Dodgers Roundtable: Impact Of AJ Pollock-Craig Kimbrel Trade

In the days after Kenley Jansen signed a one-year contract with the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Dodgers outlined a plan to rely on multiple relief pitchers to fill the void at closer.

Blake Treinen appeared to be a natural replacement for Jansen, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts hesitated to commit to such plan. Roberts reiterated his belief Treinen’s value is as a fireman who is capable of pitching in any high-leverage situation.

The Dodgers closer role has since been addressed through a trade to acquire Craig Kimbrel from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for AJ Pollock. Both players are entering the final guaranteed year of their respective contracts.

Though, Pollock’s deal includes a $10 million player option (can increase to $15 million through incentives) for the 2023 season and a $5 million buyout.

Meanwhile, Kimbrel is due to earn $16 million, which is the same salary Jansen signed for with the Braves.

Reaction to AJ Pollock-Craig Kimbrel trade

Matt Borelli (@mcborelli):

My initial reaction to the Craig Kimbrel-AJ Pollock trade was a mix of surprise and intrigue. Pollock was one of the Dodgers’ better right-handed bats the past two seasons and losing him makes the lineup a little left-handed heavy.

However, Pollock’s departure clears the path for Gavin Lux to potentially receive regular playing time in left field. Furthermore, the addition of Kimbrel gives the Dodgers a bonafide replacement for Kenley Jansen in the closer role. This is important as it frees up Blake Treinen to remain in the preferred fireman role.

And even though Kimbrel struggled after being traded to the White Sox last year, there’s reason to believe he will benefit with a move to the pitcher-friendly NL West. The eight-time All-Star owns a 1.13 ERA in seven career appearances at Dodger Stadium, a 0.00 ERA at Oracle Park (nine games) and a 2.63 ERA at Petco Park (39 games).

It’s also worth noting that Kimbrel pitched considerably better as the Cubs’ closer last season (0.42 ERA in 39 games) and only saw a drop-off in production when he was moved to a setup role with the White Sox (5.09 ERA in 24 games).

Blake Williams (@ByBlakeWilliams):

My first thought on the Dodgers trade of AJ Pollock for Craig Kimbrel was how surprising it was, as I’m sure it was to many people. Originally, I was disappointed to see Pollock go because I feel he is an incredibly underrated player.

However, the more I thought about it the more sense it made to me.

The cost for premiere relief pitchers at the trade deadline is usually incredibly high, so to get Kimbrel for just an outfielder who is mostly expendable, even if he’s good, is fantastic value. I’m much more OK with trading Pollock now than potentially having to part with prospects Ryan Pepiot, Michael Busch and Andy Pages later to fill the bullpen spot.

Yes, it hurts to lose Pollock. But the loss won’t be felt too much with multiple other quality bats available to replace him, and I think it would be a lot of fun to see Edwin Rios get some run as the team’s designated hitter.

Plus, not having to worry about who will pitch the ninth on a nightly basis provides a lot of stress relief for manager Dave Roberts and fans.

Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015):

When the Dodgers announced the AJ Pollock-Craig Kimbrel trade, my first thought was the swap effectively being a push. After more consideration, however, I’m willing to acknowledge the Dodgers have improved — even if it’s only slightly.

I think there’s some underestimating what losing Pollock will mean for a lineup that already was heavy on left-handed position players. The trade effectively puts more pressure on Chris Taylor to repeat his All-Star level production and Gavin Lux to not only gain more comfort in the outfield but also hit well.

All of that being said, adding Kimbrel does wonders for the Dodgers bullpen. Yes, the group had depth going into the season, but without an established closer it was going to require more relief pitchers to perform well.

Now there’s some margin for error as Blake Treinen and Daniel Hudson can be used in the sixth, seventh or eighth innings.

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