With the best record in all of baseball and a 14-game lead in the division, it’s hard to imagine that the Dodgers are in desperate need of anything. LA is top five in essentially every offensive category and their starting pitching has been the best in the majors since April.
However, the one glaring weak spot, and the area that needs to immediately be addressed, is the bullpen.
As of July 17, the numbers don’t look too bad for LA’s bullpen. Their relievers have an ERA of 4.09, which is the fifth best in the National League. Opponents are hitting only .223 off of them, which is the second best in the NL. With the numbers looking as if they are one of the better bullpens in the league, what seems to be the problem?
Looking around at the bullpen, essentially every player has underwhelmed this year, with there being a level of concern across the board. Kenley Jansen is having one of the worst seasons of his career, with his ERA just under four. Joe Kelly, who was signed to be the go-to guy come October, hasn’t lived up to his contract yet. Pedro Baez has been solid, but has had appearances where he implodes. Scott Alexander and Caleb Ferguson, both left-handers, have struggled immensely this season, and neither one is currently on the active roster. Yimi Garcia has looked good at times, but has been shaky over the last two years and has only one postseason game under his belt. Dylan Floro started off great, but has an ERA of eight since the middle of May.
When all goes right, sure, this bullpen can look really good on most nights. But with the Dodgers looking to avoid their third straight World Series loss, is that something you want to take a chance on?
Though the Dodgers have been arguably the best team in baseball over the last few seasons, they’ve struggled to put together a consistent bullpen that could help them in October. Last season, LA went and acquired some bullpen pieces in John Axford and Ryan Madson, with the hope they could help contribute when it mattered most. Spoiler alert, it didn’t.
Axford appeared in only five regular season games with the Dodgers before a season-ending surgery essentially was the final mark on his career. He allowed eight runs in only 3 2⁄3 innings. Madison got more action, appearing in nine regular season games, but posting an ERA of over six. Things were even worse for him in the postseason, as he allowed a total of 11 runs to score in 8 2⁄3 innings of work.
In 2017, the Dodgers did a fairly decent job with acquiring bullpen help. They traded for Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson, both of which were key pieces in the postseason, and almost helped lead LA to a title.
Cingrani appeared in seven games in the 2017 playoffs, allowing only one run and three hits in his outings. Watson was used a bit more, appearing in 11 games. He allowed only two runs and five hits. They were both moves the Dodgers desperately needed to make, and nearly paid off.
Two years later, the Dodgers may have to make a similar splash, and acquire not one, but two reliable bullpen arms whom they can turn to when October rolls around.
Some notable names that might be available on July 31 are Felipe Vazquez, Will Smith, Brad Hand and Shane Greene. Before we get to what these names will cost, lets give a brief rundown of each player.
Vazquez is the closer for the Pirates, who has been one of the better relievers over the last three seasons. In 2019, he has 21 saves with an ERA of 2.01 while averaging 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings. What makes Vazquez even more valuable is his contract, as he’s under affordable control for the next few seasons.
Smith, a name the Dodgers are quite familiar with. An All-Star this season, Smith has 24 saves this year with an ERA of 2.70 and a WHIP of 0.89.
Green, an All-Star this season, has one of the lowest ERA’s among all relievers this season at 1.06. His WHIP is 0.85 and has 22 saves.
The final player, Hand, is a name the Dodgers have been attached to for the last few years. He was dealt last year at the deadline, going from the Padres to the Indians. He has 25 saves this season with an ERA of 2.29 and a WHIP of just under one.
All four of these guys are names the Dodgers could strongly be pursuing in the coming weeks. The question is, will they pull the trigger? With a loaded farm system, the Dodgers have the arsenal to acquire any one of these names, maybe even two of them. It’s just a matter of if they want to part ways with young talent to bolster their chances at winning a title.
We can assume that acquiring one of these relievers will cost the Dodgers one of their top-rated prospects. However, with the Dodgers being desperate for an arm and with some nice names available, could it cost them two?
How high is #Pirates price on Felipe Vázquez? Sources say Pittsburgh likely would ask #Dodgers for *at least* two of the Keibert Ruiz/Gavin Lux/Dustin May/Will Smith group if talks ever advanced. (And one source said Pirates remain unsure if they sell at all.) @MLB @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 10, 2019
Now, this is just a report, so who knows how accurate this could be. Also, this is for Vazquez, who mentioned earlier is under team control for years. The price may not be as high for other pitchers.
Over the last few seasons, the Dodgers have done a really good job in holding onto their top guys. When making trades in years past, they’ve avoided having to dig into their top three in order to make a deal happen. It looks as if that run might finally have to come to an end this season.
It’s unclear how much the Dodgers value each of these young prospects. Aside from maybe the J.T. Realmuto trade in the offseason, their names haven’t popped up a lot. Gavin Lux is currently tearing things up in the minors, hitting .500 at Triple-A. Dustin May is LA’s No. 1 pitching prospect, and looks as if he’s about a year away from joining the big-league club. Will Smith has looked good at the big-league level in his brief time, but has been wreaking havoc with Oklahoma City. Keibert Ruiz is only in Double-A, but at the young age of 20 is one of LA’s most promising prospects.
All four of these players could help the Dodgers in the future. But for the front office, it’s not about the future, it’s about this season, and how much they truly value going for it all in order to win the World Series.
The Dodgers find themselves in a tricky situation. It isn’t a guarantee, but this is a team you can fully expect to be representing the NL in the World Series for the third season in a row. Their offense is near the top, and their starting pitching is top-notch as well. There’s no question that their bullpen could use an upgrade, but does the front-office think it is worth trading away the future?
The potential is there, no question. Jansen can find his old self and be an absolute force. Kelly can turn into the pitcher LA expected him to be. Baez has been good. Floro has shown he can be dominant. Not to mention, Julio Urias, who has been arguably LA’s best reliever this season.
The Dodgers have options, and could be fine come October. It’s just a matter of who will be available, and what LA will be willing to part with.
Should the Dodgers trade one of their top 4 prospects for a reliever?
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