After looking long and hard for DFA candidates in case the Los Angeles Dodgers have more roster moves in ’em before the 2022 season opens, the choice is obvious: if they want to make a maneuver, they’re going to lose some talent.
Because, after jettisoning potential Quad-A outfielder Luke Raley in a trade to the Tampa Bay Rays and moving Jimmy Nelson and Dustin May to the 60-Day IL, there aren’t many more arrows in their quiver.
If the Dodgers have to switch things around to find room for minor-league signee Kevin Pillar or a potential new addition like Sean Manaea, they’re going to have to part ways with someone they’ve already protected for quite a while and clearly believe can be an effective part of the machine.
So, who’s it going to be? Certainly seems like it’ll have to be a bullpen option.
The low-level prospects added to the Dodgers’ 40-man for protection purposes this offseason aren’t going anywhere. LA’s not going to take a chance and get rid of, say, Zach McKinstry without a corresponding trade lined up. In all likelihood, it’s going to be one of the team’s bullpen wild cards that’ll be saying goodbye.
The Dodgers are in a strange place where they have an overload of moderately effective bullpen options, as well as a number of injury bounce backs, but are missing many of their stalwarts from recent years. No Kenley Jansen, of course. No Joe Kelly. Nelson won’t be around until the fall, at the earliest. Blake Treinen’s the sole stopper, and nearly everyone else involved in the picture could boom or bust.
Hey, baseball’s hard. And it’s going to be up to the Dodgers to discern between these options and figure out the right names to cut loose. This is a best guess at how that process might go, and what pool they’re picking from.
These 3 Dodgers are DFA candidates before the 2022 roster is settled
3. Garrett Cleavinger
Though the 27-year-old Cleavinger posted impressive surface numbers during an 18-inning stint in Los Angeles in 2021, a slightly deeper dive (only slightly!) indicates he was skating on thin ice.
21 whiffs in 18 innings? Good, promising! 3.00 ERA? Naturally! 1.778 WHIP, 12 walks, four homers, and a 5.89 FIP? Much more unsightly, and might have Cleavinger ranked as the lowest man on the current totem pole.
Clearly, there’s swing-and-miss stuff in his arsenal, and there’s a reason the Dodgers acquired the lottery ticket arm from Philadelphia last winter. However, despite the ERA that would theoretically forecast success, Cleavinger didn’t pop like Justin Bruihl, Phil Bickford and the other out-of-nowhere options who emerged in the bullpen picture last year.
Plus, there’s the glaring, sometimes-uncorrectable flaw: sure, the stuff is there, but does he have any idea where it’s going? Add in the fact that when hitters make contact, they leave the yard at an elevated rate, and you’ve got the most replaceable piece of the Dodgers’ bullpen parade.