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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Dodgers need to address bullpen issues at trade deadline

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers hold the best record in baseball entering Sunday and appear highly likely to make the playoffs for the seventh straight season. Just making it to the postseason isn’t good enough the Dodgers anymore, especially after back-to-back World Series losses. Los Angeles needs a World Series win this year, and they should be willing to do anything to achieve it.

So what do the Dodgers need to add before the trade deadline to secure a championship? Two words: relief pitching.

The Dodgers’ bullpen is their weakness this year, even if Kenley Jansen doesn’t want to hear it. They’ve blown 19 save opportunities this season, tied for the third-most in Major League Baseball. The 4.02 bullpen ERA isn’t bad by most teams standards, but the Dodgers’ starters own an ERA of 2.96. The bullpen has been tremendously bad relative to the rest of the team.

There are several different options available for the Dodgers. Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez is supposedly the Dodgers’ top choice. Vazquez has recorded 21 saves in 40 games this season, while posting a 1.87 ERA. The Pirates have an outside chance at the wild card, but they are likely sellers in a very competitive National League Central. Padres closer Kirby Yates is another potential target for the Dodgers. Yates, who made his first All-Star team this year, owns a 1.02 ERA and a Major League-leading 31 saves. He would slide nicely into the set-up man role, a job he occupied last year when Brad Hand was the Padres’ closer. However, San Diego has made clear their intention to contend, so they might not want to part with him.

Several weeks ago, I would’ve added Giants closer Will Smith as a potential target. However, the Giants are playing incredible baseball as of late, and trading their closer to the rival Dodgers would be morale-killing for the team and its fans.

The Dodgers have also been linked to Mets reliever Edwin Diaz. Diaz has been bad this year. His ERA is 4.81, his WHIP is 1.45, and he’s blown four saves this season. The Dodgers may believe in him long-term, but he is having a sub-par year and trading for him would be a risk.

Ultimately, the Dodgers need to willingly trade top prospects in order to win a championship this year. They are playing better than in past years, but they finally need a World Series to show for it. They need an improved bullpen in order to have their best chance at a championship.

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