The Achilles heel for the Los Angeles Dodgers more times than not over the past few seasons has been a shaky or inconsistent bullpen. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman lives by a mantra of never having enough pitching, and that certainly applies when assembling a bullpen.
The crop of relief pitchers this season has had its moments, particularly in the early going when Ross Stripling and Julio Urias added depth after being bumped out of the starting rotation with the returns of Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill.
However, the signing of Joe Kelly to a three-year, $25 million contract has yet to pan out, Kenley Jansen has endured some struggles, Scott Alexander is experiencing them now, and so on.
Friedman remains confident in the group of relievers currently on the roster but also acknowledged the Dodgers will explore potential trades ahead of the July 31 deadline, according to Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“We have certainly had stretches this year where our bullpen has not performed up to our expectations,” Friedman said. “That being said, we still feel like we have a lot of really talented pitchers down there and other guys that are knocking on the door for an audition at some point.
“As we sit here today, all of our focus is on how to help each individual guy perform at their highest level. And now that the draft has concluded we’ll have one eye on that and one eye toward potential adds (before the July 31 trade deadline) and the bullpen is certainly an area that is top of the list.”
In July 2015 — Friedman’s first trade deadline with the Dodgers — he acquired relievers Grant Dayton, Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson. The following year, Friedman traded for Josh Fields and Jesse Chavez.
At the 2017 deadline, the Dodgers added Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson. Then during July and August of last season, L.A. re-acquired Dylan Floro, along with trading for John Axford and Ryan Madson.
Of those transactions, only Cingrani and Floro remain with the organization. Cingrani is set to undergo what will likely be season-ending surgery, while Floro is 1-1 with a 2.91 ERA, 3.57 FIP and 1.06 WHIP in 23 games this season.
As a whole, the Dodgers bullpen sports a 4.49 ERA that ranks 18th overall, and a .724 opponents’ on-base plus slugging percentage that is 12th-best in baseball. As Friedman noted, there is talent on the roster. It’s just a matter of the Dodgers finding their best options.