After primarily focusing on starting pitching and other numerous depth pieces so far this winter, the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ roster is beginning to get the feel of being almost complete and polished enough to contend for a pennant in 2016.
One area that still may be a concern in the eyes of many fans is the bullpen. On paper, it really doesn’t look all that bad, but based on injury potential and the results of seasons past, one or two solid upgrades could set the Dodgers apart from the rest of the division.
Notice the operative word is “solid.” Every year it seems the front office takes a gamble on a handful of NRIs hoping that one of them has rediscovered themselves and potentially makes a difference in the pen. Last year it was David Aardsma, Mike Adams, Ryan Buchter, Chad Gaudin, David Huff, Ben Rowen and Sergio Santos, but in the end none proved to be valuable enough to contribute for the duration of the season.
The high-profile veteran arms on the free agent market are always another option, but based on the salaries awarded for the talent that was available this offseason, it’s understandable that the Dodgers have passed on the bigger names. Run-of-the-mill relievers like Darren O’Day, Joakim Soria, Tony Sipp, Steve Cishek and Ryan Madson have all signed lucrative, multi-year deals, but erring on the side of caution with this group seemed to be the wisest choice for the Dodgers.
At one point, imagining Aroldis Chapman bringing up the rear of the Dodgers’ bullpen made every fan’s heart flutter with anticipation; however, the front office eventually used its best judgement and declined a surefire trade. Firemen like Jake McGee and Andrew Miller were also thought to be available in prospective deals, but ultimately their respective teams wanted a ton more than what they were perceived to be worth.
With a few exceptions, internal options always proved to be gold mines for the Dodgers, especially in the bullpen. With veterans Juan Nicasio and Joel Peralta having been swept aside, the Dodgers will need the youth to step higher. Considering the wealth of talent on the farm, it may not even be an issue.
Assuming the Dodgers utilize a seven-man pen to open the season, the current lineup features Carlos Frias, Yimi Garcia, Luis Avilan, Pedro Baez, Chris Hatcher, J.P. Howell and Kenley Jansen. This group is very young in itself, with everyone except Howell and Hatcher being 28 years old or younger.
The Dodgers’ brass seems intent on trying new additions Frankie Montas and Yaisel Sierra as starters, but based on reported fastball velocities and other factors in scouting reports, their underlying talent may eventually reveal bullpen potential.
Jharel Cotton and Chris Anderson were also utilized as relievers late last year, and may be used in similar roles in 2016 based on the congestion in the starting rotation at Oklahoma City.
In light of everything mentioned above, the Dodgers have a multitude of talent available to contribute the bullpen — at least on paper. Looking towards the future, 2017 seems to be stacking up to be even more exciting, and could possibly feature a starting rotation and a bullpen rising towards being the best in the bigs.
After all, that was the plan all along.
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