Well, that didn't take very long. Relief pitcher Brandon League, who was very effective down the stretch for the Dodgers, will reportedly be back with the Dodgers. One day after he officially became a free agent, League has signed a new three-year deal to return, first reported by Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
"He gives the club someone who has saved more than 50 games the last two seasons and fortifies our bullpen in a number of ways," said general manager Ned Colletti in a statement. "It's imperative that to compete in the NL West teams need a strong bullpen with power arms, experience and depth."
The terms of the deal haven't yet been released, but both Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors and Hernandez reported the contract valued at $22.5 million. Hernandez also reported the deal has a $7.5 million option for 2016 that will vest if League finishes 55 games in 2015. League made $5 million last year in his final season of arbitration eligibility.
The Dodger payroll for 2013 was already approaching $206 million before the signing of League, but welcome to the new world of a budget that hasn't yet found a limit.
League, who turns 30 on March 16, was acquired from the Seattle Mariners on July 30 for minor leaguers Logan Bawcom and Leon Landry. League went 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA and six saves for the Dodgers. After he allowed six runs on nine hits in his first five innings as a Dodger, he allowed just one run over his final 21 appearances, responding well to a mechanical fix made by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.
"We saw a return of the great stuff after (bullpen coach) Kenny Howell and Rick Honeycutt did a great job with him, changing his delivery up a little bit and adjusting it," Colletti said. "At the end of the season, League was as good as anyone in baseball."
When closer Kenley Jansen was sidelined for over three weeks with an irregular heartbeat, League stepped into the role and kept it the rest of the way, including after Jansen returned. League struck out 27 and had 10 unintentional walks in 27⅓ innings in Los Angeles, a performance that surpassed his career performance.
Colletti said League is the closer, at least for now and going into spring training.
"We think that after what he did the last two or three weeks of the season, that closing is the role," Colletti said. "That's what he was in Seattle in 2011 and for part of 2012. When we acquired him and needed him to close for us, he was obviously very, very solid. So that's where we start."
For the season was 2-6 with a 3.13 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 26 unintentional walks in 72 innings. League has averaged 69 games, 72 innings, 58 strikeouts, 19 unintentional walks, and a 3.51 ERA over the last four years. He saved 37 games in 2011 with the Mariners, and saved nine more in Seattle this season before he lost his closer's role in May.
"That particular part of the market is relatively thin, and you've got to look at relative choices," Colletti said. "You've probably got as many or more empty seats than you do top line closers at this point."
The question now will be, is League actually a top line closer?
Colletti has also spoken with representatives for reliever Randy Choate, whose agents are the Levinson brothers at ACES, the same agency as League. But Colletti hasn't spoken with Jamey Wright nor his reps yet, though the GM has expressed interest in bringing back both players.
"We haven't made any progress on any of our other free agents as of right now," Colletti said.
Colletti was also asked about a tweet by Buster Olney of ESPN reporting that the Dodgers were open to trading Andre Ethier and his five-year, $85 million contract. "It hasn't been discussed," Colletti said.
The Dodgers now have 37 players on their 40-man roster.