While the Dodgers have lost two starting pitchers from their 2019 rotation, the bullpen remains their biggest issue for 2020.
The Dodgers began their off-season focusing their efforts on Gerrit Cole and have since shifted their focus to the trade market. Francisco Lindor and Mookie Betts are the biggest names they have had trade talks for but and while either player would be a big boost, they would not shore up the Dodgers’ biggest area of need. That would be their bullpen.
Blake Treinen was signed by the Dodgers which is a great start but they should not stop there at bolstering their bullpen. Treinen had one of the most dominant seasons ever by a reliever in 2018 but in 2019 he struggled to the tune of a 4.91 ERA to go along with back and shoulder issues. If he can rebound in 2020 he will be a big upgrade, but that is one of the many “If’s” the Dodger bullpen faces for next season.
Kenley Jansen is another reliever in need of a bounceback season in 2020. Kenley is coming off the worst season of his career and the Dodgers’ postseason ended with Joe Kelly going two innings because Dave Roberts did not trust Jansen with the season on the line. In his prime, Jansen’s cutter ranged from 94-96 MPH but in 2019 his cutter velocity dipped to 91-92 MPH.
While Jansen can live with less velocity on his cutter, he cannot live with location mistakes and declining velocity. Kenley once had pinpoint control of his cutter but that seemed to waver on him in 2019. Kenley Jansen has earned the right to enter the 2020 season as the Dodger closer but if he continues to struggle next season then Dave Roberts cannot be afraid to pull him from the closer role.
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Then there is Joe Kelly who was supposed to fill the eighth-inning setup role in 2019. His Dodger tenure got off to a nightmare start but he did settle in and dominate towards the end of the season. That is until he came down with a mysterious “lower-body” injury towards the end of the season. Joe Kelly has always been inconsistent throughout his career so the Dodgers shouldn’t expect that to change in 2020.
Another issue the Dodger bullpen faces in 2020 is that Julio Urias will be moving to the starting rotation. Urias was a vital part of the 2019 bullpen but he is going to be a starting pitcher again this coming season. The bullpen will be down one left-handed relief option to go along with the fact that Adam Kolarek will be less valuable with the three batter minimum rule taking effect. The team could rely more on Pedro Baez who dominated left-handed hitters in 2019.
The good news for the Dodgers is that there are plenty of quality relievers left in free agency. Whether they aim high for someone like Daniel Hudson or go for a middle-tier option like Steve Cishek, there are relievers to be signed that can help answer some of the questions facing the bullpen in 2020. While a big addition such as Betts or Lindor would be welcomed, there will be problems in 2020 if the Dodger bullpen remains as is.