Over the last few years, we Dodger fans have become accustomed to botched relief in post season appearances. Which is why I have included one of my favorite images of reliever Steve Howe and catcher Steve Yeager following the final out of the 1981 WS. I have been fascinated with relievers since my first Dodger hero, Larry Sherry. From Clem Labine, Ron Perranoski, Phil Regan, and Bob Miller to Eric Gagne and Kenley Jansen and the multitude of solid relievers in between.
Over the years, reliance upon a bullpen rather than just a closer have enhanced. How long have the Dodgers been looking for that bridge to Jansen? Without Morrow, that leaves Pedro Baez and Josh Fields as the two remaining RHRP under Dodger control. Neither pitcher has shown an ability to be that bridge. Stripling and Stewart can move to the pen permanently, but both are more likely to be used as long relievers and both are also potential trade consideration as back end starters for another team. Wilmer Font (if not DFA’d) and Fabio Castillo (if retained) could be replacements, but would anyone feel comfortable with either pitcher over Morrow? How about Yimi Garcia? Josh Ravin? I have been an advocate of Wilmer Font, even though his inaugural Dodger outings were less than inspiring, but not more than Brandon Morrow.
It is unlikely that the Dodgers will re-sign Tony Watson, leaving Tony Cingrani as the lone LHRP from the playoff roster. It is hard to know what role Cingrani will play next year, but thus far as a Dodger he has been most effective as a loogy. Grant Dayton and Adam Liberatore will be returning from the DL and join Luis Avilan as LHRP possibilities. Edward Paredes will also be in the mix. Does anybody feel comfortable with any of these as the bridge?
Waiting for their shot are RHRP Yaisel Sierra, Jordan Jankowski, Joe Broussard, and Madison Younginer, and LHRP Luis Ysla. Sure one of these can become the 2018 version of Morrow, but not likely. For a team that is built to rely on the reliever because there is only one SP who is considered a sure bet for a 175+ IP pitcher, they are counting on a lot of question marks in the pen being answered.
Kenta Maeda was highly successful in the pen during the playoffs, but with his contract being heavily incentivized by the number of starts and innings pitched, it is doubtful that he will moved to the pen during the regular season. I think it is more likely that Maeda is traded before he is placed full time in the bullpen.
Friedman and Zaidi have shown reluctance to spend much on relievers, instead preferring to go with unproven pitchers. Many have worked, and others have not. Without Morrow, who becomes the bridge? Baez (again)?, Stewart ?, Font ?, Dayton ?, Liberatore ?, Sierra?. It is hard to argue with the success the bullpen has had under FAZ, especially before the playoffs. Or do the Dodgers continue to look for SP that can lengthen their start putting less stress on the bullpen during the season? We already know that their is an unwillingness to increase the number of pitches for Hill, Wood, Maeda, and Ryu, and it will be even less with Walker Buehler. Multiple relief pitchers are less important to a team like the Nationals who had 4 pitchers with more IP than any Dodger in 2017…Gio Gonzalez (201), Max Scherzer (200.2), Tanner Roark (181.1), and Stephen Strasburg (175.1). CK led LAD with 175.0 IP. CK was the only Dodger pitcher that accumulated enough IP to qualify for the ERA title. How would the Nats chances look with the addition of Brandon Morrow combined with Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson all in high leverage relief roles? The Nats are in a win now mode for 2018. How about the Dodgers?
ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
In the Arizona Fall Classic Saturday evening, the Dodgers had two players participate, Yusniel Diaz and Matt Beaty. Diaz went 1-3 with an RBI, while Beaty went 0-1 with a walk and a strikeout. Padres SS prospect Luis Urias had a HR in the game.
Overall in the Arizona Fall League:
Will Smith – .378/.431/.58/1.009; 4 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, and 11 RBI
Yusniel Diaz – .273/.353/.364/.717;1 double, 1 HR, 7 RBI
DJ Peters – .185/.267/.407/.674;1 double, 1 triple, 1 HR, 3 RBI
Matt Beaty – .191/.224/.383/.607; 3 doubles, 1 HR, 5 RBI
Michael Boyle – 2-0, 7 Games, 9.1 IP, 4 Hits, 1 BB, 8 K, .96 ERA – Nothing across after 1st game.
Andrew Sopko – 1-1, 14.1 IP, 4 BB, 7K, 2.51 ERA
Shea Spitzbarth – 7.0 IP, 2BB, 11 K, 7.71 ERA
Isaac Anderson – 8.0 IP, 3 BB, 8K, 3.38 ERA