While it hasn’t yet been a week since the conclusion of Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, there’s already been a ton of speculation stirring on how the Dodgers will fill in the blanks for the prospective 2018 player roster.
Andy reported yesterday that the Dodgers did indeed decide to exercise Logan Forsythe‘s team option, but perhaps more importantly she noted that the 40-man roster is now full, after a handful of players were emptied off the 60-day disabled list to begin the winter. With a full roster, plenty of movement will be expected over the coming months as numerous players are traded, designated for assignment, non-tendered, or added because of Rule 5 implications.
There have been many discussions so far about a potential signing of righty reliever Brandon Morrow, who was one of six players who became a free agent at the conclusion of the World Series. Fans certainly seem to want the front office crew to pursue a contract with the 33-year-old Santa Rosa native, and Morrow himself has even expressed a desire to come back and pitch for Los Angeles.
“I only knew one person here when I first signed,” Morrow said not long after Game 7. “I kind of warm up slowly to people, I’m reserved at first. But once you get it in and you’re a part of the team, it’s awesome. The talent here is amazing. Everybody’s so professional and prepares and is really close to each other.”
Morrow was one of several Dodgers who remained in the dugout to watch the Astros celebrate on the field at Dodger Stadium when they clinched the franchise’s first-ever World Championship last Wednesday, perhaps reflecting on his 2017 journey, one which saw him resurrect himself from a shredded shoulder not so long ago.
After missing almost 18 months recovering from a severe impingement, Morrow posted a 1.69 ERA in 18 relief appearances after his return to the mound for the Padres towards the end of 2016. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and his crew took a shot on the right-hander last winter, knowing how much he could bring to the table if he was somehow able to return to his form of old.
And return to form he did.
The Dodgers initially selected his contract on May 29, and after he proved to management that he was 100% healthy, he was called up for good on June 21. Over the course of the regular season, he made 45 appearances, posting a 2.05 ERA and 1.55 FIP with 50 punchouts and nine walks over 43-2/3 innings of work. He appeared in 14 of the 15 games for the Dodgers this postseason, as he was one of the few relievers that skipper Dave Roberts trusted in critical situations.
As far as his repertoire goes, Morrow has the ability to throw from a vast selection of pitches, always being known to tinker with different styles and release points. This season, his fastball sat at 96-98 MPH, while occasionally topping out at 100 on the gun. The best thing about his four-seam is that it has late movement, and can be deadly up in the zone when it’s working properly. Back in the day, he was notorious for his splitter, though recently he has focused on a more controlled slider and cutter to compliment his heater.
There’s no question that Friedman and his crew will pursue a contract with the righty, but when considering the reality of a possible signing, the chances seem quite slim when based on prospective comps of other relievers of the same mold.
Surely, if he stays healthy, Morrow profiles as a capable closer for many clubs around the league, and will certainly demand a multi-year deal, something that Los Angeles management may cringe upon, especially when considering the Dodgers’ intentions of decreasing the club’s payroll. It wouldn’t be surprising if Morrow’s camp began talks in the 2-year/$20 million neighborhood, a figure similar to what closer Greg Holland landed from Colorado last year after missing a whole season because of reconstructive elbow surgery.
Looking ahead to 2018, it will be difficult to replace Morrow, as he was far and away the best option when it came to bridging the gap to All-World closer Kenley Jansen. As it stands now, based on players who will be returning, potential options for a 2018 late inning relief options include Josh Fields, Pedro Baez and Kenta Maeda, if Maeda doesn’t begin the season in the starting rotation.
Last year it took the Dodgers about half the season to find a formidable eighth-inning setup man, and if Morrow slips through the grasp of Friedman and his crew this winter, Los Angeles may be in a similar situation next year when trying to build a successful bullpen for the long haul.
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