With word that Kenley Jansen will miss the first three months of the season after having surgery to remove a growth on his left foot the Dodgers find themselves in a rough spot, that I believe could have been avoided.
Jansen along with lefty J.P. Howell were the only reliable arms out of the Dodgers bullpen last year and now the Dodgers lynch-pin at the back-end of their bullpen will be lost for several months. The Dodgers have options to close in the short-term and none of them are very good. Howell is a left-handed set up man and should not be your man to close. Brandon League is on the roster but we have all seen that movie and know how that will turn out. While League has struggled in the closer’s role, I like his power sinker as a right-handed set up man. I just don’t want to see him trying to hold down a one-run lead in the 9th. New acquisitions Joel Peralta and Chris Hatcher are possibilities, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable handing the ball to these guys and expecting them to get the final three outs.
This all adds up to one big swing and miss for President Andrew Friedman and General Manager Farhan Zaidi. These analytics gurus and tacticians were brought in to bring their special kind of expertise to the table. I do not doubt they are making long-term decisions that are designed to best serve the organization, but I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what they are trying to do with this Dodgers bullpen. The pen was the weakest of links on the Dodgers team last year and this need was left to abscess during the off-season
The Friedman-Zaidi answer to the Dodgers bullpen woes was to trade for Hatcher and Peralta and to pick up Sergio Santos. So, with the Dodgers most reliable arm is on the shelf, the cupboard is rife with unproven arms that either aren’t closers, or are looking to revitalize their careers. This does not make sense.
One has to believe the Dodgers are now in the market for another arm and there are some pretty proven closers still available, but it will be costly. Considering the Dodgers are backing up the Brinks truck to bring in Cuban infielders Hector Olivera and 19 year-old phenom Yoan Moncada, the Guggenheim Group may have to dig even deeper to solidify this 2015 bullpen.
Still on the market are closer Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano. Rodriguez is looking for a two-year deal which teams are reluctant to give him. K-Rod has a lot of mileage on that arm. He was still effective last year with 44 saves but there are signs his skills may be eroding. He gave up 14 home runs in 68 innings. He did strike out 73 batters. He no longer throws as hard as he used to, but he relishes the big spot and has more than a decade of experience in the role. I don’t see the Dodgers giving him a two-year deal, but I do see an incentive-laden one year contract.
Soriano lost his job in Washington to Drew Storen and seemed to lose all confidence in his abilities. It would be a huge gamble, but it might be worth it if Soriano can rediscover his old form.
Another option may be Joba Chamberlain…….don’t laugh. This isn’t a laughing matter. The Dodgers bullpen, in my estimation is just desperate enough to bring in Joba. He could fill in for Kenley until he gets back, and then could give the Dodgers a right-handed power arm in a set-up role. Additionally he wouldn’t be reluctant to giving up the closers role to Kenley when Jansen came back, unlike K-Rod and Soriano who have been closers for most of their careers.
In closing, I wasn’t convinced that the Dodgers had done enough to strengthen this bullpen before the Kenley injury, now I am more certain than ever that the Dodgers missed a chance to add some arms through free agency or trades. It’s desperation time in Dodger-land. Unless Friedman and Zaidi see something in this group I don’t see, the Dodgers may be forced to bring in an old veteran to shore this thing up until Kenley returns. This bullpen was an albatross last year, its weighing even heavier now just days before spring training.