The 2018 season was still fresh when the Dodgers traveled to San Diego to take on a Padre team that was young into what was going to be a campaign of struggle. April 16th was the first day of the series and the Dodgers would go into California’s southern-most baseball city with a measly five wins in their first 14 contests.
With struggle an early theme on both sides of the foul lines and into each dugout, the Padres and Dodgers were set for a three-game set. Hyun-Jin Ryu would go for LA and Robbie Erlin, a struggling 27-year-old southpaw, would oppose him.
The game started with polar-opposite results for each end. For Ryu, quick innings. Outside of a messy second frame in which he surrendered two runs, the South Korean native was cleaning up the Padre batters one after another. For Erlin, disaster. The first inning was scoreless, the second inning saw one run score and the third inning of work for the San Diego starter was his last. He gave up five earned runs.
The Dodgers would ride Ryu through the sixth inning and Padres, who trailed six runs to two in just three innings, opted to go to the bullpen. Adam Cimber entered the ballgame.
Cimber was new to the show. A call-up to start the season was his ever and his role was middle relief just as much as it was to stay alive in the major leagues. On April 16th, the newcomer would get a real taste of the bigs. The Dodgers stood in his way.
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The scouting report on him was nothing fancy: a four-seam and sinking fastball that sat in the mid to low 80’s, a curveball that he never threw and a slider with some serious bite. But, when Cimber took the mound it would not be about what he threw, it was how he threw it.
A weird stance at the set position, an odd wind-up and a delivery that saw his arm plummet toward the Earth and sling the ball from a slightly below side-arm slot. It was devastating and it would beat the Dodgers for the next three innings of that April 16th ballgame. He gave up a walk and nothing else with three strikeouts.
Fast forward a few months and the Padres were in the doldrums of summer. Their door to sell the roster was swung wide open and Cimber, along with southpaw closer Brad Hand, was a name worth moving.
Cleveland made the call, Hand and Cimber were shipped to the Indians.
The Padre pair of relief arms still throw for the Tribe today. The Indians, who sit at this very moment at 35-33, look to be gearing up for a sale and quite frankly why wouldn’t they? Minnesota has all but run away with the AL Central and to be an Indian team stuck in a zone of “win the wild card game and go home after one round of the playoffs” is not exactly ideal. To sell would simply be to get things back on the right track and starting with their bullpen wouldn’t hurt.
To sell the Indian bullpen wouldn’t hurt. The Dodger bullpen is hurting.
By the current rankings, LA’s pen sits 14th across the majors in xFIP and 15th in the league in bullpen ERA. Oddly, middle of the road this season is a massive improvement for a team that spent the month of may holding hands with the Nationals for the worst bullpen in 2019 baseball.
Even if they are pointed in the right direction, reinforcing that poor to average bullpen is certain to happen and Cimber could be the man to do it.
Yes, the Dodgers have been rumored to be going after Brad Hand and there is no number or statement on the planet to say that Cimber is better than Hand. Hand is an elite left-handed closer that would make the Dodgers’ eighth and ninth innings of relief rather unbeatable. Kenley Jansen is pitching like his pre-2018 self and Hand could easily be baseball’s best reliever right now.
But, with insane statistics (Hand has those) comes an insane price that the Dodgers, simply based on track record, are unwilling to pay.
Cimber wouldn’t cost that. At a 3.80 ERA and 1.268 WHIP in 28 games, the surface numbers aren’t screaming “acquire me”. But, dig slightly deeper and his 124 ERA+ and success against both sides of the plate are screaming “under the radar”.
At the moment the Dodgers need left-handed help. While he throws from the right side, Cimber’s .240 BAA and .296 .OBP against left-handed batting could be a sneaky step-in for a southpaw trade.
Also, worth note, Cimber’s second most used pitch in his arsenal is that big sweeping side-arm slider. It has great movement and a whiff percentage of 32 percent on the nose. Rick Honeycutt and the Dodgers have a way with sliders.
The made Tony Cingrani the slider project when they acquired him, increasing his slider usage, and had raging success doing so. With Kenta Maeda, they made a good slider a great slider and Cimber could certainly join the party.
At the end of the day, the Dodger pen needs some bandaids for a couple of cuts, some deeper than others. A trade for Adam Cimber would be a pretty hefty bandage and packaging him and Brad Hand together in a mega reliever haul from Cleveland would be stitches to the wounds. However, if the price gets in the way, the sweeping side-armed major league sophomore is a target with checking in on come July.