Unexpected signing could solve Dodgers’ bullpen issues with Kenley Jansen
The Dodgers could fix the back end of their bullpen with this signing.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have one flaw — if we can even really call it that — and it’s with the back end of their bullpen. It doesn’t help that Blake Treinen, Jake McGee and other relievers are now free agents, but one could argue a single marquee signing would make all of those worries go away.
LA lacks identity in the back end of the ‘pen, mostly because Kenley Jansen has pretty much lost himself. He’s proven over the last couple of years that he cannot be trusted in high-leverage situations on a consistent basis, so the Dodgers need to find that stability elsewhere to help Jansen become effective in another role (perhaps the seventh or eighth inning).
Enter free agent closer Liam Hendriks, who The Athletic’s Jim Bowden believes the Dodgers should sign to a three-year, $42 million contract.
That might seem a bit hefty, especially since the Dodgers are not looking to spend excessively in their quest to avoid the luxury tax threshold, but Bowden explains how the addition of the former Athletics closer can do wonders for LA.
"“The Dodgers realize that Kenley Jansen’s days as their closer are winding down and it’s time for them to replace him. Why not with one of the best in the game in Hendriks? The 31-year-old Hendriks had a 1.80 ERA in 2019 with 25 saves and repeated that dominance this year with a 1.78 ERA and 14 saves. His FIP was a staggering 1.14 and his strikeout-per-9 ratio was 13.1, the same as last year. This will allow their bevy of young power arms like Brusdar Graterol and Victor González to remain in the set-up role with the veteran Jansen.”"
You can’t disagree with that analysis. Though we liked what we saw from Graterol and Gonzalez, there’s still work to be done, and we’d probably rather not see them in a flex role in which they’re asked to take care of the sixth inning one day and then the ninth inning another.
The “issue” with the Dodgers bullpen in 2020 was the lack of roles. Perhaps manager Dave Roberts likes that because it keeps the opposition on its toes, but it’s not a steadfast strategy when a) your relievers aren’t exactly nails and b) when you don’t have a go-to guy to get three outs in a do-or-die situation.
But Hendriks would deliver just that, allowing Roberts to still institute his “on the fly” philosophy for innings 6-8, which would presumably go to Jansen, Graterol and Gonzalez in no particular order. That’s much more manageable than having it extend to the final three outs of the game.
You saw the trouble the Dodgers had with the Braves in the NLCS. They had a much easier time with the Rays because of Tampa’s incredible inconsistency on offense, but going into 2021 with the same or worse bullpen situation won’t help the Dodgers repeat as World Series champs.