Without question, the biggest move the Dodgers made so far this offseason was signing fireballer Joe Kelly to a three-year deal. Actually, it was the only big move (unless you count the Kershaw contract), as most of the other signings and deals were mostly dribble in creating depth right along the fringe. We’ll talk more about that in a bit.
Right now, many fans are wondering if the club will add another bonafide arm to the relief corps. Personally, I don’t see it happening based on all the resources presently available within the organization. That’s not to say that I could be wrong.
As a matter of fact, I think we’re bound to see some roster movement—most specifically a few players being dumped or outrighted back to the minors. At the moment, I’m counting about 17 relievers who will be competing for big league spots during 2019 Cactus League play, so to say the competition will be stiff is an understatement.
That led me to do a little scribbling and figuring in an effort to assemble my own 8-man Opening Day bullpen. Of course, injuries and setbacks will occur between now and March 28, so my list may end up being terribly inaccurate. And, I’m not going to type out a ton of statistics, as the final few spots may ultimately boil down to which players are throwing the best and which players have option years remaining on their contracts.
Keeping all that in mind, here’s my 2019 Opening Day bullpen:
- Kenley Jansen
- Joe Kelly
- Pedro Baez
- Dylan Floro
- Tony Cingrani
- Ross Stripling
- Caleb Ferguson
- Josh Fields
I guess I should start out by saying the final spot came down to a choice between five different players. I have a suspicion that Caleb Ferguson may not make the Opening Day relief corps, as management may still view him as a starter and prefer that he begin the year in the Triple-A Oklahoma City starting rotation. It’s certainly a shame, though, because I feel he’s definitely one of the Top 8 relievers in the organization. For that reason alone, he’s staying on my Opening Day roster.
There’s a lot of mediocrity in the guts of the above crew, so if guys like Dylan Floro and Josh Fields can’t find their grooves early, there are plenty of fringe players who will be on high alert. Floro and Fields each have one option, by the way.
One of the notables missing is lefty Scott Alexander. I omitted him because he has options, and I feel that he’s going to need to prove himself after his command meltdown in the 2018 World Series. Besides, I already have Ferguson and Tony Cingrani on board as my lefites. Needless to say, there will be injuries and there will be roster movement throughout the 2019 season, so there’s no doubt that Alexander will get his chances.
Along those same lines, JT Chargois is another significant omission. However, to be honest, in my view, it was a coin toss between him and Fields. This spot could eventually be based on who is throwing most effectively at the end of spring camp. Chargois also has options, so he’ll certainly get his big league opportunities as long as he’s not shipped out to another club before Opening Day.
It’s also worth mentioning that neither Yimi Garcia or Brock Stewart have options remaining on their respective contracts, so it will be interesting to see how much management values them. Garcia could conceivably make the major league roster, but the competition is extremely stiff, unlike 2018 when Wilmer Font made the squad because he was in the same situation. I don’t see Stewart having a shot at making the big league roster at all, so if he isn’t traded, he could end up being outrighted to OKC if he’s not claimed by another club after he’s designated for assignment.
Consequently, we have the two new additions in Kevin Quackenbush and Adam McCreery. The 30-year-old Quackenbush doesn’t have any options, but he’s not on the 40-man, so he’ll be stowed away down in Triple-A until he’s able to prove himself, similar to how Daniel Hudson began his progression last season. McCreery has two option years remaining on his contract and he’s also on the 40-man, so he’ll be good to go if the Dodgers require his services in the bigs.
On top of all that, we have the two newest additions to the 40-man roster, Josh Sborz and Yadier Alvarez, who could both theoretically make a play for the big league squad at some point in the year. The righty Sborz is a reliever converted to a starter back to a reliever, so he’s no stranger to the bullpen. For all intents and purposes, Alvarez is still being viewed as a starter, but he may fit the same swing man mold of somebody like Dennis Santana, who could also make an appearance in the big league bullpen before everything’s said and done.
My personal darkhorse is Shea Spitzbarth, but considering how all the spots on the 40-man are at an insane premium, the dice will need to roll a certain way for him to get a look. Still, I’m sure he’ll get a non-roster invite to the big league side of spring training to show what he can do.