While some fans of the Dodgers believe that a big splash this winter personnel-wise is vital in improving the team, there’s a good probability that Andrew Friedman and his crew will make one or more of their trademark, reclamation-type of acquisitions to fortify the roster.
We tend to see these kinds of moves quite frequently from the Los Angeles front office. Last year, veteran Kevin Quackenbush was roaming the plains of Triple-A Oklahoma City, although he was never called upon to throw in the bigs. During the 2018 season, veteran righty Daniel Hudson surfaced from a minor league contract to emerge as a key contributor to the team’s bullpen. The same can be said for Brandon Morrow in 2017.
2020 could prove to be no exception. There are quite a few players the Dodgers could potentially sign to minor league contracts, perhaps being laden with lucrative incentives should they somehow land back on their feet in the majors.
The bullpen is one of those gray areas that the Dodgers could certainly use improvement. By scouring the league’s free agents in search of a diamond in the rough, there is indeed the possibility of an upgrade at the luxury of a low-cost, low-risk type of deal.
This doesn’t mean that the Dodgers will not spend any big bucks this winter. It simply reflects a few dark-horse players the team could target to fortify the top levels of the farm, should there eventually be a need at the big leage level.
Here are three free-agent relievers who conceivably could make some kind of impact in 2020:
Chris Martin—In case you weren’t paying attention, righty Chris Martin was one of a handful of relievers the Braves landed in the moments before last season’s trade deadline. Standing at a whopping 6-foot-8, the 33-year-old Texas native is not easy to miss on the bump. He throws hard, and he has a fantastic spin rate—all attributes that Friedman seems to favor. What’s more, he’s much more successful against lefties than righties, which could be beneficial to the Dodgers’ righty-dominant relief crew. Between the Rangers and the Braves last season, Martin made 58 appearances and posted a 3.40 ERA with a 3.25 WHIP over 55-2/3 innings of work. His 10.5 K/9 in 2019 was a career-high. Earning $2.25 million last season, Martin was probably the highest paid reliever you never heard of.
Luke Gregerson—According to our good friend Connor Byrne over at MLBTR, Luke Gregerson has been especially good since he debuted in the majors in 2009, as his lifetime 3.15 ERA helps illustrate. But injuries have played a key part in stalling the right-hander’s career during the past couple seasons. The 35-year-old Illinois native signed a two-year, $11 million contract with the Cardinals entering 2018 and then combined for 18-1/3 innings of 7.36 ERA ball over parts of two seasons limited by hamstring and shoulder issues. The Cardinals flat out released Gregerson back in May, and he hasn’t caught on elsewhere since. If he can prove he’s 100% healthy towards the end of the winter, a minor league deal could be the type of risk the Dodgers might take. Gregerson is no stranger to the NL West, as he spent his first five MLB seasons throwing in relief for the Padres.
Arodys Vizcaino—The youngest reliever of this trio at 28 years, Arodys Vizcaino probably had the highest upside until season-ending shoulder surgery brought his career to a sudden halt last year. He pitched in just four games in 2019 before going under the knife to clean up his labrum. In 2018, the righty made 38 appearances for the Braves, logging 38-1/3 innings and registering a sparkling 2.11 ERA with a favorable 9.6 K/9. At the peak of his career in 2018, his four-seam averaged a little better than 98.2 MPH, according to Brooks Baseball. He also commands a plus curveball, which he used about a third of the time. Even though he was on the shelf for the entirety of last season, he was traded to the Mariners in May in a three-player deal that proved to be a salary dump for Atlanta. Now a free agent, Vizacaino could be forced to accept a minor league deal to prove that his shoulder’s ready to go.