Wednesday, October 31, 2012

League inks 3-year deal to assume closing duties

Brandon League was given two things on Tuesday: a fresh three-year contract, and the key to the closer's role in LA.

Despite Kenley Jansen saving 25 games and seemingly healthy going into Spring Training after recent heart surgery, Ned Colletti made it all crystal clear - League not only will stay with the Dodgers, he will enter 2013 as the closer.

Citing a "thin" market for closers this winter, Colletti wasted no time in drawing up a contract for League.  In breaking it all down, the deal covers three years and $22.5 million.  According to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times, 2016 will be a vesting option for $7.5 million, which will only vest if he finishes 55 games in 2015.

League was one of many names brought in around the trade deadline this past season, as he became expendable in Seattle after blowing six saves and only converting nine.  It's a good thing the Dodgers did get him, as after a few growing pains, he took over when Jansen went down with more heart problems.

The result?  6-6 in save opportunities, and scoreless in 20 of his last 21 appearances.  Overall, his LA run ended with a 2.30 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and .183 BAA in 28 games.

It's not hard to see why Colletti and the Dodgers wanted him back, as a trio of Ronald Belisario, Jansen, and League is pretty nasty at the back end of games.  Jansen has already commented how much better he feels after surgery, so if he somehow gets even better, that's as good a setup-closer combo in baseball.

Even though League is called the closer right now, we all know how things can change in the heat of a season.  Look no further than this past season, as Javy Guerra was quickly bounced after one month of shaky relief.  I don't care what anybody is saying now - if League stumbles, then Don Mattingly won't hesitate to flip-flop him with Jansen.  That's the uncertainly of the life of a closer.

This move is important for another reason, and that's the overall health of the 'pen.  Jansen, Belisario, Guerra, Matt Guerrier, and Scott Elbert have all battled some sort of ailment in recent times.  If anything, a reliable guy like League goes a long way.  Then again, the Dodgers also thought Guerrier was dependable, and he pitched in whopping 16 games this year after pitching to a 4.07 ERA in 70 games the year before.  So, nothing is guaranteed.

Even though we all saw the Dodgers make a million moves during the 2012 season, you have to think they  are still only getting started in the Hot Stove season.  I think it's a great first move, as the end of the game is strengthened.  Now it's time to look at the beginning and middle.

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