The trade deadline was an active time across MLB. The Dodgers even made some additions — if you call a future Hall of Famer and a Top 5 shortstop simply “additions.” However, they failed to land immediate bullpen help at the trade deadline.
Sure, the acquisition of Max Scherzer was probably intended to strengthen the bullpen by pushing Tony Gonsolin and/or David Price relief roles. They also acquired Danny Duffy, who they reportedly envisioned as a multi-inning reliever, but he was transferred to the 60-day injured list on Monday, meaning the earliest he could pitch is Sept. 15.
Jimmy Nelson, who had been a revelation when he was in there, went down last week to season-ending surgery to repair his flexor tendon. Garrett Cleavinger, Victor Gonzalez and Darien Nunez have all ended up on the injured list in the last week. That has necessitated a guy like Justin Bruihl to get his first shot in the majors. And thank goodness for Alex Vesia, who has been lights-out in the last month.
Additionally, Cole Hamels was signed last week, which leads me (and others) to wonder if/when Clayton Kershaw will be back from his forearm injury. Kershaw was transferred to the 60-day IL on Monday and his earliest return date is Sept. 5.
The bottom line is, the Dodgers’ bullpen is hurting. Literally. But help is on the way. Corey Knebel is due back today, and just in the nick of time.
Knebel has been out since April 23 due to a right lat strain. He has just six innings of work for the Dodgers this season, but a lot is about to be put on his shoulders. He’s going to be expected to step right in to a high-leverage role to help out Kenley Jansen and Blake Treinen. Knebel has the experience and stuff to handle it, but it remains to be seen how well he’s going to hold up over the last 2-plus months of the season.
He has been impressive in his rehab outings, which is encouraging since I had all but counted him out coming back this season.
Bullpens are the most volatile part of an MLB roster. The Dodgers didn’t directly address it at the trade deadline. They didn’t get a Craig Kimbrel or Brad Hand or even Daniel Norris. If Duffy can come back and have an kind of positive impact, that’d be great. If Gonsolin’s shoulder isn’t ded and he can be counted on in the postseason, fantastic. But getting Knebel back could end up being the most important addition the Dodgers could make to the bullpen for the end of the season and playoffs — as long as he can stay healthy.
Of course, it’d be a lot better if they let’s see if the Dodgers can avoid the Wild Card Game, but that’s a different topic for a different post.