Honestly, the Dodgers don’t really need to sign a reliever to make up for Kenley Jansen‘s production. They aren’t going to find anyone good at this stage and there are some solid internal options. But, we all know things won’t go this way. Or will they?
Andrew Friedman indicated the Dodgers will probably evaluate in-house closer options initially with Kenley Jansen out 8-12 weeks.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) February 18, 2015
That’s right. We aren’t dealing with Ned Colletti anymore.
But then there’s this:
#Dodgers will check in on K-Rod/Soriano in wake of Jansen injury, but seems more likely to me they add a middle reliever (1/2) …
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) February 18, 2015
… than pay sticker price to fill in for a closer who might miss 1 month with an injury that does not involve his arm. (2/2)
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) February 18, 2015
The front office is going to look at all its options. So, here are some potential non-Dodger relievers the team could bring in.
Adams is formerly one of the best middle reliever/setup men in baseball. From 2009-12, he had a 1.98 ERA, 2.67 FIP, 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings, 0.99 WHIP and a 197 ERA+. He’s suffered through injuries the last two seasons, as he has thrown just 43 2/3 innings in 2013-14 combined. They’ve been decent innings, but almost everything has spiked — ERA, FIP, hits per nine innings, home run rate, walk rate. The only thing that has stayed somewhat consistent is his strikeout rate. He has a 9.1 K/9 in the last two seasons. His velocity has dipped significantly since 2011, but he’s a pitcher who misses bats with his off-speed/breaking pitches, not his velo. He throws cutter (32.7 percent for his career), curveball (15.6) and a changeup (4.2).
His shoulder must be pulverized on the inside, as he has suffered a torn rotator cuff, two labrum tears and had surgery for through thoracic outlet syndrome — the injury Josh Beckett had in 2013. At 36, he isn’t going to reclaim those 2009-12 days, but he could be a serviceable, cheap and, most importantly, short-term solution to this temporary problem.
Probably the reliever with the most potential on this list (and the youngest), Chamberlain is coming off his best season since 2008, but there is a reason why he’s still available on Feb. 18. He’s a decent reliever, but he isn’t great. One thing he did do at a career-best rate is keep the ball in the ballpark, as he allowed just three home runs in 63 innings out of the Tigers’ bullpen. He also had a 53.2 ground ball percentage, so that would definitely play out of the bullpen.
Chamberlain works with a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a mid-80s slider and a high-70s curveball. His curveball grades out as his most valuable pitch, but his slider has been historically decent (save 2012 and 2013). He probably can’t be had on a minor-league deal, but he could be relatively cheap (he made $2.5 million last year) and stick around longer.
There were rumblings the Dodgers could go after Papelbon, 34, during the summer to shore up the bullpen, but they obviously didn’t. He’s owed $13 million this season and has a vesting option for 2016 based on games finished. If the Dodgers acquired him, he’d be the closer until Jansen returned, but not after that. He would move into a setup role, so that’s something he would have to consider. He has a limited no-trade clause and might need that 2016 option guaranteed for him to waive it to come to the Dodgers.
Papelbon’s velocity has declined in four consecutive seasons, which is always cause for concern. His strikeout rate, unsurprisingly, has dipped into the mid-8s. That’s down from 10.8 per nine in the previous eight seasons. He still is an effective, quality reliever, but he certainly isn’t worth the cost, financially. Also, the Dodgers would have to trade at least one somewhat significant prospect to get him (if they didn’t want to pay all his salary).
Ugh. I’m no fan of alleged domestic abusers and guys who attack their girlfriend’s father. That’s what Rodriguez is, and he’s also not that great a reliever. He allowed 14 home runs in 68 innings as the Brewers’ closer in 2014. He also struck out 9.7 batters per nine innings, which is good.
Odds are Rodriguez, 33, is looking for a full-time closing gig, so it wouldn’t make sense for him to sign with the Dodgers. I’m not heartbroken. I’d hope this front office would stay away from players with checkered pasts. Then again, Andrew Friedman was the general manager who employed Josh Lueke for three years, so you never know.
Soriano, despite being 35, might be the best and most logical fit for the Dodgers. He has a history with Friedman in Tampa Bay and is still a quality reliever. His full-time closing should be behind him, but like Rodriguez, he could be holding out for a closer spot to open up.
His strikeout rate rebounded in 2014 despite his diminished velocity. He’s basically become a cutter-slider pitcher with an occasional fastball. It isn’t exactly like Jansen, but it’s fairly similar. He could sign for a decent amount and be a good 1-year pickup.
The Dodgers have a lot of internal options who could be just as effective as those listed above — Pedro Baez (did I just really type that), Daniel Coulombe, Yimi Garcia and Adam Liberatore. That doesn’t even include guys like Carlos Frias, Juan Nicasio and Paco Rodriguez — all of whom have options and could conceivably begin 2015 in the minors. It also doesn’t include non-roster invitees David Aardsma, Ryan Buchter, David Huff, Ben Rowen and Sergio Santos. That’s 12 pitchers who might not break camp with the team. I think that’s more than enough so that the Dodgers don’t have to use resources on a reliever who likely won’t stick around beyond 2015. At least three of these guys will break camp with the team, not counting the four locks in Chris Hatcher, J.P. Howell, Brandon League and Joel Peralta. And no, Julio Urias or Chris Reed will not fill this role for the Dodgers.
If the Dodgers must acquire a reliever, it might as well be one who won’t need to be counted on for much. I’m thinking Adams or Chamberlain. They should stay far away from Papelbon and Rodriguez. If they really want someone who is a Proven Veteran Closer™, then it might as well be Soriano.