Dodgers: How Should They Address the Bullpen Issues?
The Dodgers’ bullpen blew yet another game, increasing the urgency for the front office to make a significant upgrade, or two.
I guess jinxes do exist. After writing on how the Dodgers’ bullpen was starting to turn a corner on July 6th, they proceed to revert to their early-season form.
Since Sunday alone, they’ve blown three of the team’s five games- fortunate enough to win one of them in extra innings. The two losses came on Tuesday and Thursday against the Philadelphia Phillies, in which Los Angeles lost by a run after leading by two late in the game each time.
They now have a 4.68 ERA as a unit since July 6th and a 4.08 mark on the season. For as deep and talented their offense and starting pitching are, the bullpen has been a glaring hole that needs fixing. Simply put, this is not a formula to end a World Series drought.
And before we go on to blame manager Dave Roberts, let’s take a second to understand that he has to manage with the hand he has been dealt. He’s not the guy throwing the ball, nor is he the one mismanaging. When you have a group of not-so-good options to choose from, what can you do? Heck, even closer, Kenley Jansen has been unreliable.
So what exactly can the front office do to address this problem? A trade is the most obvious and likely proposition, but what about other internal options?
What if Julio Urías was used as a proper high-leverage reliever instead of going out for two to three innings each appearance, effectively rendering him useless for the team’s next two or three games?
In 33.1 innings as a reliever, the young lefty has a 1.62 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. Maybe he should be used in a manner so that he could come in place of a Caleb Ferguson or Dylan Floro- both whom essentially blew Thursday’s game for the Dodgers- to protect a late lead.
Urías and Pedro Baez (outside of Baez’s hiccup against the Red Sox) would make for a formidable lefty-righty combination of a bridge to Kenley Jansen. But that is only one step, as you would have to build around that.
Felipe Vázquez and Brad Hand are the hot names on the trade market if their respective teams do end up becoming sellers. They would be A+ options that would solve a lot of the Dodgers’ issues, but would also cost a king’s ransom.
They’re both under club control for at least one more year, and with other contenders looking for help, it will take a price the Dodgers should not be willing to pay. Any reliever that costs parting with Will Smith, Gavin Lux, or Dustin May should be a no-go.
So instead of going after a pitcher of his caliber, the Dodgers should go after multiple A-, B+-caliber of arms that wouldn’t require the high-end talent Andrew Friedman and Co. are looking to hold onto.
They are reportedly interested in Jake Diekman from the Kansas City Royals, but his 4.89 ERA isn’t exactly what LA needs either. However, there are quality arms out there that would be significant boosts for the Dodger bullpen at a fraction of the cost it would take to acquire Hand or Vázquez.
Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays
Dodger fans will remember him from his meltdowns in the 2017 World Series as a member of the Houston Astros, but he’s turned it around in 2019.
In 32 innings, the talented righty has a 1.69 ERA, 1.59 FIP, and 54 strikeouts. Those are elite numbers, but what would make him a cheaper alternative is that he doesn’t have a spectacular track record.
He had a 1.18 ERA in 45 innings as a rookie in 2014, 1.80 ERA in 70 innings the year after, a 4.11 ERA in 65.2 innings in 2016, a 2.70 mark in 2017 (before collapsing in the playoffs), and a 4.65 ERA last season.
So, a lot of up-and-down. And regardless of his upside, his volatility means you can realistically acquire him without having to part ways with top-tier prospects (one at most). But the Dodgers shouldn’t stop there.
Amir Garrett, Cincinnati Reds
Garrett is another under-the-radar name who’s having an excellent season. After a 5.93 ERA across 133.2 innings from 2017 to 2018, the lefty has a 1.70 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 37 innings of work.
Garrett is still under club control for a few more seasons after 2019, but the lefty does not have the track record that suggests the Reds could demand a massive haul. He falls under the category of a player that should require mid-tier prospects.
Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers
He’s had an up-and-down career, but a notch or two below elite isn’s exactly terrible. The righty has a 1.06 ERA on the season, but his 3.66 FIP is closer to his career 4.55 ERA, suggesting that he hasn’t been as dominant as his 2019 numbers suggest. He’s probably more of the 2.66 ERA guy from 2017.
Regardless, Greene has been strong all year long and would fit in excellently as one of the seventh or eighth inning guys for the Dodgers. And with just one more year of team control left, combined with his suspect resume, it wouldn’t cost as much to acquire him.
The San Francisco Giants
The Dodgers could also look to their rivals in the north. The Giants have come on strong as of late, finding themselves just 2.5 games out of a playoff spot, but general manager Farhan Zaidi is smart enough to realize that this is a veteran team with not much upside for the future.
Their roster has a lot of older veterans while the farm system is lacking in quality prospects. And in a loaded National League, you can expect the organization to become sellers by the deadline.
And not only do they have a few options that can help, but Zaidi was the Dodger general manager from 2015-2018. And as far as we know, he still has a good relationship with the LA front office.
They possess pitchers such as Sam Dyson, Will Smith, and Tony Watson, who have ERAs ranging from 2.74 to 3.03 and would serve as excellent complementary options for a relief unit.
So, while none of these names listed are world-beaters, they are cheaper significant upgrades that are more than capable of holding down the fort. And the Dodgers need to get at least two of these guys to come out winners.
It would make for a respectable pairing to slot in with Kenley Jansen, Julio Urias, and Pedro Baez to create up a robust five-person core to build around.
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