If the season were to start today, the Dodger bullpen would look something like this:
- R Kenley Jansen
- L J.P. Howell
- R Joel Peralta
- R Brandon League
- R Brian Wilson
- R Juan Nicasio
- L Paco Rodriguez or R Pedro Baez
- Triple-A: R Yimi Garcia, Rodriguez/Baez, R Mike Bolsinger, L Daniel Coulombe, L Adam Liberatore
- DL: R Chris Withrow
The heart of that group is the one that ended 2014 with such heartache, and it’s the one that many felt needed the biggest upgrade. I’d argue that catcher and shortstop are both more urgent, and that both Peralta and Nicasio are fascinating low-cost additions, but I understand the impulse. Peralta is soon to be 39. Nicasio is an interesting gamble who has proven nothing. League and Wilson still exist. Even Howell had his issues late last year.
Now, with Andrew Miller and David Robertson, clearly the cream of this year’s free agent reliever crop, there’s some wonder as to whether the Dodgers missed the boat. Both would have made for nice additions to the back of the bullpen; both require you to close your eyes and pretend that not only do most three-year deals to relievers not fail, but extend that to four. (Plus, in Robertson’s case, throw in a draft pick too.)
After seeing the way the Royals got to the World Series largely on the backs of an insanely good shutdown bullpen, I can’t pretend I’m not a little disappointed myself, but not too much, given the deals they got. It does put us in a bit of a weird spot, though. We all want the team to improve the bullpen, but after watching the most expensive group in big league history fall apart last year, how could you possibly yell and scream that not handing out massive free agent contracts was a mistake?
There’s still some interesting options out there, anyway. Using FanGraphs’ free agent tracker, and don’t over-think the WAR too much, because relievers are inherently limited by how few innings they throw…
|Name||2014 Team||Age||2014 WAR||2015 WAR|
|Sergio Santos||Blue Jays||31||0||0.4|
|Burke Badenhop||Red Sox||31||1||0.3|
… there’s some names I wouldn’t mind at all. (Like I said, don’t over-think the WAR here — while he doesn’t show up as being appreciably better, I’ve long loved Gregerson and would be very happy with him.) That doesn’t take into consideration any potential trade options, either. And if you end up simply cutting Wilson to make a spot? So be it.
The 2015 bullpen probably isn’t going to have any sexy new names. That might be okay, though. It’s rare that the flashiest bullpen is the best. We just need this team’s to not be the worst. They’ve made minor improvements in that direction; something slightly more substantial should be next.