Reliever Blake Treinen had the revival he wanted in 2020 with the Dodgers after a rocky 2019, culminating with him playing a pivotal role in the team’s World Series championship run. Now the Dodgers are bringing him back for 2021 and beyond, re-signing him for two years at $17.5 million with a club option for 2023 at $8 million.
A few more details on Treinen's contract:— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) January 6, 2021
–$4 million signing bonus
–$6 million salary each of the two seasons
–$1.5 million buyout if the team doesn't exercise the option for 2023
After being unhittable in 2018 during a career year (0.78 ERA/1.82 FIP), Treinen regressed heavily in 2019, posting a 4.91 ERA and an even worse 5.14 FIP. As a result, he ended up getting just a one-year, $10 million deal from the Dodgers in 2020, looking to bounce back.
While his 3.86 ERA wasn’t all that impressive, he shaved nearly two runs off his FIP (3.15) thanks to limiting walks (13.9% to 7.5%) and homers (1.4 HR/9 to 0.4 HR/9) with an MLB-best ground-ball rate of 64%. Similarly, while he wasn’t necessarily great on the surface in the playoffs (4.76 ERA in 11.1 innings), he did get a bunch of key outs, posting a Championship Win Probability Added (cWPA) of +13.1%. That included workhorse scoreless outings in Game 5 and Game 7 of the NLCS, as well as a timely save in Game 5 of the World Series after Kenley Jansen had lost the closer role following a Game 4 meltdown.
Now the Dodgers will have Treinen in his age 33 and 34 seasons, which is always a bit of a risk with relievers. That said, so far his stuff hasn’t fallen off, and thus the Dodgers are essentially banking on his 2020 performance being legit. All indications are that’s a solid assumption, and the Dodgers should end up with another high-leverage option with ZiPS projecting him to be around a 3.3-3.4 ERA guy. However, exactly what role he ends up in is still a question mark.
For those who are absolutely done with Jansen, the bad news is that Treinen was actually worse than him in 2020. The good news is that he wasn’t that much worse and thus at least provides a credible alternative to turn to. The point is the Dodgers aren’t necessarily getting an elite closing option here, so any expectation that he takes over for Jansen and dominates is rather unfair.
In terms of money, $8 million is even less than the Dodgers paid Treinen in 2020, but the real value for him is the $17.5 million total outlay, especially with all the uncertainty in the current market. Seems like a win-win deal.
As Dustin mentioned, there’s also an opportunity cost to signing Treinen for the Dodgers.
So it seems like the Dodgers felt the price on Liam Hendriks wasn’t a match, and instead of having a locked in closer, they’ll hope one of Treinen, Jansen, Corey Knebel, or Brusdar Graterol emerges. If not, then you begin to see why there were (undesirable) ruminations of Julio Urias going back to the pen to close.
Still, it’s hard to argue with the Dodgers plan at this point, especially given the volatility of relievers and Andrew Friedman‘s history of addressing team weaknesses via trade at the deadline. If a closer doesn’t emerge, they’ll have to pay a price to find an answer, but I’m sure they’re already looking at potential solutions. For now then, it seems enough that Treinen is back in the mix on a reasonable contract and helps strengthen the bridge to the end of the game for the Dodgers.