Around this time every year, trade rumors swirl around like a spirograph. Even though the Dodgers hold the best record in the MLB, just past halfway through the regular season, there are talks of acquiring a right-handed #2 starter to round out the rotation, and maybe another right-handed bat to lengthen the lineup. Discussions for another time. One area that the Dodgers can improve on without needing to give up a serious load of prospects is the bullpen. Bullpen help is a big talking point among speculating Dodger fans this year. Rightfully so, as relief pitching has become a crucial part of the success or failure of postseason-contending teams.
Despite having, arguably, the best bullpen in the game, the Dodgers do have a few pieces that have not quite impressed so far. Chris Hatcher strikes out a lot of hitters with his powerful stuff, but he does give up more runs than the Dodgers should be comfortable with. The slider-hurling Sergio Romo, is another pitcher struggling to pitch well consistently. Josh Fields has put up solid numbers overall, but has had an issue giving up the long-ball lately. This has resulted in him being sent down to AAA for a short stint. The common thread through each of these players, other than those they wear on the field, is that they are all right-handed relief pitchers.
The Dodgers do have some great, reliable RHPs in the bullpen. Kenley Jansen is the greatest reliever in the NL. Pedro Baez has been a very pleasant, trustworthy cannon to rely on. Yet, clearly, those arms aside, there seems to be a need for RHP relievers. To have 3 “righties” in the bullpen that are less than very trustworthy doesn’t seem like something the Dodgers would want in October. As it turns out, there are more arms to test out before trade talks need to be revved up. In other words, the Dodgers have a ton pitching depth. Shocker.
Brandon Morrow was signed to a 1-year deal by the Dodgers this past offseason. Considered a low-risk (a.k.a. low-cost) signing with a potential for high-reward, he has shown great value in his limited playing time. In 14 innings this year, he has allowed 11 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs (ERA of 1.93, 2 of the runs scored on a home run allowed by Kenley Jansen). While a small sample size, he is definitely worth keeping an eye on as we approach the deadline.
Brock Stewart made his MLB debut last year and, while he struggled to be consistent, showed great potential. That was as a starter. As a reliever this year, he’s come in for 9 innings and has only allowed 1 hit, 1 walk, all while striking out 7.
For clarity’s sake, it would not hurt for the Dodgers to, at the very least, look and ask around at the deadline. They can probably find a few diamond-in-the-rough types, or maybe make a bit of a splash acquiring a big name reliever. Or maybe they’ll pass on every available reliever. Either way could make perfect sense, primarily depending on the performances of the aforementioned players over the next few weeks. It may come to be that the Dodgers are all ready, set, and going to win the division with the current roster. With the best record in the majors, most would agree they’re poised for much more than simply winning the division again. After all, it’s been quite a long time since 1988.