Posted on January 29, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
Despite re-signing closer Kenley Jansen earlier this offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t exactly confident in the look of their bullpen heading into spring training, something they hope to rectify. Despite winning four straight NL West division crowns on the trot, the Dodgers have been unable to reach that next level and win a pennant. Based on last year’s postseason, a dominant bullpen may be the thing preventing the Dodgers from reaching a World Series.
Outside of Jansen, as well as pitchers like Grant Dayton, Luis Avilan, and Pedro Baez, there appears to be a great deal of uncertainty in the Los Angeles bullpen, with several open spots heading into spring training. Fortunately for the Dodgers, the brass recognizes that the bullpen will require some attention before the start of the season.
“I don’t think you ever get to a place with the bullpen where you feel you are done,” said Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. “Every year, heading into the season, it scares me,” adding that the bullpen is “a tricky part of roster construction.”
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Meanwhile, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says he would prefer to have one pitcher locked into the role of 8th inning setup man in front of Jansen. Having another reliever locked into the 7th inning wouldn’t be a bad idea either. However, Roberts admits that the Dodgers may not have a pitcher like that already on the roster, meaning there’s still some work for the front office to do late in the offseason.
To be fair, the Dodgers have no shortage of bullpen candidates heading into spring training, especially if rotation candidates like Travis Wood end up in the bullpen. However, it doesn’t mean that Los Angeles has the pitchers at the back end that they need.
The Dodgers have recently been linked to relief pitchers like Jerry Blevins, Craig Breslow, and Joe Blanton, who was a key part of the Los Angeles bullpen last year. There are also countless others who remain unsigned and are capable of contributing to a big league bullpen. The problem that the Dodgers appear to have is that the top relievers still available are all seeking multi-year deals worth a considerable amount of money. Meanwhile, the team has already spent a significant amount of money re-signing Jansen, Rich Hill, and Justin Turner.
“Obviously we committed significant resources (to re-signing in-house free agents),” explains Friedman. “I think it impacts everywhere, just how you allocate. It obviously has trickle-down effects.”
This may not leave the Dodgers with the money to sign a reliever the quality of Blanton or Blevins. Instead, Los Angeles may have to settle for lower-tier pitchers who are willing to accept a minor league contract. The Dodgers recently did just that with Brandon Morrow, who returned late last season from shoulder surgery and has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. More low-key signings like that may be more realistic for the Dodgers at this point than one marquee bullpen addition.
Unless the Dodgers make a surprising move late in the offseason, Roberts may be forced to make due with what he has on the roster right now. “It’s more of a situation where somebody’s gotta emerge, sort of what Joe Blanton did for us last year,” said the Dodgers skipper. “We’ve got a lot of options. It’s more about who’s going to step up and pitch those innings.”