Dodgers Roster: A Few Thoughts on Improving an Inadequate Bullpen

(Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

A little over a week ago, Andy put together a story surrounding a meaningful comment from Dodgers‘ boss Andrew Friedman which stated something to the effect that the club was struggling to click on more than one vital component of its game on a nightly basis.

Friedman absolutely hit the nail on the head. Things certainly changed for the better during the squad’s four-game winning streak over the weekend, and fans even regained confidence that the Dodgers were undoubtedly back in the race for a sixth consecutive division title. It appeared as though several facets of the game were finally beginning to click.

However, the club’s progress reverted to its misfortunes from more than a week ago when nothing at all was gelling together. Monday night was a perfect example as rookie Walker Buehler turned in yet another stellar outing, only to have the bats slumber and the defense let the club down in the late innings.

A lot of fans put the blame directly on the bullpen, but it was just one of those nights when things didn’t work the way the team intended. Cold spells on offense will happen, as we are all well aware. And defensive miscues will indeed occur, normally at times when they’re welcomed least. And even though it wasn’t the final nail in the coffin on Monday, the relief corps contributed to another heart-wrenching loss. The walk to Tony Wolters, he of a .134 batting average, could have been one of the most critical miscues of the game.

“Gets ahead of Wolters, ends up losing him,” skipper Dave Roberts admitted after the game. “That can’t happen. You’ve got to make him beat you with the bat.”

I happen to be a supporter of Pedro Baez, and I believe he has the talent to succeed in the majors, but I think there are just too many aspects of his game that he needs to refine. And I believe the big league stage isn’t the place to make those enhancements, as the righty is often caught in the middle of the club’s late-game collapses. With guys like Adam Liberatore and Yimi Garcia stashed away at Triple-A Oklahoma City, the club certainly has the resources to demote Baez, not as a punishment, but rather to give him a chance to sharpen his skills.

Furthermore, why Daniel Hudson is still a part of this team, I absolutely have no clue. Because of 40-man roster implications, it’s understandable why guys like Joe Broussard or Josh Sborz haven’t been promoted, but I’ll take Edward Paredes any day of the week over Hudson, who continues to sport an ERA and a FIP north of 5.00, despite a shutout inning on Monday. I don’t think it matters if there’s an excess of left-handers in the pen as long as they’re the best available options in the organization. If the southpaws have the ability to shut down right-handed hitters, then the club will be in a better position to win games.

Why not give hard-throwing righty Dennis Santana a shot of relieving in the bigs? He surely has the talent. We saw it with Buehler last year in the Dodgers’ bullpen in an effort to conserve his innings. Santana’s already on the 40-man, so it wouldn’t entail that much of a roster risk.

Granted, it’s undeniably difficult just to make a few roster moves to improve the landscape of the relief corps. There are very few teams looking to make a trade at this point, and the front office crew of the Dodgers will probably wait until the middle of the summer to decide if it’s willing to sacrifice any of its top prospects to invest in a run at the playoffs. As it stands now, team management is limited to snatching guys off of the waiver wire in attempts to improve what is clearly a substandard unit.

Unfortunately for the fans, the next few weeks represent a time where there’s a lot of waiting to see how things shake out. Maybe Hudson pitches his way off the roster. Or maybe the front office is able to orchestrate an off-the-radar deal to upgrade the club’s relieve crew. Or, perhaps there’s a diamond in the rough in the depths of the farm just waiting to be discovered.

In the meantime, while there are guys like Baez, Hudson, Pat Venditte and Erik Goeddel occupying spots on the big league roster, somebody needs to recognize that there are more than one better options in the minors and arrange those moves—before the bullpen digs the entire team into an even deeper hole.


13 thoughts on “Dodgers Roster: A Few Thoughts on Improving an Inadequate Bullpen

  1. Agree with your thoughts on Baez, especially the fact that he should refine his game somewhere other than against MLB competition. I think he has the talent to be a good major league reliever, but I’m not sure he’ll ever have the confidence necessary to succeed on a regular basis. Whenever I see him, he seems to have that look of “I know something bad is going to happen eventually.” I firmly believe that batters can see that same look and it gives them more confidence in facing him. Every time I ask myself why Hudson is still on the roster, I think about how poorly Morrow was doing in the minors when they brought him up last year. That might explain the longer than desired leash they’re giving him. With regard to Mr. Santana, I for one hope they do not bring him up this year to put him in the bullpen. He’s going to be a starter eventually, so let him concentrate on that this year, at least until September. Don’t screw with him they way they have with Stewart. Both of those guys should have a chance to develop as starters, assuming that’s how the front office sees their future. Stripling is one of the few pitchers I’ve ever seen who could be shuttled back and forth from bullpen to starting rotation and seem to do well in both places.

