As a unit, the 2018 Dodgers bullpen has looked sharp, and that’s with a struggling Kenley Jansen. After his last outing though, it looks as if the best closer in baseball is about to live up to that title again. The weak link in the pen was long reliever Wilmer Font. The Dodgers enviable depth has them covered.
When Walker Buehler made his first MLB start Monday night, the Dodgers made a corresponding roster move. Font was designated for assignment on Monday afternoon. Font struggled with putting batters away and can only be trusted in low leverage situations. Font throws heat in the high nineties but has struggled with commanding his pitches.
For a team with World Series aspirations, the Dodgers could not afford to have a pitcher like Font try and continue to make adjustments at the major league level. The best that the organization can hope for is for Font to clear waivers and work on making adjustments at AAA Oklahoma City.
It was announced today the the Dodgers have called up Daniel Hudson and optioned Walker Buehler to Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. Buehler can still make another start on Saturday due to the new 26th man rule for double headers. Hudson will provide the Dodgers with another veteran bullpen arm with Wilmer Font now in limbo.
MLB veteran righthander Daniel Hudson was signed to a minor league contract at the end of spring training after having been released by the Tampa Bay Rays. Hudson was acquired by the Rays from the Pittsburgh Pirates this past offseason, with the Rays picking up the majority of the $5.5 million owed Hudson in 2018.
This is important because if Hudson gets promoted to the majors by the Dodgers, they will only have to pay him the prorated sum of the MLB minimum. Hudson does not present a serious threat to pushing the Dodgers payroll anywhere close to the $197 million tax threshold with that kind of salary commitment.
More importantly, Hudson is not far removed from a 2015 season, his first as a reliever, where he posted a 3.86 ERA and 1.315 WHIP and struck out 71 in 67 innings. Hudson started his career as a talented starting pitcher and even won 16 games in 2011 for Arizona. Injuries derailed his career and led him to reinvent himself as a reliever.
Hudson is only 31 years old and is off to a great start at AAA where he has not allowed a single hit in 4 2/3 innings. His promotion to the majors would save the Dodgers a prospect in a trade for a reliever and also allow further payroll space for the Dodgers to make additional acquisitions. Hudson is a ready-made, high leverage reliever that would serve as an upgrade over Wilmer Font.
Liberatore, 30, has performed well for the Dodgers over parts of the past four seasons–when healthy. He is a multi-inning reliever who is not just a situational left-hander. If healthy, he will play a significant role for the team during the 162 game marathon that is a baseball season. Also, if Scott Alexander struggles further, Liberatore would be the guy to replace Alexander if he is sent to the minors.
Edward Paredes, 31, is in the same boat as Liberatore, another veteran AAA player having a good start to the season so far, and a candidate in my mind to replace Alexander instead of Font. Paredes struck out 11 in 8.1 innings for the Dodgers last season as a situational lefty. Fans will see some of Paredes this season when other injuries occur, but he is not a long-term solution at the back of the bullpen this season.
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Yimi Garcia the right-hander who has missed the past year and a half recovering from Tommy John Surgery will become a candidate but is still on the rehab trail in the minor leagues. Garcia at one point in 2015 and early 2016, looked like a legitimate weapon out of the Dodger bullpen. Garcia has struck out 81 batters in 75 MLB innings while walking only 12! He should be able to contribute to the MLB club once done with his rehab assignment in mid-May.
The Dark Horse Candidates
Minor League veterans Pat Venditte, and Justin De Fratus attempt to return to the majors while refining their game at AAA Oklahoma City. The ambidextrous Venditte, 32, was a spring training invite who opened some eyes at Camelback Ranch. He is off to a good start out of the OKC bullpen.
De Fratus, 30, was not an official spring invite, but appeared in 8.1 innings over five games and posted impressive numbers in the short sample size. De Fratus is off to a great start as a starter, surrendering one run over 17 innings and three starts. De Fratus has a couple of solid seasons under his belt as a workhorse reliever for the Phillies, where he has logged 194 innings out of the Phillies pen over 191 games.