Why adding a reliever still makes sense

July, 23, 2013
7/23/13
10:25
AM PT
The Los Angeles Dodgers are, at long last, where they expected to be all along. They got to the summit when Arizona lost late Monday, helping them complete an arduous 98-game climb. Until Monday, they had not been alone in first place all season.

Whether you think it took far too long to get there or that their .808 pace for the past month-plus has been an inspirational comeback -- or both -- they still haven’t accomplished anything. They still haven’t broken their four-year playoff drought or lived up to the expectations of a record payroll.

And, no doubt, general manager Ned Colletti still doesn’t think they’re the finished product, if a team is ever a finished product. So, he’ll be working to add the finishing touches before the July 31 trade deadline.

But where should his efforts take him?

Names are dropping off the board at a fairly brisk pace, considering there is still more than a week to go before the deadline. The Dodgers got things started when Colletti traded three fringe pitching prospects for Miami Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco. The other big name commonly bandied about on the pitching market, Matt Garza, was traded to Texas. According to reports, Alfonso Soriano is close to going back to the Bronx.

Unlike most teams hovering around .500, the Dodgers have few discernible holes. For one thing, you can practically scratch them off as potential suitors for any position players. Yeah, they could always look to upgrade at third base, but Juan Uribe has done a serviceable job there. They don’t need any bench players. Their outfield is overstocked, but not overstocked enough -- given Matt Kemp’s health -- to part with Andre Ethier just yet.

Could they use a starting pitcher? Probably, but it hardly seems like a pressing concern. Nolasco makes their four-deep among the best (and most expensive) in baseball. Chris Capuano has been erratic, but if the Dodgers acquire a No. 5 starter, is he going to be so much better than Capuano (or Stephen Fife) over those last 12 starts or so, that he’d decide whether the Dodgers make the playoffs?

Seems unlikely. And, if the Dodgers do reach the postseason, the fifth starter usually shifts into a long relief role anyway, if he makes the roster at all.

What’s that leave?

Even relief pitching seems like less of a concern than it did two weeks ago. With Chris Withrow and Jose Dominguez settling into middle-inning roles, Kenley Jansen thriving as the closer and Ronald Belisario stabilizing, the Dodgers’ bullpen has, in fact, been a major strength since early July. Who knows, maybe Brandon League will get his mechanical issues ironed out and begin to chip in, too.

But, despite all that, it certainly looks like Colletti would like to add another veteran. It's kind of his thing. Since he arrived, Colletti has landed Elmer Dessens, Scott Proctor, George Sherrill, Octavio Dotel, Randy Choate and League in mid-season trades.

The latest reports suggest Colletti’s scouts have been heavily studying the Milwaukee Brewers, with the supposition being that they’re interested in closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Seems to add up. Rodriguez has 304 career saves, pitched in a World Series when he was 20 years old and still has good enough stuff, with an average fastball of 91.1 mph according to Fangraphs. Plus, he hasn’t been a closer for most of the past few years, so he likely wouldn’t balk at a subordinate role.

He has baggage stemming from arrests for attempted assault and domestic violence in the past few years, and he rankled many of his Angels teammates with what some viewed as a me-first attitude.

He’s also a free agent in November, so the Brewers probably won’t demand premium prospects and, given their place in the standings and the loss of Ryan Braun for the year, they’re probably more than motivated to move him.

Carlos Marmol hasn’t been particularly impressive trying to work his way back at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. He has nearly as many home runs and walks allowed (three) as strikeouts (four).

It seems unlikely the Dodgers would go after one of the other ex-closers available via trade, Kevin Gregg. After all, they could have had Gregg for the price of a roster spot in April and passed, so would they really part with young talent to land him now, after a few good months?

Rodriguez looks like a fairly probable candidate for the Dodgers’ bullpen, but there are probably a half-dozen other names the Dodgers have had discussions about. If they add one more arm, great. If not, it’s nothing to get worked up about. If the past month is any indication, they could have one of the more complete teams out there.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Clayton Kershaw
WINS ERA SO IP
14 1.86 174 145
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .312
HRA. Gonzalez 17
RBIA. Gonzalez 83
RD. Gordon 69
OPSY. Puig .909
ERAC. Kershaw 1.86
SOC. Kershaw 174