While Dustin takes care of the bigger, more complex deals, I am going to take the easier route and once again take a look at some lower-cost relief options that may be able to assist a bullpen that’s taken a few hits.
Last season the Dodgers bullpen got 72 1/3 innings out of Blake Treinen, 69 from Kenley Jansen, 50 1/3 from Phil Bickford and 44 from Joe Kelley to primarily lead the way. Add in 35 1/3 IP from Victor Gonzalez and the contributions of Jimmy Nelson, Corey Knebel, Edwin Uceta, Garrett Cleavinger, Scott Alexander, etc. and it’s a clearly different group this season.
Brusdar Graterol has led the bullpen with 40 1/3 innings, but he’s on the injured list. Evan Phillips is second with 36 IP, followed by Craig Kimbrel‘s eventful 31 innings and Bickford’s not exactly pristine 30 1/3 — especially after Thursday night. The names mixed in this season to replace the Nate Jones and Uceta mix this season have been Yency Almonte and Reyes Moronta, albeit with more success for one of them than the others.
While the team will see what it may get from Danny Duffy, Gonzalez, Tommy Kahnle, Dustin May, Nelson, Treinen or even Mitch White should he end up in the bullpen with the return of Walker Buehler or Andrew Heaney, bringing in a low-cost addition may help alleviate some pressure of the rest of the guys they have needed to consistently rely on this year. Also, Pedro Baez and Dellin Betances are in the organization as potential low-cost additions.
Joe Jimenez, Tigers
Let’s start with a more obvious option and one that would ultimately cost a bit more given the expected demand. With Detroit near the bottom of the American League, the 27-year-old Jimenez may be on his way out thanks to a bounce back season for the Tigers.
After 2020 and 2021 seasons that included a 6.35 ERA in 68 IP across 77 games, including 41 walks to 311 batters faced for a 13.2 BB%, Jimenez is at a 3.38 ERA in 34 2/3 innings across 37 games this season. To be fair, his walk rate really just kicked up in 2021 (16.7%) and Jimenez struggled in 2020 due to an insane HR/FB% of 24.1%, nearly 6.0% more than any other year in the majors. Now the K% is up and the BB% is back down to the best mark of his career as he’s upped his four-seam usage and dropped the change down to just 6% this season.
To lefties, Jimenez’s fastball use is up to 69.9% from 58.0% last season as it moves back closer to the career high mark of 80% in 2019. To righties, it’s really been a minimal change with him just about back to being a two-pitch pitcher to right-handed batters as he was in 2019 and 2020.
While his Whiff% on the slider is back to 38.5%, it still trails the rate from 2021 (41.9%) and 2020 (45.1%). It’s Jimenez’s fastball that’s now up to 27.4% from 22.6% last year and 15.6% in 2020, with the exit velocity down at 87.4 MPH off the fastball from 92.9 MPH in 2021 and 91.1 in 2020.
Arbitration eligible for 2023, Jimenez is in team control for next year before becoming a free agent in 2024. Sure that may make him slightly more expensive, but given his erratic history, the Tigers may want to sell while he looks like this…
Mychal Givens, Cubs
No, Givens has never been a particular dominant reliever. Yes, Givens has been on the Orioles, Rockies, Reds and Cubs during his career with a grand total of one postseason game pitches back in the 2016 Wild Card Game between Baltimore and Toronto, when he struck out three batters in 2 1/3 innings.
However, he has thrown 74 2/3 in 2016, 78 2/3 in 2017, 76 2/3 in 2018, 63 in 2019, 22 1/3 in the shortened 2020 season, 51 last year and now 37 innings this season. At 32 years old, likely heading into free agency due to a mutual option for $3.5 million and making $5 million this season, Givens shouldn’t cost a whole lot and seems likely to be moved. Yes, he’s been worth a total of 0.7 WAR since the 2019 season (When Dustin tried to trade for him by giving up Edwin Rios) and he walks too many guys with a BB% that has sat at 10% or higher since 2019. But I’d still be interested to see what the Dodgers may be able to do with a guy who has managed to keep his ERA at 3.63, 3.35 and now 2.92 over the past three seasons while pitching for all four of those franchises listed above.
Givens’ fastball spin rate is in the 93rd percentile this season, with a K% at 82% thanks to 28 Ks in 74 PAs with the four-seamer. Yes, he’s only topping out at 93.5 mph on his fastball which is the slowest of his career, but his Barrel% is back down from where it had been before the past few years and he’s generating more ground balls and less line drives than he has in about five years. His slider is also at a 29.0 Whiff% while being thrown 32.8% of the time. He’s at a slash line of .218/.307/.310/.617 against right-handed batters this season with a career OPS of .602 against righties backing that up. His slider and four-seamer have been thrown almost equally to right-handed batters this season and have Whiff% of 28.6 and 27.8 respectively while his change, used 7.5% to righties, has a .118 xBA, a .139 xSLG and a .180 xwOBA.
