With second base now a settled issue with new regular Logan Forsyth in tow, plus the returning Chase Utley as his back-up, It takes little expertise to realize that once again it is now the bullpen that is the Dodgers’ and manager Dave Roberts’ area of biggest concern, despite the off season re-signing of lights-out closer Kenley Jansen and the addition this month of veteran Sergio Romo.
Gone from last year are veteran lefty J.P. Howell and righties Joe Blanton, Jesse Chavez, Louis Coleman and Casey Fien. Howell was the Dodgers’ number one situational lefty for three-plus seasons until he slipped badly during 2016 and was replaced first by Adam Liberatore and then by Grant Dayton, who likely will be in that role entering 2017. The 33-year-old Howell was a free agent for most of the off season after his poor performance last
year and with zero interest from the Dodgers, but he did recently sign with Toronto. The Dodgers could have three or more lefties in the pen with Luis Avilan (and others – see below) having a chance to join Dayton and Liberatore, who is said to be fully recovered from October elbow surgery.
The Dodgers do appear to be solid from the left side and with Jansen the returning closer, but as far as righty long men and set up men, the jury is again out, and the prospects are at best, scary. Pedro Baez, the worst example of a human rain delay since Mike Hargrove was playing first base for the Indians and practically undressed and dressed between every pitch, is the best returning rightly, but he has yet to achieve any degree of consistently over his first three seasons in the LA bullpen. That is where Romo comes in.
The 2016 Giants excelled in virtually every area except for their horrid bullpen. This off season they cleaned house of the 2016 culprits, largely Santiago Casilla, who blew almost 25% of his 2016 save opportunities and who is now with Oakland, and Sergio Romo. Romo had spent his entire nine-year major league career with the Giants, and for all or part of 2012 through 2015, he was their closer, with his own mixed results. He missed a chunk of 2016 with a forearm injury, but he also seems to be healthy again. Perhaps Romo’s biggest plus is his outstanding control – he almost never walks anyone, having averaged less than two walks per nine innings over his career, while compiling better than a five-to-one strikeout to walk ratio.
While Baez and Romo have their own issues, the real question is who else after them? Chris Hatcher, a borderline major leaguer at best who has failed over and over, remains a possibility to make the roster. Yimi Garcia, who worked a lot out of the bullpen in 2015 but missed much of 2016 due to various physical problems underwent Tommy John surgery in December and he will miss all of the 2017 season.
And then the picking get slim (ha ha ha), with the likes of veteran non-performers such as
Josh Fields and Josh Ravin still around, competing. That they have a shot is the really scary part of all this.
The Dodgers’ roster also includes a couple of veteran starters who would appear to have their best chance to making the 2017 roster as relievers, but alas, both are lefties, Scott Kazmir and Alex Wood. Also on the roster is another off season acquisition, Vidal Nuno (lifetime 5-20, 4.02 ERA), who came to the majors as a starter but who has now failed to impress anyone over three seasons, primarily pitching in relief. If he were to have a specialty, it would be in allowing the long ball. In only 58 innings last year, he allowed 11 homers. Should he somehow make the Dodgers’ squad, that would be his fourth team in four seasons.
Assuming the Dodgers will carry seven relievers, it seems that the best choices would come down to only three righties that includes Jansen, and five lefties. That seems to be a recipe for disaster.