The Dodgers Get Kimbrel

Friday, April 1, 2022
Copyrighted by Sarah Morris, 2022

Friday, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired arguably the best closer in Major League Baseball, Craig Kimbrel, from the Chicago White Sox for right-handed-hitting outfielder AJ Pollock. Now, the Dodgers have the best bullpen in the Major Leagues. As Dodger manager Dave Roberts has stated, the Dodger goal is to win the World Series. Without a terrific bullpen, no team can be the best.

While Pollock is a good outfielder with power from the right side, he has had a long history of serious injuries. Last year, he had a career performance when he hit .297 with 21 home runs and 69 RBI, but twice, he missed considerable time with hamstring strains.

Moreover, with the addition of Freddie Freeman, the Dodgers have limited room for both Chris Taylor and Gavin Lux. Since Freeman plays first base, he displaced Max Muncy. Muncy has proven his UCL injury that occurred on the last day of the 2021 regular season. He can play either second or third base or be DH. The Dodgers want to play Taylor, who signed a four-year $60 million last November, regularly.

This spring, Lux has demonstrated again that he has an inability to throw accurately from second base. Unless the Dodgers can sign Trea Turner to a long-term contract extension, which should be a priority, Lux appears to be an heir apparent to play shortstop. Until then, the Dodgers want to platoon Taylor and Lux in left field.

The Dodgers have invited both Jake Lamb and Kevin Pillar, who have had great spring training performances. The re-emergence of Edwin Ríos, who can play both first and third base, must be on the Opening Day roster. The Dodgers did not have any room for Pollock.

When the Dodgers did not re-sign Kenley Jansen, the team did not have a defined experienced closer even though they have Blake Treinen and signed Daniel Hudson. Obtaining Kimbrel will allow Roberts to use Treinen, Hudson, and Brusdar Graterol in high leverage situations. At 33, Kimbrel has 372 saves compared to 43 blown saves (88%).

Since the Dodgers do not have a strong starting rotation, they want an unhittable bullpen. After Walker Buehler and Julio Urías, the Dodger starting rotation has many question marks. Currently, Clayton Kershaw is healthy and effective with his new changeup, but how long will he remain healthy? At 34, Kershaw has had a long history of back injuries, and now he has had a forearm injury that did not require surgery. When healthy, Kershaw still remains effective.

This past November before the lockout, the Dodgers signed left-handed Andrew Heaney. Although modern baseball analytics loves the way Heaney hurls, his lifetime ERA is 4.72. This spring he cannot keep the opposition from hitting home runs, and his ERA for this spring training is 20.25. The Dodgers have slated him as their fourth starter. The team would be better off with either Tyler Anderson or David Price as their fourth starter than Heaney.

Coming off an injury-riddled season, Tony Gonsolin has had a better-than-average spring training performance. If he has good control, he will have success, but if he struggles in locating his pitches, the opposition hits him hard. Granted, he has earned the fifth spot in the starting rotation, but he cannot guarantee the Dodgers a reliable performance every fifth day.

While the national pundits believe the Dodgers will have one of the most potent lineups in history, during spring training, the lineup has not produced many runs. Many Dodger fans have concentrated on the offensive trials of Cody Bellinger, but they have ignored the whole team’s slump. With Opening Day only a week away, the Dodger offense is not ready to start.

Spring training records generally are considered not important, but in the Dodger world championship years, they had dominated their opponents even during spring training. This year, the Dodgers have lost more than they have won. Yes, it is an abbreviated spring training but still. No one knows how good the Dodgers are until May.

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