Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Stay with me because this is not going to go over well. The Dodgers lost Kenley Jansen yesterday for 2-3 months, which means that a best case scenario would involve him closing games for the team in Mid April, and a worst case scenario has him closing games in Mid May. This isn’t even calculating the time that it takes him to get up to speed because he missed his entire Spring Training, there’s a realistic probability that Jansen isn’t going to be his usual self until close to June or later.
This is scary, because the Dodgers bullpen, while looking a lot better, is filled with projects and one year breakout guys.
Juan Nicasio has a career 4.37 FIP away from Coors Field, he’s done in because of a 1.09 HR/9 rate that just doesn’t work for a guy that can’t strike out people or command his pitches with any certainty. Betting on the 20.2 IP where he looked like a major league pitcher last season is a risk. Paco Rodriguez was injured for half of last season and it remains to be seen how his stuff bounces back from his injury issues. J.P. Howell was putrid at the end of last season, Brandon League is always a risk because of the mediocre control and bad strikeout numbers, Joel Peralta struggled last season, contrary to xFIP. Here’s an excerpt from DRaysBays
"Last season, he gave up a ton of home runs, and allowed balls in play to go for hits far more often than he previously has in his career (.307 compared to .267). In addition, he really looked like he was struggling. His command seemed erratic, his fastball didn’t challenge hitters, so he had to rely on his splitter and curve even more. There’s a line of thought that says he had trouble getting batters to chase"
Carlos Frias seems like an option, but he didn’t look great in the innings he pitched last season either. Yimi Garcia‘s average flyball given up sat at 305 feet, in other words, he was extremely lucky to only give up 2 home runs in the 10 innings he pitched last year.
The only “sure thing” left in the bullpen is really Chris Hatcher, a converted catcher who has 33.2 awful innings in the big leagues and 56 really good innings in the big leagues in his career thus far.
Don’t get me wrong, the bullpen has upside, Hatcher could blow guys away while he throws 97 MPH, Frias, Yimi, or Baez could emerge, Nicasio could find his niche in the bullpen and pull (to a lesser extent) a Wade Davis, League could continue to be a groundball machine, NRI Sergio Santos could put it all together and make the team finally while showing he’s a late inning option, Joel Peralta could figure out his problems and keep his strikeout/walk rates
If even 3 of these happen, the bullpen probably has enough to hold it down for Jansen until he comes back, but remembering that Kenley wouldn’t go through his Spring Training regimen until April, the Dodgers are probably going to need more depth as the season goes on.
Beggars can’t be choosers, and teams who wait until February to shore up the bullpen can’t choose between the Andrew Miller‘s of the world, the guys on the market have warts and the options are:
A former closer who lost his job to Drew Storen during the stretch run, is older, and gave up an inordinate amount of fly balls last season.
A former closer who has beaten human beings on numerous occasions, and came off of a season where he posted a 119 FIP-, and is looking for a 2 year 10 million dollar deal.
A former closer who has had ~40 operations on his left shoulder and hasn’t touched 60 innings in a season since 2011.
Or a reliever who doesn’t turn 30 until September, and just came off of a season where he posted an 82 FIP-, with an 8.43 K/9 rate and is looking for a low base major league salary or even a minor league deal.
I’ll take my bet with the last one, and that is Joba Chamberlain. He’s controversial, which was probably overblown because of a relentless New York media. The first chance he got out of New York, he pitched pretty decently in a bullpen role on a Tigers bullpen that sorely needed it.
Chamberlain isn’t without warts, he had a 4.20 FIP in the second half of last season with a .726 OPS allowed, but heck, if he didn’t have those issues, he’d be inked to a contract by now.Chamberlain is young enough to take a step forward, isn’t going to command a huge price, doesn’t come with the bad PR that would come with a Rodriguez signing, and got 53.2% ground balls last season (a skill that the new front office has coveted).
At this point in the season, the Dodgers should be looking to fill in the 10-15 innings that Jansen isn’t going to be able to pitch, and by getting a good depth piece, they can limit the damage done by missing their closer. By adding Joba, they add a useable arm, while he might not be a bonafide late inning guy, he doesn’t have to be for the team to be successful in Kenley’s absence.