Dodgers Bullpen: A Look At The NRI Options
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Miller? I don’t buy the reports tying him to LA. David Robertson? Haha no. Luke Gregerson? When was the last time you heard a player leave money and years on the table to pitch in a lesser leverage situation just to win? Sergio Romo? … Rafael Soriano? Prodigious decline in fastball mixed with a 35 year old former solid late inning option? Next.
So there’s a chance that no high profile relievers come to the Dodgers this year, and even if you believe that the Dodgers will sign Casey Janssen/Brandon Morrow type arms, their respective “floors” are too great to feel comfortable with having them as a potential late inning option.
This leads to asking, “What can the Dodgers do?”
Well Ned Colletti certainly made his impact on the Dodgers when he was the GM. Whether it was trading marginal but potentially useful prospects for replacement level big leaguers, or inviting the large sum of veteran relievers to big league camp and hoping one of them works out (normally they did), there was certainly something to be expected every Spring. So with that said, lets take a look at the potential steals for the Dodgers bullpen, starting with Non Roster Invitees to spring training:
Kyuji Fujikawa– Remember him? Yeah he was the Japanese reliever everybody hoped the Dodgers would target after they bid a massive amount of money on Hyun-Jin Ryu in the winter of 2012. Fujikawa has had a lost campaign in the Major Leagues thus far in his career. He made his debut in 2013, and was whacked around in the 12 innings that he pitched with a 5.25 ERA (though his peripherals looked better with 2.80 FIP), and was forced to undergo the dreaded Tommy John surgery that everybody seems to be getting nowadays. He rehabbed for a full year, came back and compiled a 4.36 FIP in 13 innings, I don’t know how much of him struggling is due to small sample size, or downtick in velocity, but the positive is that he made it back to the big leagues. You’d be surprised at how many pitchers never make it all the way back (talking to you, Chad Billingsley).
Fujikawa throws 3 pitches normally, a fastball a cutter, and a splitter (!). The splitter is possibly my favorite pitch because when it’s right, it is practically unhittable. Remember Koji Uehara‘s 2013 postseason? He was basically the Japanese Mariano Rivera, so there’s no doubting the talent there. However, lets be honest, a 34 year old pitcher with no track record of major league success coming off of tommy john surgery and hasn’t exactly proven that he can stay healthy from it. I doubt he gets a guaranteed contract. I could be wrong and some team likes his upside and signs him to a low base salary, high incentive deal (which wouldn’t be all that bad either for the Dodgers). There are enough warts here to think that he won’t get a guaranteed deal, and hopefully the Dodgers are looking at him as a low risk option to invite to spring training.
Jesse Crain– Oh yeah! He caused quite the stir in 2013 when he was still doing the whole pitching thing. He was busy putting together one of the better seasons a relief pitcher has ever, posting a 0.74 ERA and 1.52 FIP in 36.2 innings pitched. And that last figure was a problem, he went down with a shoulder injury shortly after, he was traded to the Rays, and hasn’t pitched since. Like at all. Crain hasn’t logged a major league out since June 29th 2013. He would have gone this season, but unfortunately he sustained a biceps injury and he wasn’t able to recover in time to set himself up for a big year in free agency.
It’s not unrealistic to think that Crain gets a major league deal with some team who falls in love with his potential, but this is a reliever (who has had shoulder issues in 2009 also) who is going into his age 33 season, hasn’t pitched in a major league game in 21 (!!!!) months, and who’s arm injuries have been devastating to his career. I’d love to take a flyer on him, but only if it doesn’t require a roster spot.
Craig Breslow– Okay i’m not saying he’s good. I’m not saying that. He came off of a season posting a 5.96 ERA and a 5.34 FIP. He’s not exactly enticing as a target. But with NRI’s, you’re not guaranteeing them anything. Breslow in 2013 posted a 3.60 FIP in 59.2 innings. He’s always suppressed hits (2.77 career BABIP) he’s always suppressed home runs (0.77 career HR/9 rate). His career K%-BB% isn’t great (9.4%) but he has a knack for limiting contact.
And he throws left handed. That’s the main thing. Take a look at the depth the Dodgers have right now. It’s J.P. Howell who was worn out at the end of last season and a shoulder surgery on his resume, Paco Rodriguez who was hurt for much of last season, and ever given a chance, and.. Daniel Columbe? There’s one real proven major leaguer, and while i’m high on Paco, they need somebody else. Breslow who was okay just 2 seasons ago fits that bill. He’s 34, he’s coming off of one of the worst seasons of his career, if he’s signed, i’d feel better about the overall left handed pitching depth the Dodgers have.