    1. Like you, I believe that Santana has much more value as a starter, but I wouldn’t be opposed to using him in the bullpen until he gets his feet wet. Sort of like they did with Buehler at the tail end of last season.

      1. I wouldn’t mind seeing him used in relief in late August or September. What I don’t want to see is the constant up and down and switching between starting and relief.

      2. Stewart’s velocity is way down, man. I remember he was touching 96 when he was up last year. This year, his 4-seam appears to be sitting at 90-91.

      3. Yup, sounds like a possible shoulder-related issue to me. Would explain a lot, actually. Hopefully, the training staff catches it in time if they sensed the sharp velocity drop the other night like the rest of us on here did. Felt eerily similar to how Kershaw began this season when he was barely sitting above 90 with his heater and wasn’t really finishing off his secondary pitches the way he normally does. When Stewart’s “right”, that fastball’s sitting comfortably around 93-94 while providing more than enough speed differential to offset his already-plus changeup. Didn’t see much of a slider from him his last outing either so that may have been another tip-off that something isn’t quite right with him physically…

  2. I’m with the side that actually prefers Santana coming out of the pen when rosters expand later this season. Otherwise, he runs the potential risk of becoming a mediocre starter long-term like what has already happened to Chris Archer of the Rays this year. Besides, Santana’s stuff plays so much better in relief it’s hard not for the coaching staff to go that route with him anyway. I strongly agree with getting Baez off the big-league roster ASAP so he can really improve himself both physically and mentally. I’d like to see him shed a good 20 or so pounds this winter and rediscover that elusive curveball of his that even caught Koufax’s eye during one of his bullpen sessions several years back when the Dodgers finally placed him on the mound after he flamed out as a 3B prospect in AA. And yeah, I’ve long since washed my hands of Hudson much like the Diamondbacks did earlier this season. Yimi Garcia can take his spot, no problem there. I also like Sborz as a viable bullpen option as well since he’s proven at the minor-league level that he can weather high-leverage situations better than most down on the farm and has done so ever since his college WS days…

  3. Well, now that we’ve all agreed that Baez should be sent down to work on his game, they’ve sent down Chargois instead. As big a fan as I am, I really can’t argue with that decision. I hope he can improve his control in OKC and contribute later this year. He’s got great stuff, if he can only put the ball where he wants it.

    1. I think that’s probably why he was never a regular in the big leagues to begin with. Oakland released Wilmer Font today. Maybe the Dodgers should take a chance on him. Perhaps Rick Honeycutt or Mark Prior can fix him up a bit.

      1. In order to grab ol’ Wilmer again, we’d have to wait for them to release him and then sign him to a minor league deal. Assuming he actually passes through waivers which is likely to happen, he’ll probably have a few minor league offers and might prefer to sign with an organization where he thinks he stands a better chance of making it to the bigs and not being dfa’d again after one or two bad outings. Teams like the Orioles or Angels might find him interesting.

  4. Anyone ever heard of Chen-Chang Lee? Admittedly I hadn’t. In 22.1 IP at OKC he has a 0.85 WHIP and 39 Ks. Yeah yeah, 40 man, I get it, but that’s just paperwork. He’s 31 and has some unremarkable time in the bigs, but if he’s putting up numbers like that for our AAA team why wouldn’t he be considered? Why is he there if not to be available to help when needed?

    1. C’mon Scoop. Who hasn’t heard of CC Lee? Actually, he had some decent appearances in Spring Training this year and I’m sure Friedman knows he exists, but after having a pretty nice season so far he gave up 2 runs in 1 inning last night. It’s kind of like waiting in line to buy a Dodger dog and if you have a so-so performance you have to go to the back of the line and work your way up again. Paredes made his way to the front and now he’s here. We’ll probably see Lee at some point this year since none of our relievers has been very consistent. Meanwhile we’ve won 6 out of 7 and we’re only 3.5 out of first. Of course we’re only 2 out of last. Gonna be a fun year!

  5. With respect to Pedro, I really can’t understand why a pitcher needs in excess of 30 secs to throw a ridiculous out-of-the-strike-zone pitch that no sane hitter is going to swing at. If he does go to OKC I surely “hope” that they can encourage him to speed it up. I could dislike him less if he could pitch quite a bit faster. The 7 guys behind him would like him more and not be doing dirt art. The guy in the crouch would like him more. More importantly, there could be some sense of rhythm to his pitching and he may become a much more reliable relief pitcher.

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