Last week was Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings. The Dodgers were quiet during the week, as they don’t have crazy upgrade needs.
At the end of the last week, however, they did announce some signings, and they all revolved around their bullpen. RHPs Brock Stewart, Brandon Morrow, and Jimmy Nelson all were signed to minor league contracts with an invite to spring training. All were previously part of the Dodgers organization, with Morrow being the most notable return of the three. He helped the Dodgers get to the World Series in 2017, when he did the bulk of the relief pitching, and hasn’t quite been the same since. None of the three pitched last season.
The Dodgers also signed LHP James Pozas and IF Carlos Asuaje to the same type of contract.
On Monday Morning, Jeff Passan of ESPN noted that the Dodgers are one of a few teams in on free agent Liam Hendriks . Thought to be the best relief pitcher available, Hendriks was previously with the Oakland Athletics. In the shortened 2020 season, he allowed only three walks in 25.1 innings pitched while posting a 1.14 FIP, good for second in the Major Leagues. He had a 3-1 record with a 1.78 ERA.
In 2019, he was even better. Hendriks struck out 124 in 85 innings pitched and garnered a 1.87 FIP. He was worth a 3.9 WAR during that season. Cumulatively through those two seasons, he had a 38% strike out rate and only walked 5.7% of the batters he faced. No reliever during that time had a better park adjusted ERA.
Now, Hendriks is testing the free agent market. The Australian is said to be seeking a four-year deal. As he turns 32 in February, and with the state of baseball at the moment, teams might not want to give him that long a deal. So far, this offseason has seen all teams pass on Brad Hand’s $10MM option, and Trevor May only signing a two-year, $15.5MM offer from the Mets.
The Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox and New York Mets are both also said to be in pursuit of Hendriks.
The Dodgers now have a stable of arms in the bullpen with Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, Brusdar Graterol, Victor Gonzalez, and the aforementioned signings, as well as Corey Knebel, who they also just traded for this offseason. But with the except of Gonzalez and Graterol, there are serious questions about all of those relief pitchers. All have been marred by injury and time off, and there is no certainty of what you will get from any of them.
Last week, Dennis highlighted all the top relief pitchers available, and Hendriks would be the top choice. It will be interesting to watch in which direction the Dodgers do indeed decide to go.