Pedro Baez has been a very reliable setup man this season for Kenley Jansen and may be on track to one day becoming a closer himself.
Pedro Baez’s career as a Los Angeles Dodger has been rocky, to say the least. At times he has looked great with electric stuff and other times you can’t count on him to get the big out. However, it looks like Baez has finally started to figure it out and put together a strong season.
His numbers have always been pretty solid, but the problem with Baez in the past is that he always seemed to allow a big hit at the worst times. Whether it was a big home run or a bases-clearing double, it always felt like when the pressure was on, Baez would crack.
This has started to change as Baez is now starting to get big outs in high leverage situations. If he continues this, there is a real possibility of him becoming a closer in the future.
Now, his closing future wouldn’t be with the Dodgers because of Kenley Jansen, but I could see another team making Baez a closer down the road.
Baez has always had the makings of a future closer with his high 90’s fastball and power stuff. He’s always had a great arm, but now that he has started to learn how to pitch and not just throw, he’s finally starting to reach his potential.
Baez has posted a career low 1.03 ERA in 26.1 IP so far this season. His SO/9, FIP, and WHIP are still right around his career averages. He is actually walking batters at the highest rate of his career.
But the biggest reason why Baez’s ERA is the lowest it’s ever been is because he is averaging the least amount of hits in his career. Baez is averaging only 4.8 H/9, about two hits less than his career average was going into the season. Opponents are hitting only .197 on balls hit in play this season compared to .253 for his career.
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However, the best stat from Baez is that he has not yet allowed one inherited runner to score. This confirms my theory as to why Baez has been so much more successful thus far despite most of his numbers staying the same.
It is because he is starting to get the big outs and is not giving up timely hits. This is one of the key abilities a closer has to have. Closers face so many high-pressure moments, and Baez has delivered in these situations.
If this continues for the rest of the season, Baez could be in for a big payday this winter. Baez is arbitration eligible in 2018, which means he is going to get a nice upgrade from his current salary of $550,000.
My guess is that the Dodgers don’t want to pay too much for a non-closing relief pitcher after giving Jansen a 5-year $80 million contract last winter.
The Dodgers front office still sees RP as mostly expendable; Jansen was the rare occasion where they gave out a big contract because he is just that good. The Dodgers will probably try to work to get a lower salary, but if arbitration favors Baez they might look to move him.
This also leaves the possibility that the team might try to move him during the season. The Dodgers are on the market looking for a starting pitcher. Knowing how reluctant the Dodgers are to trade top prospects, teams that need a closer might look at Baez as a potential player of value.
This could be an option for the Dodgers since Baez’s value is high right now. Baez isn’t an unrestricted free agent until 2021. My guess is he doesn’t last with the team until then.
The Dodgers will either be forced to overpay for a setup man or trade him so he can close for someone else. He will get to a point where his potential as a closer will be so high that a team will make an offer for him that will be too enticing.
But the Dodgers have to lowest bullpen ERA in baseball, and they might not want to mess with that. Time will tell what will happen, but Baez should get a lot of credit for his production this year.