers were free agent additions. All of the major contributors were from in-house. From Alex Wood, to Avilan, or Stripling, or Baez, most of our innings come from in-house. Why do I bring this up? Well for a couple reasons.
Firstly, we still have most of those pitchers that were in the bullpen last year. Secondly, the addition of Cingrani brought us a dynamic lefty that showcased an ability to handle pressure and miss bats.
Third, there are new and old reinforcements likely to make an impact this season. Remember Yimi Garcia? How does a 3.13 ERA, 10.87 strikeouts and 1.65 walks per 9 innings sound? Definitely sounds like a welcome addition to the bullpen. Despite missing 2016 and 2017 with injuries, he is healthy and ready to pitch again in 2018. Julio Urias returns this season as well and might see some time in the bullpen. Furthermore, pitchers like Dennis Santana and Trevor Oaks have been added to the 40 man roster, and could contribute too.
All this to say there are certainly internal options for the Dodgers to cover for the loss of Brandon Morrow.
What About Help From the Outside?
In an ideal world the Dodgers would not need to look to the outside for help. However, 2016 bargain hunting gave us Joe Blanton and 2017 gave us Brandon Morrow. So who could the Dodgers target this off-season as bargain buys? It has been highlighted before that Neftali Feliz fits that bill. With an upper 90s fastball and sharp slider, there is certainly upside to be had there. Who doesn’t like a good 101 MPH fastball?
Feliz made $5.35 million last year, and with his sub-par performance signing him for less should not be an issue.
What about other options? Drew Storen is another intriguing name, again highlighted previously. Once an effective closer for the Nationals, he seems to have gotten in his own head and lost that consistency. Maybe the tutelage of Rick Honeycutt can cure him of his pitching woes.
Another intriguing name is a former nemesis from the Diamondbacks: David Hernandez. Despite pitching poorly in Arizona in 2017, his performance with the Angels was much better. An interesting thing to note was while with the Angels he gave up zero home runs in 36.1 innings. But with the Diamondbacks he served up 4 in only 18.2 innings. Hence the ERA jump from 2.23 to 4.83. With a live fastball and big breaking ball he could be an 8th inning asset.
There are certainly no shortage of options for the Dodgers bullpen. It all comes down to a matter of where the front office sees the most value. Which pitcher do you think can contribute the most from within? Which free agent should the front office target? Let us know your thoughts!
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