Ahead of Friday’s trade deadline, the Los Angeles Dodgers need to be combination of flashy and tactical.
As for the flashy? Go out and get an ace-like starter. Max Scherzer? Jose Berrios? One of those guys has to be a Dodger come Friday at 4p.m. ET.
But the same philosophy doesn’t need to be a driving force in upgrading the bullpen, another area of serious need for Los Angeles.
There’s already a hierarchy in place. Kenley Jansen in the closer (sorry, for all of you who would rather not that be the case) and Blake Treinen, Victory Gonzalez and Joe Kelly are behind him.
Come playoff time, who knows? Maybe manager Dave Roberts will employ a closer-by-committee like he did last year. Whatever happens, though, it’s clear the balance of power doesn’t need to be overly disrupted by acquiring someone like Craig Kimbrel or even Richard Rodriguez, both of whom will be costly — Kimbrel for his mind-bending numbers and Rodriguez for his favorable contract situation.
That’s why the Dodgers need to zig while everyone else zags and trade for Rangers closer Ian Kennedy.
Ian Kennedy should be atop the Dodgers trade list.
For one, Kennedy isn’t a true closer, but he can close. He recently only shifted to a relief role in 2019. He had success that year with the Royals (30 saves) before the shortened 2020 derailed his progress. But he’s been better in 2021. He’s got a 2.59 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with 33 strikeouts and 15 saves in 33.1 innings of work.
The best part of bringing him in? He’ll cost just $700K, which is important for the Dodgers since they’re paying the maximum luxury tax penalty given they’re over the $250 million payroll mark.
OK, but back to baseball stuff.
Kennedy would bring an entirely different element to the Dodgers’ bullpen. Jansen relies on his cutter; Treinen relies on his sinker; Kelly relies on his curve (and sinker); and Gonzalez relies mostly on his slider (and four-seam fastball). Kennedy mostly deploys his four-seamer, which averages over 94 MPH. He can locate it, and it has life.
He’s witnessing a career-best barrel percentage (6%) and hitters are getting under his pitches at a another career-best 37.3% of the time. Compare that to the others?
- Jansen: 5.4% and 35%
- Treinen: 1.9% and 20.6%
- Kelly: 5.6% and 11.3%
- Gonzalez: 3.6% and 15.3%
More of the Dodgers relievers induce ground balls. Kennedy coming in to complement that by getting guys to pop up is a good change of pace for a bullpen that’s constantly in search of another missing element.
Throw in the fact Kennedy can be used a Swiss Army knife due to his experience as a starter and high-leverage reliever, and Roberts will have a much easier time calling on guys in the event someone needs a rest or someone is enduring an unfavorable run of form.
The affordability in terms of prospect capital and contract price just sweeten the pot even more.