Dodgers 2018 Roster: Let’s Start Building a Bullpen

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(Mandatory Credit: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Now that the winter hot stove is finally beginning to heat up, many followers of the Dodgers are wondering if the Los Angeles management crew will make any significant moves to bolster the club’s roster before pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch in just a few short months.

Some fans of the team believe that an immediate starting pitching upgrade is in order, but president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman believes he already has the depth in place to succeed, at least for the early portion of the year. Others feel that the addition of a power-hitting outfielder should be considered, despite a career year from Yasiel Puig, the imminent return of Andrew Toles, and the prospective shift of Cody Bellinger to the outfield when veteran Adrian Gonzalez returns to the lineup next spring.

Yet, when looking at all the different areas of next season’s 40-man roster, the biggest gray area of all could be the bullpen. Righty Brandon Morrow has been snagged by the Cubs, which was tough news to swallow for many fans, at least from a sentimental perspective. Southpaw Tony Watson is being courted by a handful of teams, as it’s just a matter of time before he signs a deal elsewhere.

In the meantime, while names such as Wade Davis, Greg Holland, Mike Minor and Jake McGee have been linked to the Dodgers in some shape or form, Friedman appears content with the core crew that he already has in place. On Tuesday, he told Ken Gurnick that Yimi Garcia and Tony Cingrani can conceivably pick up the slack left by Morrow. What’s more, Friedman told Alanna Rizzo that the team’s luxury tax number will not exceed $237 million in 2018, in essence guaranteeing a lower payroll for the upcoming campaign.

And while all of this sounds like bad news to Dodger fans, let’s not forget the foundation which the Dodgers already have in place. The real spending happened last winter with the signings of Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner, who Friedman and his crew found paramount to bring back in order to succeed. Jansen had yet another outstanding season, and will return to the relief crew next year more determined than ever to bring home a World Championship.

Friedman and his bunch are quite adept in building successful bullpens, and oftentimes the construction takes a bit of time to shape itself. If you remember last spring, Josh Fields wasn’t included on the Opening Day roster, while Morrow was stashed away in the confines of Triple-A Oklahoma City until late May. Furthermore, in early April, Chris Hatcher and newly acquired Sergio Romo were considered the chief eighth-inning guys. So if any year was a legitimate example of a successful mid-season overhaul, it was certainly 2018.

As far as the returning pieces go, joining Jansen is Garcia, he of the high spin rate, who agreed to a one-year, $630,000 contract a few weeks back. The 27-year-old righty was part of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 2014-16, going 3-5 with one save, a 3.12 ERA and 0.95 WHIP while striking out 81 in 75 innings. However, he missed all of 2017 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and it could take some time before he’s back in full swing.

Cingrani was tendered a contract by the club on December 1, meaning he’ll have a deal in place at the beginning of the year, whether it be by mutual agreement or salary arbitration.

Pedro Baez promises to be back with a vengeance after being left off both the NLCS and World Series rosters. Baez had a sub-1.40 ERA through the end of July last season, but began to unravel later in the summer. By the end of the year, whether it was because of strain from all the innings or a problem with mechanics or even a mental approach, the former third baseman didn’t have much to contribute. He certainly has the potential, though, and hopefully with a few tweaks can return to the form we saw early last season.

Fields returned from the depths of OKC to post a 2.84 ERA with a 0.965 WHIP and collect 57 strikeouts over an even 57 innings of work.

Also returning are Luis Avilan, Ross Stripling, along with a potential re-emergence of Adam Liberatore, who hasn’t pitched since last May. The biggest X-factor in the bullpen could be righty Kenta Maeda, who, although Friedman has said the club has intentions of using him as a starter, certainly proved during the 2017 postseason he has the skills to effectively deliver in the relief corps.

There’s still some depth in the minors, headlined by righty swing-man Brock Stewart, lefty specialist Edward Paredes, as well as the flame-throwing phenom Walker Buehler. Southpaw Julio Urias could return later in the season, and could conceivably contribute in relief in some fashion. Additionally, hard-throwing righty Dennis Santana was just added to the 40-man, and with his wicked sinker, triple-digit fastball, and deceiving splitter, could be an option at some point. Highly coveted prospect Yadier Alvarez could finally receive some consideration as well. If he’s still available to the Dodgers after this week, right-hander Joe Broussard definitely has the makeup to succeed at the big league level.

And the end of the day, even if Friedman and his troops walk away from the winter meetings empty-handed, there’s still a lot to choose from when building a bullpen behind Jansen. And even if there are still a few gray areas when Opening Day rolls around in April, there’s a whole seven months to make adjustments, including both of the trade deadlines in the middle of the summer. The opportunities to deal down the road may actually prove to be better than what’s available right now.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

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14 thoughts on “Dodgers 2018 Roster: Let’s Start Building a Bullpen

  1. I forgot about him, not much chance of Andrew to sneak anybody through the rule 5 draft this year. I think this article is going to be a lot closer to what the FO does than a lot of fans are hoping. So far this group has been pretty good at building a pen, so I’m going to have faith in whatever they do with it. I’m mildly surprised there haven’t been any Grandal rumors at the winter meetings so far. I thought there would be some teams trying to pry him away.

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  2. Speaking of all the ex-Dodger coaches and execs out there, we need to fill the Quality Assurance Coach (Castro) and Bullpen Coach (Bard) positions. I think the perfect guy to fill one of those would be AJ Ellis. He hit .210 last year and he’s 36. Time to hang ’em up AJ and start your Dodger coaching career. That would put him in the perfect position to succeed Honeycutt when he decides to retire.

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    1. I assume you mean Ozuna. He should really help the Cards. If you happen to read this Dennis, could you possibly translate the 4 guys the Cards gave the Marlins into which 4 guys would have been Dodger equivalents. It would be interesting to see what we would have needed to give up to get him. In the meantime, we need to tweet AJ that he should apply to the Dodgers for one of those open positions (assuming he’s ready to retire).

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  3. Lots of teams putting players up for trade,Padres trying to trade solarte he would be a good super utility guy, but they probably want a lot for him. This is the first year since the McCourt days that we are not linked to hardly anybody in the winter meetings.

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  4. Rule 5 is over and it looks like Broussard will spend another year in Dodger (or OKC) Blue. Also, we took a shortstop from the Orioles in the Minor League draft. Looks like that might be the only activity for us at the meetings. I still refuse to believe we won’t be getting a decent reliever in the next couple of weeks, probably more likely by trade now that almost all of the free agents are off the board.

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  5. I heard on the radio the Dodgers had been in on a lot of talks, they are good at not letting things leak out. Reed is still out there, but there has defiantly been a run on middle relievers, and boy are they getting some pretty good contracts.

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    1. You never know what Andrew and the boys will do. Davis, Holland, Reed and Watson are still out there as free agents although I can’t imagine that the Dodgers would spend the money on Holland or Davis. And, of course, there are still guys like Hand, Britton, Brach, Iglesias and Rivero that they could attempt to trade for, although I did read that the Reds price on Iglesias is so high that teams aren’t even bothering to talk to them anymore. I imagine the same holds true with the Pirates and Rivero.

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  6. I heard the same thing on Iglesias, I also heard there had been a lot of inquiries on Grandal. With Wellington Castillo gone the o’s could use a catcher, they have Britton, and Brach. If machado is available I’m sure they are also. I would still rather have Iglesias, but that’s not going to happen.

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    1. I’ll bet you’re feeling great today Dennis. It’s December 14th and Broussard and Locastro are still with the organization. Sometimes the best trades…………………………………………………..

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