On a day full of players non-tendered across baseball, the Dodgers pounced on a potential upside play, acquiring relief pitcher Corey Knebel from the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday, in exchange for a player to be named later or cash.
Knebel had a 6.08 ERA and 6.64 FIP in 15 games for the Brewers in 2020, after missing all of 2019 with Tommy John surgery. The right-hander, who turned 29 on Thanksgiving, was one of the best relievers in baseball as the Brewers closer in 2017-18, posting a 2.54 ERA (169 ERA+) and 2.74 FIP. Among pitchers with at least 100 innings in those two seasons combined, Knebel ranked 13th in the majors in ERA and 14th in FIP.
He was fourth in the majors in 2017-18 with a 40.2-percent strikeout rate, a mark which dropped to 24.2 percent in 2020.
Knebel’s average four-seam fastball was 94.3 mph in his first year back from surgery, down two and a half ticks from 2018. He missed three weeks on the injured list with a hamstring strain, and gained some of that velocity back after his return, averaging 95.4 mph from September 8 on, per Brooks Baseball.
The right-hander didn’t pitch in the wild card series in Los Angeles, won by the Dodgers in two games.
Knebel has five years, 151 days of major league service time, and is eligible for salary arbitration this winter. He earned $5.125 million this year, and Matt Swartz’s projection for 2021 at MLB Trade Rumors has Knebel at the same salary next year. It was a price Milwaukee deemed too steep.
Knebel spoke with Brewers reporters after the trade. From Adam McCalvy at MLB.com:
“Look, I didn’t perform the way that I should have performed in 2020, so there’s no reason for the Brewers to want to pay me,” Knebel said Wednesday. “I have nothing but respect for [Brewers president of baseball operations David] Stearns and [GM Matt] Arnold and [manager Craig] Counsell over there. They’ve been great to me and I loved being over there with them. I understand every point of view for this. But like I said, I am very grateful for the Dodgers to give me this opportunity and I’m excited to be over there with them.”
This gives the Dodgers seven players eligible for arbitration this winter, along with Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler, Julio Urías, Austin Barnes, and Dylan Floro. Earlier Wednesday, the Dodgers avoided arbitration with Scott Alexander, signing the left-hander to a one-year, $1 million contract.
The team now has 37 players on the 40-man roster.