Who said this offseason isn’t exciting? The Dodgers have reportedly dipped their toes into the free agent waters, coming to an agreement with right-hander Tom Koehler on a one-year contract per both Chris Cotillo of SB Nation and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.
The deal is pending a physical, and has not yet been announced by the team.
Koehler had a mostly forgettable 6.69 ERA and 6.05 FIP with the Marlins and Blue Jays in 2017, with 62 strikeouts and 35 walks in 72⅔ innings. But upon further inspection he performed much better in relief.
After a 7.42 ERA in 13 starts, the Blue Jays shortly after acquiring him in late August shifted him to the bullpen. In 14 relief appearances with Toronto Koehler had a 3.00 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 12 innings. In relief Koehler’s strikeout rate jumped from 18% to 21.6%, and per Brooks Baseball his average fastball increased from 93.03 mph to 94.05 mph.
Another big bullpen difference for Koehler was his curveball, thrown a third of the time in relief compared to 19.45% as a starter.
“It’s something I always thought that I could possibly do,” Koehler told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet in August. “I love starting. I love what it takes, the preparation, the routine behind everything. But I’m sure in time (relieving) is something I can learn to do.”
From 2014-16 Koehler averaged 32 starts and 185 innings per season, posting a 4.07 ERA (1 94 ERA+) and 4.31 FIP. That gives the Dodgers, if they plan to use Koehler in relief, someone who could spot start if needed.
Koehler made $5.75 million in 2017 but was non-tendered by the Blue Jays on Dec. 1. With four years, 152 days of service time Koehler still has two more years before qualifying for free agency, giving the Dodgers another season of team control in 2019.
Koehler turns 32 in June and is out of options, having used option years in 2012, 2013 and 2017.
The Dodgers’ 40-man roster is full, so they will need to make a corresponding transaction to make room for Koehler once the deal is finalized.