Even though it’s only been less than a week since the Dodgers claimed the 2020 World Series Championship, there’s already been a ton of speculation in the baseball world as to which player will open next season as the club’s primary closer.
Obviously, during those nine years, the Dodgers never went the entire distance, aside from this season. For the last handful of campaigns, it seemed as though the team needed to turn to some alternate form of relief pitching strategy when it mattered most, as Jansen found himself faltering in some shape or form.
The big question now is whether Los Angeles starts the 2021 season with Jansen as its closer or if the team will go with an entirely different option altogether right out of the gate.
Don’t get me wrong—by the time his tenure ends with the Dodgers, Jansen will be known as the greatest closer the team has ever seen. Quite possibly, his 312 saves and 467 games finished will never be approached by another player wearing Dodger Blue. However, the time may have finally arrived when the club opts to start the season with someone else in his place.
Coincidentally, Jansen’s current five-year contract will finish at the end of next season.
I don’t know about you, but watching 24-year-old Julio Urias record the final outs of the 2020 World Series was something truly special. I can’t recall the last time I saw the young lefty consistently throw with so much authority. Seemingly, he was attacking the strike zone instead of nibbling around the edges. It just felt like the kid had finally found his groove.
Nevertheless, we all know how front office boss Andrew Friedman and his farm directors feel about starting pitching, although with the emergence of the “opener” role, the traditional starting pitcher as we know it could soon be going away. Anyway, Friedman typically holds starters in such high regard, that it’s tough for him to relegate some of them into permanent relievers.
We could see Urias fall into that category if the team’s plans are for him to throw out of the rotation, which is a completely different discussion for an entirely different time.
Still, the only other arm the Dodgers consistently turned to during the shortened 2020 campaign when Jansen was “unavailable” was righty Blake Treinen, who coincidentally became a free agent at the conclusion of the World Series.
Internally, Victor Gonzalez might be a possibility for the backend of the bullpen in 2021, as the 24-year-old young lefty seemed to mature far beyond his years just in the postseason alone. Another option might be 21-year-old flamethrower Brusdar Graterol, who continues to climb the ladder to the featured closer’s spot. Graterol is often viewed as the player many see closing games several years down the road.
Looking at external options, one name that quickly went to the baseball blogosphere headlines was veteran reliever Brad Hand.
After leading the majors with 16 saves and posting a very impressive 1.37 FIP over 23 appearances this year, the Indians waived the 30-year-old lefty in hopes that some other team would claim him so Cleveland would not need to pay the $1 million contract buyout. However, as of Sunday night, early indications are that Hand made it through waivers unclaimed, which theoretically makes him a free agent.
It was as recent as the 2019 trade deadline that Hand was linked to the Dodgers, and it seemed that every year he was a member of the San Diego relief corps, he was somebody Los Angeles always wanted to pursue.
Another name that has been tossed around is free agent Liam Hendriks.
Last season, the Australian-born righty reliever made 24 appearances for Oakland, posting 14 saves and a miniscule 1.78 ERA over 25-1/3 innings of work.
Jose talked a bit about Hendriks on Friday.
Needless to say, it should be a winter full of discussions among Dodgers fans, especially as far as the 2021 closer’s role goes.