Drew Pomeranz signing should direct Dodgers’ offseason plans

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 07: Drew Pomeranz #13 of the San Diego Padres pitches to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at Dodger Stadium on July 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 07: Drew Pomeranz #13 of the San Diego Padres pitches to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at Dodger Stadium on July 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

An NL West team signed breakout reliever Drew Pomeranz to a four-year deal worth $34 million on Wednesday, Nov. 27. It was not the Dodgers.

With the San Diego Padres going after one of the top remaining relievers on the free-agent relief pitcher market, especially from the left side, the bullpen market has begun to contract even further for the Dodgers than it did when the Atlanta Braves added lefty closer Will Smith a few weeks back.

These sorts of expensive, top of the market deals for quality relievers seem to be becoming the new normal, even as front offices become more analytically savvy and value-driven. This would imply that the Dodgers, like other top analytical front offices, are likely to add a reliever to a Joe Kelly-esque contract again this offseason, with two or three years on the table for upwards of $6 million a season.

But maybe this offseason will be different. Maybe Andrew Friedman and the front office will zig where the rest of the market has begun to zag. If bullpen arms are becoming exceedingly valuable, even with ones with uneven track records as such as Pomeranz, then maybe LA will choose to deal from some of their pool of experienced relievers (ie. Pedro Baez) and opt to seek out surplus value from the bottom of the bullpen scrap heap.

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Not signing Pomeranz already was a step in the right direction in my eyes. Here’s what I wrote on rumors that the Dodgers wanted to add Pomeranz a few weeks back:

"Hopefully, this popular prediction does not become a reality. I am by no means trying to diminish Pomeranz’s upside or 2019 success. He really did look like a different pitcher, especially due to the uptick in velocity.But if the Dodgers are really trying to compete in 2020 by changing the “complexion” of the team, then why would they make the Joe Kelly mistake a second time? Why sign an uncertain commodity when much more stable relievers with actual postseason experience are on the market, and probably will cost around the same amount per year without needing that third year?"

In this vein, the team should avoid multi-year relief pitcher contracts in general, especially since their perceived market value seems to have ballooned even more than it did during last offseason with the Kelly signing. Even though both Delin Betances and Will Harris provide intriguing late-inning support options, the Dodgers should strongly push for signing them to higher average annual value deals for slightly more than the market suggests if they really want to add an impact arm without the three or four year burden a deal in the Smith or Pomeranz vein would dictate.

More likely though, in my opinion, is that the Dodgers add a reclamation project reminiscent of Brandon Morrow, Joe Blanton, or Bud Norris from the last few years. This sort of arm, a former-starter with late-inning stuff upticks actually fits the Pomeranz and Kelly molds, which emphasizes how well the Dodgers did in exploiting this market a few years before it became popular.

But the team needs to try to continue this trend without spending on the players at the top of this class if it wants to get the most bang for its buck, which certainly has been emphasized in recent seasons. Some possible adds could involve arms like Shelby Miller, Matt Harvey, or Edinson Vólquez, all of whom have had success in the majors within the last five years or so, but struggled in 2019.

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While the specifics and rumors are far from being solidified for these sorts of arms, I think that these players and ones like them would make the most sense for the Dodgers to pursue now that the top-end of the relief market has become so competitive and expensive.