The Los Angeles Dodgers were expected to address their relief corps prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and they did just that with the acquisition of John Axford from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Axford further lengthens the bullpen as a veteran with closing experience, but the club still lacks a bonafide, traditional eighth inning setup man. More impactful relievers such as Zach Britton, Brad Hand and Keone Kela were traded elsewhere for hefty prospect packages.
After missing out on the aforementioned names, Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi hinted that the club could take an unorthodox approach in how the handle the late innings and get the ball to closer Kenley Jansen, via Rowan Kavner of Dodger Insider:
“I don’t know that we’re going to evolve into a team that has a pure eighth inning guy as opposed to kind of matching up and playing out the end of games that way,” Zaidi said. “We may look at different ways to play out the pitching staff, maybe some unconventional ways to do it, because we have a lot of guys that can give quality innings.”
Unlike previous seasons when Joe Blanton and Brandon Morrow stepped up and emerged as the Dodgers’ primary eighth-inning options, the club hasn’t yet been able to find a successor.
Injuries have certainly played a role in preventing the Dodgers from doing so, as offseason-signee Tom Koehler, who was once envisioned to fill the vacancy, underwent season-ending shoulder surgery before even taking the mound for Los Angeles.
A handful of other relievers such as Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia, Josh Fields and Zac Rosscup also reside on the disabled list with respective injuries, though they’re all expected to return to the Majors at some point.
That could lead the Dodgers to eventually moving a starting pitcher to the bullpen, as has been the case in the previous three seasons.
Kenta Maeda thrived as a reliever during the club’s 2017 World Series run, while Caleb Ferguson, Ross Stripling and Alex Wood all have Major League experience in the starting rotation and bullpen as well.
Additionally, Julio Urias figures to possibly reprise his 2016 role as a relief pitcher come the postseason.
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