The Dodger Bullpen Has Been Overhauled
After the Dodgers were knocked out of the playoffs in October, I turned to my laptop to address the awfulness of the Dodger bullpen and what needed to be changed for next season. The bullpen’s unreliability was a huge weakness for the team for much of the season. Despite solid seasons from closer Kenley Jansen and left-hander J.P. Howell, the Dodger relief squad was unable to hold leads or preserve ties late in the game causing Don Mattingly to rely on his starters much more and often choosing to leave them in too long causing seventh and eighth inning meltdowns.
I knew that the Dodgers had a lot of work to be done this offseason in order to rebuild the bullpen, and that’s exactly what Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi have been doing. While we suffered through an entire season of Chris Perez and Brian Wilson, the new front office regime took a stand this winter to shed the less than desirables from the bullpen regardless of what was still owed on their contracts.
Aside from the aforementioned Kenley Jansen and J.P. Howell along with Paco Rodriguez, the Dodger bullpen will have a completely new look next season. The
Bye Bye to The Beard. Photo: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
transformation began early this offseason when the Dodgers traded Greg Harris and Jose Dominguez to Tampa Bay for left-hander Adam Liberatore and right-hander Joel Peralta. Peralta would become the first new addition to the Dodger bullpen, the veteran usurps fellow veteran Jamey Wright who may or may not be retiring. Even though Peralta is a fly ball pitcher, pitching at Dodger Stadium could curb the amount of homeruns he serves up.
Although not exactly a splashy move, the acquisition of Peralta signaled that Friedman and Zaidi’s bullpen retooling process had begun. Jose Dominguez, albeit had a scorching fastball, his control was a big issue. Whether Dominguez can succeed as a late-inning flame throwing success at the Major League level remains to be seen, but Peralta is an established reliever sure to give Mattingly a more reliable option out of the pen.
Out with the old and in with the new should be the motto for the Dodgers this offseason. In November, the Dodgers also lost Onelki Garcia to the Chicago White Sox who claimed him off waivers, but they then gained right-hand pitchers Mike Bolsinger and Juan Nicasio. The Dodgers ended up sending minor league outfielder Noel Cuevas to Colorado to complete the Nicasio deal this week. Nicasio is slated to provide long-relief out of the Dodger bullpen rather than starting for the Dodgers. Ned Colletti has always stressed the importance of having a long-reliever at one’s disposal since there are always those short starts during the season which are often unpredictable. Remember Clayton Kershaw‘s early season 1 2/3 inning disaster in Arizona? It happens to the best of them.
Call to the Pen
The Dodgers continued the bullpen overhaul in December during the MLB winter meetings. Right-hander Chris Hatcher was a great pick up in the trade with Miami which sent Dee Gordon, Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas packing. Hatcher is perhaps my favorite new addition to the Dodger bullpen thus far. Adrian did a great job of reviewing Hatcher’s resume, and the reliever/catcher? has a plus fastball along with an effective changeup and slider. The Dodgers also will have team control over the 29-year old for quite some time allowing Hatch (shall we say Mattingly will “open the Hatch” when he is brought in from the pen?) to become a long-term Dodger reliever. Plus, Miami gave him to us for almost nothing making losing Dee that much more palatable.
The bullpen makeover still wasn’t over, and Dodger fans rejoiced on Tuesday when Brian Wilson was designated for assignment to make room for new starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy. The Beard quickly exercised his $9 million option for 2015 after the season concluded, but the new front office was not going to go down that tattooed road again. Wilson, who garnered his two-year deal with the Dodgers after flashing a glimpse of his former successful self at the end of 2013, had a very disappointing season for the Dodgers in 2014. With Hatcher ready to take over set-up duties, Wilson’s oddness and terrible relief pitching would not be needed in the eighth inning-or any inning-for the Dodgers any longer. Paying Wilson NOT to pitch for the Dodgers in 2015 could be the best investment the new management makes this offseason. Bigger and better beards in 2015 and beyond!
The Dodgers are reportedly not finished yet. Brandon League could be the next on the chopping block. Even though I actually feel that Brandon League was effective for the Dodgers last season, Friedman and Zaidi don’t necessarily agree with me. Even though FriedZaidi have put together an infield with much stronger defense, the ground ball inducer may not be mouth breathing on the Dodger mound in 2015 after all.
The Dodgers have also lost Craig Stem, Matt Magill, and long-tenured southpaw Scott Elbert this offseason in trades and in Scott’s case free agency. While I was rooting for Elbert’s return to the Dodger mound, it seemed that allowing that disastrous two-run homerun to Kolten Wong in the NLDS all but sealed his fate. Then again, Elbert’s failure was systemic of the larger issue at hand which was the poor bullpen composition and Ned Colletti’s inability to bolster the bullpen at the trade deadline (whether it was of his own decision making process or it was the reluctance of the front office to make changes amidst the revamping of the executive group).
The 2015 Dodger bullpen is shaping up to be very different from last year, and we can finally begin to forget all of those late inning bullpen meltdowns led by Chris Perez and company. Like I’ve said before, with a top notch starting rotation, there’s no reason why the Dodgers shouldn’t have a bullpen to match.