The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
What’s an early season candidate for the front office’s best offseason move?
Right now, it’s got to be to fortifying the bullpen with former closers and power arms.
At the disappointing end to the 2013 season, LA’s ‘pen was extremely formidible. With all-world closer Kenley Jansen holding down the ninth inning, former All-Star Brian Wilson, J.P. Howell and Ronald Belasario helped to create a very good relief corps. The game was essentially just 7 innings long, with a future that was almost nearly as promising. Youngsters Paco Rodriguez (who admittedly struggled down the stretch) and Chris Withrow looked to be long-time future fixtures of the bullpen with breakout seasons in 2013. Combined with Jansen and young flamethrower Jose Dominguez, LA’s relievers looked very solid going into 2014.
But what GM Ned Colletti did was not take the future for granted, and instead bought his young arms more time to fail.
The Dodgers re-signed Wilson and Howell this winter, along with bringing in former Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez to make perhaps the best ‘pen in the National League. LA has what amounts to four closers pitching the game’s last four innings, with guys like Jamey Wright, Paul Maholm and Brandon League as nothing more than long men and mop-up guys. There is so much proven power in the bullpen that both Withrow and Rodriguez will have to toil in Triple-A for the time being, being ready for when there’s that inevitable injury situation. Maholm here is key, as the team will be able to plug him in for any starter missing time or simply keep him as a starting-caliber pitcher playing the long man. The relief power was on full display this past weekend, as Wilson, Perez and Howell looked like they could close down games for more than half the teams in the league. It appears that the Dodgers will be damn near unhittable no matter what the inning.
It didn’t come cheap, with nearly $25 million committed to three free agents, but Colletti’s signings give the team the depth to plug in nearly any holes that may come up. The Dodgers are in an extremely enviable situation and the front office has to be applauded for creating an excellent, power-laden bullpen.