The Dodgers will need more than Javy Guerra if they want to have a solid bullpen
It seems abundantly clear to me that if the Los Angeles Dodgers want to go places next season, they'll have to make some serious revamps to their bullpen, which was 20th in ERA this season.
Their All-Star setup man Hung Chi Kuo spent much of the season either injured or off his game, and the man who started the season as their closer, Jonathan Broxton, is likely on his way out after pitching only 14 frames this year.
Here are 10 men from across the league who could supplement Javy Guerra, Matt Guerrir and Kenley Jansen in the bullpen, either as closer, setup man, specialist or innings eater.
Ayala has been a journeyman reliever, bouncing around from team to team, and between the big leagues and minors. In 2009, he notched nine saves with the New York Mets. He had arguably his best season this past year with the Yankees, with a 2.09 ERA, 20 games finished and 39 fanned. He made the Yankees' playoff roster and pitched a ninth inning for them (that's right, Ayala pitched a ninth inning for the Yankees in the playoffs).
Yeah, I know the Yankees will throw money at anything, but Ayala is only the fourth- or fifth-best option for the Bombers, and it appears they're going to throw money at starters this year. He's probably one of the best relievers who have completely fallen under the radar. He could make a big impact for some team next season, and why not the Dodgers?
Like Jonathan Broxton, Todd Coffey's a fat, bearded hurler from the South. Unlike Jonathan Broxton, Todd Coffey was halfway decent in a one-year stint he had with the Nationals last season, gaining five wins in relief and fanning 46 in 69 appearances. The journeyman has played under a different contract each year, and while the 31-year-old may not be the best out there, he certainly is attainable.
The Tampa Bay Rays have this thing where they don't sign any relievers to long-term contracts. That's good for the Rays in that they aren't stuck with long-term obligations to pitchers who have run out of juice. And it's good for the Dodgers in that they can entice some of their bullpen here.
The Ray I think is most what the Dodgers are looking for is Juan Cruz. Cruz is another journeyman who has played for seven different clubs since his debut in 2001. He had a 3.88 ERA with five relief wins (against no losses) and 46 strikeouts. For his career, he hurls 9.1 Ks a game.
Cruz started several games in stints with the Cubs and Diamondbacks, meaning he could be a long relief option, something the Dodgers lacked somewhat, a long reliever (on the Dodgers, only Lance Cormier and John Ely averaged more than 1.1 innings of work an outing; the two had a total of 13 appearances; Cormier had a 9.88 ERA in them and Ely got sent back down).
I am well aware that Ryan Franklin will be 39 next season and had a terrible start with the Cardinals in the last one. However, the former All-Star did have four solid years before the wheels fell off in '11, garnering at least 25 saves or holds each season from 2007 to 2010.
He deserves a second chance somewhere, and why not the Dodgers? Franklin could probably be got on the cheap, and could bring veteran moxie to a Dodgers' bullpen where the man who ended the season a closer started the season in the minors.
Gonzalez, who started with Baltimore and finished with Texas, has been mentioned as a probable candidate to land with the Dodgers. From 2004 to 2009, Gonzalez had six straight seasons of sub-3.00 ERA ball, and recorded 54 saves and 53 holds during that time.
However, his ERA ballooned in Baltimore, and stayed high in Texas. Gonzalez might make a difference as a setup man for somebody next season, and though he's touted as one of the best relievers on the market, his uneven last season troubles me.
The lefty Lopez has bounced around the majors and combines the traits of several of the players previously mentioned. Last season, he had a respectable 2.72 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and .603 OPS allowed, notched 20 holds, and went 53 frames without surrendering a home run.
Lopez, like Ayala, has a history of finishing decided games, with an average of 11 finished a season. He has also recorded a relief win in all but one of those seasons.
Since Lopez was with the Giants last year, the Dodgers should consider him in a specialist or innings eater role if for no other reason than to get under their rival's skin.
Ryan Madson has been touted as the most available closer on the market almost since the day the Phillies' closer job fell in his lap as a result. If I were the Dodgers, I'd put the target on Madson's back instead of Papelbon's. Madson's number of wins in relief (4) and saves (31) are similar to Papelbon's, and his Ks were lower, but he's preferable due to a better ERA, and also a hometown connection to Southern California.
Two drawbacks to Madson? He will cost a lot of kale to get, and he'll more than likely stay with the Phillies.
The Dodgers would have to break the bank to get Papelbon, and with the ownership in limbo, that may not be much of a possibility. However, if there ever was a time Papelbon would want out of Boston, it would be now with the clubhouse-front office dynamic having soured to the point that the ownership ratted on Papelbon's teammates' gorging themselves in the clubhouse. This combines with repeated calls that Daniel Bard should be handed the closer's role. If Papelbon's out, the Dodgers seem as good an option as any for him.
Should we be thinking about a return to the Dodgers for the Japanese phenom and one-time All-Star? Why not? He's been in the majors for six seasons, and never had an ERA above 3.00 in any of them. In three seasons with the Dodgers, he had 81 saves; he's had 27 holds in the last two seasons with the Braves and Brewers. He is also 32nd in career games finished, and has a career 1.03 WHIP and 12.3 Ks per nine innings.
Bad thing about Saito? He's 41.
The 35-year-old Wright is another one of those journeyman middle relievers who could end up with anyone. In 16 big-league seasons, Wright has been with eight different ball clubs. He seemed to have cobbled together a halfway decent season with the Mariners last season, leading the team in holds and relief innings pitched. Perhaps he can repeat that with the Dodgers.