Amidst the bad Dodger free agent news (which Brim wrote good words about here), the Dodgers did reportedly make a signing yesterday.
Daniel Hudson is reportedly returning to LA on a one-year, $7 million deal. Hudson appeared in 40 games for the Dodgers in the 2018 regular season and posted a 4.11 ERA/1.217 WHIP in 46 innings before an arm injury took him out of the final month of the season and the postseason. Hudson bounced back well in 2019 as he started the season in Toronto and was traded to the Nationals at the deadline. Hudson was a key piece of the Nationals championship run, as he allowed only four runs in 25 innings down the stretch and didn’t allow a run in the first three rounds of the playoffs. He struggled at bit in the World Series, allowing four runs in three games against a Houston team that definitely wasn’t cheating. He did get the ball in the ninth inning of the decisive game seven, and struck out two Astros to clinch the title for Washington.
Hudson joins a Dodger bullpen that, along with the rest of the team, could look quite a bit different in 2022. Kenley Jansen is still a free agent (as of me scheduling this post), Corey Knebel looks to be on the move and Joe Kelly‘s option was declined, leaving the Dodgers with a potential high number of leverage innings to fill. Hudson figures to be a candidate to fill some of those innings, along with hopefully Tommy Kahnle. I wrote about the Kahnle signing last offseason, and if he’s healthy he could be a huge addition to what was already a top-tier bullpen.
Hudson had an extremely weird 2021 season, splitting time between the Nationals and Padres. Hudson was simultaneously one of the hardest-to-hit pitchers and one of the hardest-hit pitchers in baseball.
Out of 436 pitchers that had 100 or more batted balls against last year, only 35 of them had a worst barrel/batted ball rate than Hudson. 62 of them had a worse average exit velocity than Hudson’s 90.5 MPH average exit velo. However, Hudson also had the eighth-highest strikeout rate (35.7 percent) among qualified relievers and his 34.4 percent whiff rate was one of the best in baseball.
Hudson did all this essentially only utilizing two pitches. Baseball Savant tracked Hudson throwing a changeup 2.8 percent of the time and a sinker .2 percent of the time. He threw a four-seamer 68.2 percent of the time and averaged 97 MPH on it. His best pitch was his slider, which he threw 28.2 percent of the time. It averaged 88.2 MPH and opponents hit .136 off it (xBA .121) and slugged .339 (xSLG .259) with a 50 percent whiff rate. The Dodgers have developed some type of witchcraft with their bullpen sliders (which Eno Sarris of the Athletic wrote about here), so bringing in a slider-heavy pitcher could be a match made in heaven.
This feels like a common offseason cycle. The Dodgers seemingly always watch as big names come off the board, then make a small (and usually effective) signing that annoys fans. As Brim wrote, today was a very bad day for the Dodgers. They lost arguably the best pitcher and best bat in free agency and have a bit of work to do to remain the favorites in the National League. This feels like it could be an extra annoying offseason as there will likely be a work stoppage coming this week, meaning there’s a chance for a long wait for a big impactful move.
So it’s easy to look at this Hudson signing and grade it on the curve of losing Max Scherzer and Corey Seager, but Hudson should be a player that helps the Dodgers win games next season. I’m of the belief that there is no such thing as a bad one-year contract, so even if Hudson struggles it won’t torpedo the team. Hudson won’t be the only move the Dodgers make this offseason (and probably won’t even be the only bullpen move the Dodgers make this offseason), so looking at this move in a vacuum it is a fine move. Now, bring me Clayton Kershaw and Freddie Freeman pls.