While the Dodgers retained a valuable piece of their bullpen when J.P. Howell accepted his player option, they seem to still be looking for impact relievers.
They were linked to free agent reliever Darren O’Day and will likely be linked to any potential impact reliever available. Aroldis Chapman would look lovely in Dodger blue, but I’m not so big on giving up good prospects for any reliever.
The Dodgers haven’t been shy about making moves with the Rays under this new front office. They traded for two Ray relievers last year, when they sent hard-throwing Jose Dominguez and a low level prospect for Adam Liberatore and Joel Peralta. They also traded Xavier Cedeño to Tampa for cash.
Liberatore showed some promise in his first year as a Dodger, and Peralta was bad and hurt for most of the season before coming back healthy in September and pitching his way onto the playoff roster. Liberatore won’t be arbitration eligible until 2019 and the Dodgers declined a $2.5 million option on Peralta, making him a free agent.
Jun 12, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jake McGee (57) throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Chicago White Sox 7-5. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Boxberger was an all-star closer for Tampa last year and led the AL in saves with 41. The former USC Trojan was born in Fullerton and went to high school in Santa Ana and has been involved in transactions with current Dodgers in the past. He was traded from Cincinnati to San Diego along with Yasmani Grandal and others in exchange for Mat Latos. The Rays acquired him before the 2014 season and he put up impressive numbers, allowing 4.7 H/9 and striking out 14.5 batters per nine innings in his first year. He won the closer job and while most of his numbers got worse, he was still a very solid closer. He wouldn’t steal Kenley Jansen‘s spot, but he would definitely make the Dodger bullpen more formidable.
McGee fits the “injured pitchers” narrative surrounding this front office, as he had elbow surgery in December and missed a little time at the beginning of the season. He made his first appearance in May and was great in his 37 1/3 innings this year. He had a 2.41 ERA/2.33FIP and had a 6.00 K/BB rate. Despite throwing left-handed, he faced more than twice as many right-handed hitters than he did lefties and had success against both sides of the plate, allowing a .196 average against righties and a .200 average against lefties. He allowed two homers in 48 plate appearances against lefties and only one in 99 plate appearances against righties.
Both of these pitchers are under 30 years old and haven’t reached big contracts yet, so the Dodgers would do well to get one or both of them. The main issue should be the package Tampa wants in return. A premier closer was already traded this offseason (Craig Kimbrel to Boston), and Boston gave up four prospects in return. These prospects are now ranked first, third, 18th and 19th in the Padres’ farm system and two of the prospects are in MLB.com’s top-100. Those prospects were mostly blocked in Boston by other young talent, but if Tampa wants anything close to that for their own all-star closer, the Dodgers should probably pass. They’ll probably have to get creative and taking on a bad contract or two should help lessen the prospect cost, but either of these two would be highly welcome additions to the Dodger bullpen.