Last January the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Joe Blanton and one month later added fellow right-handed relief pitcher Louis Coleman. Both played pivotal roles for the club during stretches of the 2016 season, though Coleman’s effectiveness went by the wayside as fatigue set in.
While the Dodgers retained a significant cog in their bullpen this winter by re-signing Kenley Jansen, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman hardly views the group as a finished product. “I don’t think you ever get to a place with the bullpen where you feel like you’re done,” he said from Dodgers FanFest on Saturday.
“It’s something every year heading into the season that scares me. It’s a very tricky part of roster construction. We really like the guys we have, feel like we have a good amount of depth, but there are also a number of really interesting guys on the market.”
Chief among them is Blanton, who is someone Friedman said the Dodgers have “a tremendous amount of respect for,” and are well-aware of the significant role Blanton filled last season.
Los Angeles is one of multiple clubs who have been connected to the free-agent right-hander. Another conceivable option was Greg Holland, but the former Kansas City Royals closer recently signed a one-year contract with the Colorado Rockies.
Although a right-hander would seemingly better fit their bullpen, the Dodgers were also reported to have interest in veteran southpaw Jerry Blevins. However, Blevins may land a two-year contract, which goes against the Dodgers’ preference to sign relievers to one-year deals.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts voiced confidence in the group of returning relievers but in the same breath acknowledged there isn’t yet clarity on how roles may be filled. “It’s more, who’s going to step up and pitch those innings,” Roberts said.
Last season, Dodgers relievers combined for the best bullpen ERA (3.35) in the Majors, fourth-best FIP (3.55), most strikeouts (633) and second-best WAR (6.5). That was in spite of pitching the most innings (590.2) of any bullpen and using 23 different relievers.