Could the Dodgers turn to an old friend for next season’s bullpen?
It’s no secret the Dodgers face plenty of roster decisions to make this winter. The big names, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, and Rich Hill all could find new homes leaving the Dodgers without their cornerstone third baseman, a rock solid closer, and a potential gold mine in Hill. But key parts of the bullpen are getting gutted too. J.P Howell, a work horse for the Dodgers in years past, Joe Blanton, the second best reliever for the Dodgers in 2016, long reliever Jesse Chavez, and of course Jansen are free agents. With these potential losses, it’s no surprise the front office will be on the lookout for bullpen arms.
That’s where Shawn Tolleson comes in.
Drafted by the Dodgers in 2010, Tolleson was a quick mover in the minors. Averaging a 13.09K/9 and only a 2.32BB/9 in his time as a minor leaguer, he earned a promotion to the Dodgers after just three years. His debut with the Dodgers in 2012 wasn’t anything to rave about though. With an ERA of 4.30 and his FIP not being much better, it seemed like he needed a little more time to develop into the star reliever the Dodgers expected.
After not producing much in 2013, the Dodgers traded Tolleson to the Texas Rangers. And guess what? He excelled. After an impressive 2014 season where Tolleson recorded a strong 2.76 ERA and strong strikeout numbers, he became the Rangers closer in 2015. And the 2015 year? Well, it was just as good. Even though his ERA rose a little to 2.99, Tolleson increased his strikeout percentages while lowering his walks.
All that brings us to 2016. I guess you could say the wheels fell off. Tolleson’s ERA ballooned to 7.18 over 36.1IP. His strikeouts took a hit too. And to make matters worse, in August, Tolleson’s back gave out. He found himself on the 60 day DL with a lower back sprain. Just a couple days ago, Tolleson was released by the Rangers and decided to elect free agency.
Tolleson seems like a typical signing by the Dodgers’ front office. Andrew Friedman and company love to sign pitchers with recent injury history that pitched well in the past. Think along the lines of Rich Hill, Brett Anderson, Brandon McCarthy, and Scott Kazmir. Even Kenta Maeda fits this mold as elbow issues presented themselves before he signed an 8 year deal. The Dodgers have also taken shots at pitchers who have good peripherals (strong strikeout rates, low walk rates) without good results. Josh Fields and Luis Avilan are of this mold. It seems clear that Andrew Friedman isn’t against taking chances on pitchers given the financial flexibility the owners give him.
Shawn Tolleson’s presence as a free agent is at least making the Dodgers consider him. Given his strong previous results, high strikeout rates along with low walk rates, and his recent injury all make him an intriguing option. He should also come at a slightly discounted price because of his poor 2016 season and his back sprain. I thoroughly expect the Dodgers to kick the tires on Tolleson, and maybe offer him a one or two year deal for $4-$5 million a year.
Get to known Shawn Tolleson because he just might be the next Los Angeles Dodger.