Dodgers: LA May Soon Need to Start Looking for Bullpen Upgrades
By Sunit Bhakta
The Dodgers are off to a slow start, and along with the team, a few of the relievers have followed suit.
The Dodgers look like they are on the rise with back-to-back impressive performances. They won 7-2 on Sunday and 10-3 Monday night. The offense seems to be finding life by putting together better at-bats, and in the rotation, Rich Hill will be fine and join Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Alex Wood to form one of the better rotations.
One place they can shore up, however, is the bullpen. For the most part, the pen has been good, but there have been some red flags that should catch the front office’s eyes. And no Kenley Jansen is not one of them; he will be fine.
Wilmer Font and Scott Alexander have been shaky (to say the least) in this young season. Aside from his gutsy extra-inning performance against Arizona, he has been bad. In 9.1 innings, Font has allowed 13 earned runs, and 19 baserunners, with opponents hitting over .400 off him. He is also a 27-year-old reliever who was solid at best in the minors, with just 16.1 innings at the major league level under his belt.
Alexander’s struggles are a little more worrisome. In his first full season last year, he had a 2.48 ERA in 69 innings while being a groundball extraordinaire. He was supposed to be a replacement for Tony Watson and an under-the-radar upgrade. The southpaw has allowed six runs in just 7.1 innings entering Monday night’s game, and his control has deserted him; along with allowing seven hits, he has walked six batters.
For a team that so heavily uses the relief corps, having two huge black holes like these is risky. Alexander deserves the benefit of the doubt because he has somewhat of a track record, but Font’s leash should be short.
The bullpen was arguably the most reliable aspect of the team last year. This year unit has a bunch of question marks such as J.T. Chargois, Font, and Alexander. Chargois has started off very strong which is promising. He looks to be another Josh Fields-esque gem, but he is still a question mark at this point.
With his uncertainty, along with the struggles of Font and Alexander, Andrew Friedman and Co. should at least be looking around the league and evaluating potential options. You do not need any liabilities in the bullpen.
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And there are options out there that would serve as upgrades. They do not have to be on the level of a relief ace like Kelvin Herrera, although he would be an excellent addition. The Kansas City Royals did not expect to contend coming into the season and their 3-12 start just affirmed that.
And Herrera is in his walk year so a rebuilding team like the Royals might look to capitalize on his value. He would be as good as they get for a bullpen addition.
But, because we are talking more about Font and Alexander, the pitcher does not have to be of that caliber. A guy on the level of closer Blake Treinen from the rebuilding Oakland Athletics would be a dependable addition.
He throws hard and does an excellent job of keeping the ball on the ground and has a career ERA of 3.12, with zero earned runs in 7.1 innings this season. However, he has allowed three unearned runs, and some of his peripherals are worse than his career norms.
But you can attribute that to early season form and argue that as the season goes on, he will regress to the mean. And, the Dodgers have shown the ability to take pitchers who have underperformed and turn them into great relief arms. Treinen has not underperformed, so that is a good start.
Then you have an impressive collection of arms from the San Diego Padres’ bullpen. The Padres may not be good, but there is no doubt that they have relievers who are performing very well. They would make excellent additions to the middle or backend of the pen.
You also have guys within the organization such as Adam Liberatore, a healthy Yimi Garcia, top prospect Walker Buehler, or newest reclamation project Daniel Hudson.
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It is not the time to panic just yet, but alternatives should be started to be considered and looked at. Better to be safe than sorry.