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2013 winter meetings: Dodgers shopping for relief pitchers

J.P. Howell remains on the Dodgers radar for a possible return as the Dodgers try to continue to add to their bullpen heading into the winter meetings.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers made one addition to the bullpen on Saturday, making official the deal to bring Brian Wilson back to the fold. But heading into the winter meetings, which run from Monday to Thursday in Orlando, more arms are on the Dodgers' wishlist.

"I'm still looking to add to the pen, whether it's a lefty or another righty. Somebody that can pitch the seventh, eighth inning, sometimes the ninth. It's like adding hitters to the middle of a lineup," General manager Ned Colletti said via conference call on Saturday. "If you're building a bullpen, and add guys who can handle any role that you have back there, especially those late-inning ones, you're stronger for it."

Wilson will setup closer Kenley Jansen, and can step in to pitch the ninth should Jansen get hurt or need a day of rest, providing the Dodgers with a duo that was quite effective once Wilson joined the team in August.

"Our bullpen last year was one of the reasons we were better in second half, as guys started to settle in roles and get a little bit of confidence in themselves," Colletti said. "If your bullpen is shaky or if you're not sure at the end of the game or somebody gets hurt, it's difficult to overcome in season. You better have somebody in the wings that can do it. Otherwise, you'll pay dearly if you have to go outside the organization to find that type of player."

Dodgers relievers had a 4.03 ERA before the All-Star break in 2013, and a 2.76 mark afterward. The relievers also saw their strikeout rate increase from 21.6% in those first 94 games to 24.2% over the final 68 contests.

Colletti described the current bullpen structure as five pitchers, with Paco Rodriguez, Chris Withrow and Brandon League joining Jansen and Wilson. In addition, the club could get help during the season from Jose Dominguez, Onelki Garcia and Javy Guerra, and Colletti didn't rule out any of the three pitchers added to the 40-man roster in November (Yimi Garcia, Pedro Baez and Jarret Martin) potentially getting a call-up if needed.

The club is also looking to bring back southpaw J.P. Howell, who put up a 2.03 ERA in 67 games for the Dodgers, with 54 strikeouts in 62 innings.

"Had a lot of conversations with J.P. Howell. I would like us to add another lefty. I like who J.P. is a lot. I like what he brought to the club in all facets," Colletti said. "We've probably talked once a week."

The market for relief pitchers has heated up recently, with Chad Qualls signing a two-year, $6 million deal with the Astros on Saturday. The ultimate comp for Howell may be Javier Lopez, the southpaw who got $13 million over three years from the Giants. Howell, who at one point had a reported 15 teams interested in him, will likely command a multi-year deal, only adding to the most expensive Dodgers bullpen of all time.

One such addition to the pen might be a swing man, something the Dodgers didn't carry for most of 2013.

"We've also had conversations with somebody who could be a genuine long man. We really didn't have that this past year. We mixed and matched a few guys in that role," Colletti said. "Withrow did a nice job with it here and there. Withrow may be able to do it with his arm, or may be a power guy in the seventh and eighth innings."

Colletti said he isn't sure if he will fill his bullpen needs in Orlando, but estimated that by the end of the calendar year the additions will be made.