If you're a Dodger fan looking for quality arms, then Christmas was very kind. Ned Colletti announced the signings of Chris Perez, Jamey Wright, and J.P. Howell on Tuesday, giving the Dodgers one of the deepest, and hopefully best, bullpens in all of baseball.
To go along with the signings of those three is the return of Brian Wilson, who was re-signed about three weeks ago. With that in mind, let's take a look at the arms that could form the 'pen in April, with their 2013 stats in parenthesis.
Closer - RHP Kenley Jansen (28 saves, 16 holds, 1.88 ERA, 0.86 WHIP)
Enters the season as the clear-cut closer, and there's little reason to believe that will change. Then again, in a crazy spot like closer, anything can happen. Didn't Brandon League enter 2013 as the closer? And wasn't Jonathan Broxton once a "shutdown" closer? You get the point. Still, with a great fastball and cutter, it's hard to believe Jansen will flop.
Setup - RHP Brian Wilson (3 holds, 0.66 ERA, 0.88 WHIP)
In a great move by Colletti, was brought back as both the primary eighth inning guy, and a fallback option in case Jansen has some troubles. Was everything the Dodgers could have hoped for and more in 2013, and with more time ticking away since his Tommy John surgery in 2012, should have even stronger stuff for 2014.
LHP J.P. Howell (11 holds, 2.03 ERA, 1.05 WHIP)
Got the multi-year deal he was searching for, and with a .164 average against left-handed hitters, will find himself in plenty of big situations once again. Two straight seasons of great numbers with the Rays and Dodgers shows he's up for the challenge.
LHP Paco Rodriguez (20 holds, 2 saves, 2.32 ERA, 0.90 WHIP)
About the only thing that went wrong for him in an incredible rookie year was the nosedive he took at the end of last year, as he was actually left off of the NLCS roster. But with a fresh arm and deceptive delivery, showed what he could do for many months. The hope, of course, is that his arm strength can last during the rigors of a full season.
RHP Chris Perez (25 saves, 1 hold, 4.33 ERA, 1.43 WHIP with Indians)
He's a two-time All-Star, so he certainly knows how to get the big outs. Last season was a disaster in every way for him, whether he was getting hurt, blowing saves, or getting busted by the law. The best thing for him could very well be pitching in friendly Dodger Stadium against weaker offenses and away from the closing spotlight. I like the addition, as I'll take a chance on him over a bum like Ronald Belisario any day of the week.
Long Relief - RHP Jamey Wright (6 holds, 3.09 ERA, 1.20 WHIP with Rays)
As Colletti recently admitted, he wished he was more aggressive in re-signing him after the 2012 season. A year of long relief success later, that's exactly what he did in bringing him back to LA for the same role. There really aren't a whole heck of a lot of pitchers who actually embrace the role of getting ready quickly to pitch multiple innings at a moment's notice, and he's one of the best, so it's a good move.
Battling it Out:
RHP - Chris Withrow (4 holds, 1 save, 2.60 ERA, 0.90 WHIP)
Like Rodriguez, is another young arm who got plenty of big outs. I bet people will look at those numbers above and be pleasantly surprised. I can see him teaming with Perez and Rodriguez in the middle innings to bridge the gap to Wilson and Jansen. He's got the hard stuff to do it.
RHP Jose Dominguez (1 hold, 2.16 ERA, 1.68 WHIP)
A young man with electric stuff, as he can reach 100 MPH at any point. He's very fortunately to have such a low ERA, as opponents hit .314 off of him, albeit in a small sample size with 8 1/3 innings. Still, there's something about power arms out of the bullpen that is so intriguing, and if he can learn to pitch to corners and mix in some soft stuff, he can be a huge weapon.
RHP Brandon League (14 saves, 2 holds, 5.30 ERA, 1.55 WHIP)
Ahhh, good old League, the guy who won't go anywhere thanks to two years left on a three-year, $22.5 million contract. What a shame it would be if he beats out better arms like Withrow and Dominguez, but that's a definite possibility. Maybe Rick Honeycutt found something in his delivery that will improve him? I'm searching for something here, because it's hard to get even a little bit excited to see him pitch again.
Don't Forget About:
LHP Scott Elbert (Did not pitch in 2013)
Still recovering from Tommy John surgery, he will be out until around the All-Star break at best guess. Pitched mostly in 2011 and 2012, and with ERA's of 2.43 and 2.20, respectively, it's easy to see why a lefty with hard stuff like him sticks around. Suppose Rodriguez gets worn down again, then possibly Elbert steps in down the stretch. It might not be entirely realistic to count on him for any of 2014, but like it says above, don't forget about him.
By my count, that's nine guys duking it out for between 7-8 spots in the bullpen (taking out an injured Elbert). Plus, you have to remember that when fully healthy, the starting rotation sports six guys in Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, Chad Billingsley, and Josh Beckett. You know those first three names won't be anywhere near the bullpen, so one of Haren, Billingsley, or Beckett may have to be do the Chris Capuano act of bouncing between starter and reliever.
With the way this team gets hurt, Don Mattingly might not need to make many tough decisions on who stays and who goes, much like the outfield situation from last season. But of the three names on the "Battling it Out" list, I'd say as of right now Withrow gets the nod, with League and then Dominguez. League is awful, but has that damn contract, so he can't be ignored. Dominguez has to show more consistency before getting a permanent stay in LA.
Colletti has stated that he's all but done with roster moves, so it would be a surprise to see another reliever signed. Then again, if the Dodgers bid and are successful in getting Masahiro Tanaka, then that throws a wrench into all of these plans, not that that's a bad thing if this kid is the real deal. We shall see.