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As we have already briefly outlined several possible areas of the roster the front office crew of the Dodgers will likely address during the offseason, some of the loudest early chatter amongst fans has surrounded the structure of the prospective bullpen heading into 2017.
Four relievers who were a part of the 25-man roster this season — Kenley Jansen, Joe Blanton, J.P. Howell and Jesse Chavez — will all become free agents at the conclusion of the World Series. Jansen will certainly receive a qualifying offer from Los Angeles, but there’s no doubt he’ll test the market thoroughly before making any type of decision. Blanton is also likely to field an offer from the Dodgers, perhaps seeing a contract proposition almost identical to what he earned in 2016. Both Howell and Chavez could probably be had on the cheap, yet depending on how management constructs the relief corps early, may not even receive offers at all.
The track records of both Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi suggest that they have tendencies to build their bullpens from within and on the cheap, but if the Dodgers somehow let Jansen escape to another club which offers a higher payday, there will be a situation where the team would have to spend some significant money to pick up the slack. While trades are always an option, it almost guaranteed that Friedman and Zaidi won’t even consider dealing a prized prospect or two in exchange for a proven reliever. With the future always in mind, there’s probably a better chance they look at the Los Angeles farm and eventually do some window shopping in the free agent market before devising their ultimate plan.
Jacob Rhame will need to be added to the 40-man roster at some point, otherwise, he’ll be lost to Rule 5 consequences. Keeping that in mind, the hard-throwing, 23-year-old righty could get a shot to make the club right out of spring training. After having put his suspension and a few other problems behind him, Josh Ravin will have a clean slate to make his own claim for a spot on the 25-man. As Adam Liberatore, Grant Dayton, Pedro Baez, Josh Fields, Yimi Garcia and Luis Avilan headline the list of incumbents, there is no true closer among the group, and the Dodgers’ management crew will likely have their eyes on several outsiders in the market as the winter months progress.
If Jansen does indeed move along to another club, righty Mark Melancon will certainly garner a high amount of interest from Friedman and Zaidi. Flamethrower Aroldis Chapman will probably be the most sought after reliever around baseball, but the ordeal which saw the Dodgers pass on the southpaw last offseason may suggest the front office will be focusing elsewhere. The 31-year-old Melancon will conceivably demand a deal starting at around three years, a timeframe that Friedman probably wouldn’t be comfortable in offering him. Yet if the team doesn’t have Jansen or Blanton at the back end of the corps, there may be no time to be picky before time eventually runs out.
Louis Coleman, after having struggled with injuries and arm fatigue for most of the second half of 2016 could also be an option, but Los Angeles would definitely prefer to buy extra-cheap if he doesn’t draw interest from somebody else.
Neftali Feliz, coming off a one-year, $3.9 million deal with the Pirates last season, could be an intriguing alternative for a setup role after having somewhat rediscovered himself in 2016. The 28-year-old righty made 62 appearances for the Buccos in 2016, logging a 3.52 ERA with 61 strikeouts and 21 walks in 52-2/3 innings of work. Depending on how the market shapes up early on, a deal in the neighborhood of two years and $11 million may get the job done.
Another interesting option is Boone Logan, the 32-year-old lefty who threw for the Rockies the past three seasons. His 3.69 ERA is a bit indicative towards pitching at Coors Field, but his 3.23 FIP shows a better trend of effectiveness. Logan also pitched much better early in the season, sporting a sub-3.00 ERA before his injury, but ultimately tallied a 7.11 ERA in September and October.
While there’s no doubt at all that Jansen is at the top of the fans’ wishlist, it’s going to be interesting to chart the moves of the front office over the coming months. In all likelihood, there are enough arms in the Dodgers’ system to assemble a working bullpen, but whether or not a group from within can be effective over the course of a full season is probably unlikely.
Indeed, interesting times lie ahead in assembling the roster for next year, and we’ve yet to even mention the prospective holes in the starting pitching staff. Stay tuned for some commentary and insight on the future rotation tomorrow.