Dodgers: A Look at Who’s Left on the Reliever Market
By Josh Burke
A look at possible left-handed reliever options for the Dodgers bullpen reveals few big names remain after rampant free agent activity. Although limited, there’s still quality in a familiar face and a couple of under the radar “Zachs”.
It began as a relatively tame off-season for the Dodgers. Then that five-player blockbuster trade with Atlanta landed on us, right-handed pitcher Tom Koehler’s signing became official, and the Dodgers went and claimed left-handed starting pitcher Henry Owens off waivers from Arizona, all in one crazy week. Once the dust had settled, the moves left Los Angeles slightly shy of a full 40-Man Roster. In the aftermath of all this transaction action, perhaps the Dodgers bullpen needs a few left-handed reliever options to round out the list.
Of the options available at season’s end, I would have liked to have seen Jake McGee get poached from Colorado. He shares ties to Andrew Friedman from their Tampa Bay days. The Rockies, unfortunately, were not about to let him go without a fight. They re-upped with McGee for $27 million over three years.
A southpaw with success out of the bullpen, some envisioned Mike Minor as a potential free agent fit. Whether or not LA sought any commitment to Minor became irrelevant, though, once the Texas Rangers signed him. Apparently, they would like for him to pitch as a starter.
After a flurry of signings in the weeks surrounding MLB’s Winter Meetings, the pickings for game-changing relief talent got slim. A glut of players have already been taken off the market at this point, but there are still a few intriguing left-handed reliever options worth considering.
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New old friend Tony Watson is available. He is a good get, so it is presumed that his decision to hire cuddly agent Scott Boras probably won’t allow him to come back to the Dodgers for a discount. My guess is the Dodgers won’t reach too far outside of their financial comfort zone for Tony. Hopefully, all parties can find some middle ground. With the Dodgers last season, he was 2-1 with 18 strikeouts in 20 innings. He put up a 2.70 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Those stats are almost identical to his nifty career numbers of 33-17 W-L, 453 IP, 398K, 2.68 ERA, and 1.07 WHIP.
If Watson is too obvious of a choice, you might enjoy my next possible bullpen bull’s-eye. Zach Duke is almost too perfect of a target for the current Dodgers brain trust. First off, he is returning from Tommy John surgery which is a near prerequisite when being evaluated by LA’s front office. A former starter, Duke has pitched out of the bullpen exclusively over the last four baseball seasons. During that time, he has accumulated 288 strikeouts in 258 innings with a 2.76 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. He historically has commanded salaries of around $4 to 5 million per year. Because of the uncertainty surrounding his repaired elbow, though, it could be that his pay scale takes a ding.
I had also been keen to the idea of trading for Zach Britton a couple of weeks ago. He would have given any team who kept him on their roster for the entire season a Supplemental Draft pick by refusing a Qualifying Offer. Now that his Achilles ruptured, of course, the QO is no longer practical. However, as a once dominant late-inning power lefty, Britton might still be a late-season option if the price is right.
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Los Angeles could look to fill empty roster space with one of the left-handed reliever options mentioned. Jake McGee would have been a nice looking acquisition. And there’s always the familiar Tony Watson. The Dodgers may not be too keen on his (and Boras’s) asking price, though. A lefty I think would be just right is Zach Duke, who might accept a one-year pact. That gels with LA’s budget-conscious plans for 2018 as they look to reset the luxury tax penalty and prepare to be major players for the next free agent class and beyond.