The Dodgers had one of the best bullpens in baseball for the 2017 season. Despite the high ranking, the front office needs to make beefing up the bullpen the main priority of the off-season.
In 2017, the Dodger bullpen ranked fourth in bullpen ERA in major league baseball and finished with the best bullpen ERA of any national league team. Despite such a high ranking, the front office has work to do if they want the Dodger bullpen to rank highly again for the 2018 season. Of the team’s current free agents, Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson are two of the most important free agents they need to re-sign.
Morrow and Watson were trade deadline acquisitions, and both filled important roles in the playoff bullpen. Watson was the primary left-handed reliever and Morrow was the eighth inning bridge to Kenley Jansen. While Morrow was such a vital piece to the 2017 Dodgers, there is a chance the bidding may get crazy for him as he will be one of the most coveted relievers on the market. One thing to keep in mind is that Brandon Morrow has an extensive injury history and has only appeared in over forty innings once in the past four years. That was this year as the Dodgers primary setup reliever.
If the offers get too pricey on Morrow or extend past two years, then the Dodgers will be better off letting him go. As we have seen in the past with contracts to Brandon League, Brian Wilson, and Sergio Romo, it doesn’t take long for a reliever contract to turn bad. If the Dodgers do re-sign Morrow, they still need to have some alternatives in place in the event Morrow gets injured again or is burnt out from this season. Morrow pitched in all seven World Series games, so there is a chance he has a regression this year from the heavy workload. This is why even if Morrow does return to the Dodgers, they should sign an additional reliever to backup Morrow.
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If Morrow does return then, the Dodgers could use another right-handed setup man if they want a bullpen that will be dominant. The Dodgers could move Kenta Maeda to the pen which would give them that shutdown seventh inning reliever, but despite his strong post-season performance, the front office said they still view Maeda as a starting pitcher. The seventh inning relief options are Pedro Baez, Josh Fields, and Josh Ravin but neither of those options is appealing. Baez appeared to lose all his confidence down the stretch and didn’t even make the playoff roster. Fields was knocked around in the World Series, and Ravin hasn’t been effective in the majors despite his ability to reach triple digits.
Watson will be easier to replace than Morrow since the Dodgers have Tony Cingrani and Luis Avilan in the bullpen still. They also have Adam Liberatore who was very effective in 2016 but ran into injury issues this year. The Dodgers could use another left-handed reliever for depth purposes, but they don’t need to sign an impact southpaw reliever. The Dodgers could trade for Zach Britton which would knock out two birds with one stone; the replacement for Morrow if he departs and it would bolster the left-handed options out of the Dodger pen.
One thing is clear this off-season, and that is that the Dodgers need to add more quality relievers to their bullpen. Bringing back Brandon Morrow or adding an equally effective reliever through a trade or free agency would still only leave the Dodgers with two reliable relievers at the end of games. The Dodgers need to add at least two quality relievers to the bullpen for the pen to have depth and a three-inning bridge to hold leads. Due to having a surplus of starting pitching, the Dodgers biggest focus this off-season needs to be on the bullpen.