For what it’s worth (probably not much), Givens has allowed just one walk against the Dodgers this season with two strikeouts in his 2 innings (the 8th inning while trailing twice) of work.
This absolutely isn’t advocating for a high-leverage role for Givens, but veteran who may be able to eat some innings and has been traded for Case Williams and Noah Davis/Tyler Nevin, Terrin Vavra and Mishael Deson over the past two years when he still had more team control seems like the Dodgers could send out worse (and probably have in the past few years).
Garrett Richards, Rangers
Honestly, I am probably stretching on this one but the Dodgers had some interest in Richards a few years back before he signed with the Padres ahead of the 2019 season. Of course that was awhile ago now and Richards wasn’t particularly good for the Padres in his 17 games over two years or for the Red Sox in 40 games last year.
You’ve got to stretch back to 2018, his final season with the Angels, to find even an average season as he’s been worth 4.7 WAR since the 2016 season according to FanGraphs. In 2022 with 27 games for the Rangers, he’s been worth 0.3 WAR thanks to a 3.32 FIP and a 3.52 SIERA in 33 1/3 innings.
Now using a slider 37.6% of the time to go with a change at 35.4% and a four-seamer at 23.6%, Richards is in the middle of a transition after his four-seamer led his usage in five of the previous six seasons. Of course, with a 94.3 MPH fastball now the slowest of the 34-year-old’s career, Richards is getting by with a chase rate in the 83rd percentile and a GB% of 52.6, his highest since 2017 and just outside the Top 30 in baseball among pitchers with at least 30 IP this season.
Richards’ slider and change are responsible for most of his success at this point, with Whiff% of 30.2 and 25 respectively while his four-seamer has been hit hard (exit velocity at 95.7 MPH and a xwOBA of .525 and xSLG of .800) in its 128 uses. Similar to Givens, I am mostly just curious on what the Dodgers could do with Richards at this point as the slider and change are at a .189 BA/.264 SLG/.213 wOBA and a .146 BA/.171 SLG/.201 wOBA respectively this season.
Richards’ splits this season are at .207/.258/.259/.517 to lefties and .242/.333/.409/.742 to righties as the fastball has just been crushed more by the latter. Those are mostly true to his career lines of .241/.311/.362/.673 to lefties and .249/.319/.389/.708 to righties, with lefties struggling a bit more this season against his change.
Once again, I’ll throw a reminder out on what some relief trades have looked like over the past few years. In addition to the Yordan Alvarez for Josh Fields (oops), Oneil Cruz and Angel German for Tony Watson (also oops), Corey Copping for John Axford, Andrew Istler for Ryan Madson and Niko Hulsizer for Adam Kolarek trades I mentioned before last season’s deadline. We didn’t really end up with any relief trades given that Duffy has still never appeared in a game for the Dodgers and Andrew Vasquez for Stevie Berman last August doesn’t really count. Now you can see why Andrew Friedman hates trading for relievers.
Really, we’re back to my Hansel Robles (hey, he’s a Dodger now), Daniel Hudson (a Dodger and partly why this post was necessary) and Ian Kennedy (I guess he would be available again, but he hasn’t been great since I wrote about him and he’s injured) post from last season. None of these guys should cost anything too significant, even if Alvarez and now Cruz have turned into valuable pieces in the majors.
Once again we’re in a pretty clear rental situation for most of these guys, with Kennedy’s 24 innings for the Phillies last season sort of the warning on how a guy with a 2.51 ERA/3.66 FIP in 32 innings for one team can quickly turn into a 4.13 ERA/6.21 FIP in 24 innings for the other.
Jimenez will likely have some more suitors and cost something clearly a big more significant than the other two here given their ages and seasons so far, but Richards sort of looks more like a lower level cost in the same vein as Istler or Copping given where he is in his career compared to Axford and Madson were at the time. Givens’ trade value from the past two seasons was mentioned above and go ahead and look up where those guys are, I believe just one of them has had any considerable success in the past two years within the minors.
To DET: Jeren Kendall
To LA: Jimenez
The Dodgers finally cut ties with their 2017 1st-rounder who didn’t pan out as expected. Maybe a change of scenery could help. Additionally, at this point someone like Kody Hoese could be an option here as well. Same logic as Kendall, a change of scenery for the 2019 1st-round pick may be worth it for the Tigers.
To CHC: Jimmy Lewis
To LA: Givens
Lewis has dealt with injuries since being the Dodgers’ 2nd-rounder in 2019 and the Cubs are pretty good at developing pitching. Seems like a low price to pay for immediate help.
To TEX: John Rooney
To LA: Richards
The Rangers are no stranger to former Dodgers (recently), so they might hit that well again, but this time, via trade. Rooney was the Dodgers’ 3rd-rounder in 2018 who has had a bit of an up-and-down minor-league career.