Dodgers signing Brandon Morrow indicates big bullpen addition may not happen

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31: Brandon Morrow
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31: Brandon Morrow /

The Dodgers are reportedly signing reliever Brandon Morrow.

Back in 2017, relief pitcher Brandon Morrow spent his lone season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and it was a career year. The right-hander maintained a sterling 2.06 ERA and 0.92 WHIP across 45 games (43.2 innings of work) and was a key part of one of the league’s best bullpens.

That offseason, he signed with the Chicago Cubs, but after 35 games in 2018, he failed to take the mound again due to injuries. He hasn’t pitched since July of that year.

But now he’s reportedly back with the Dodgers after the two sides agreed to a minor-league contract on Friday. This comes after Los Angeles opted to trade for Brewers reliever Corey Knebel, who, like Morrow, was atop his game in 2017 only to have the next three seasons derailed by injuries.

However, to the dismay of Dodgers fans, this seems to be indicating something many might not want to face. Is it possible the front office is making these small, cost-effective bullpen additions after the expected departures of Blake Treinen, Jake McGee, Pedro Baez and Alex Wood so they don’t have to spend big money?

We’ve already seen a number of the warning signs. The Dodgers laid off a number of employees following the World Series win, citing significant financial losses due to the global pandemic. Then there was talk about the organization’s potential desire to remain under the luxury tax threshold next season. Then came Andrew Friedman’s admission that the team told its free agents to explore the market for better financial opportunities.

Are we about to see some sort of a makeshift bullpen a year after this team won the World Series?

It’s quite possible! But the good news is that the Dodgers already made two shrewd moves. Knebel, who is a prime bounce back candidate, and Morrow, who is likely out of the woods after being on the shelf the past two seasons with injuries, could very well end up being key contributors in 2021. However, relying on either of these guys to shoulder the load in the back end of the bullpen would be a serious oversight.

Kenley Jansen is still a problem. Though Victor Gonzalez and Dylan Floro displayed serious grit during this year’s run, they’re probably not suited for eighth- or ninth-inning duty. Joe Kelly has largely been unreliable since coming to town after 2018.

There are still big-name relievers out there in the form of Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand, Alex Colome and others, but if the Dodgers are making these kinds of moves, it feels like they’re setting the tone for a low-key offseason.

Then again, this could just be Friedman stocking up on depth before hauling in the big fish. The Dodgers always like to be insured on the depth front before going for the jugular. Perhaps the team has felt comfortable with the market for these guys and decided to go with Knebel and Morrow while they got a good price.

Because when you think about it, the Dodgers relying on two bounce back campaigns from guys who haven’t pitched well in years, well, doesn’t seem like the analytical way, now does it?