Bullpen Leaders since 2014 and Pedro Baez’s Role

I heard about the signing of Corey Knebel for 5.2 Million and it was a bit unmoving in many ways. A quick view of the stats and I will say that we got a decent deal on a “promising project”, however, it is unmoving because there are a few Dodgers in the market available with much better numbers. It is confusing why we have not signed Baez who has actually been better than Knebel. Baez has been with the Dodgers since 2014, and only one season has he had an ERA higher than Knebel’s career average. Knebel’s career average is 3.31. In Pedro Baez’s sophomore year he pitched with an ERA of 3.35. Other than that he has been well below Knebel’s career average mark in every other season in his career. In 2020, Baez made 4Million but took home only 1.48Million due to the lock down. Baez, has been a steal at what he has produced over the past 7 years. Take a look at his numbers. They are astounding. His one blip that comes to mind right away for many is the World Series game where he gave up 2 home runs. I could hear the whole world say, “Not Baez, not again”. Except the numbers tell us that he has been anything but disappointing over his 7 year career with the Dodgers. The numbers tell us that Baez has a career 3.03 ERA on a team that has been competing for the playoffs every year since he has been in the league. Every year, he has pitched under the duress of a playoff chase. Knebel had one stellar season. In 2017, he had 39 saves, with an incredible 1.78 ERA, but it has been downhill since then. In 2018, he had a good season where he finished with an ERA of 3.58 and only 16 saves. In 2019, he had elbow surgery and missed the whole year. In 2020, he was sidelined by a hamstring and when he was active he pitched for an ERA of 6.08. 

Although Baez has never had a season where he saved that many games, we have to understand that he has never been a closer pitching on a team with the Dodgers career leader in saves Kenley Jansen. Despite not being the closer, he has had a steady 369 career KO’s compared to Knebel’s 336 KO’s. Keep in mind they both started in 2014. I imagine if Baez had been a closer he would have had a fair amount of saves comparable to Knebel. Perhaps, this is the reason that Baez has not signed. Maybe Baez understands that he will get more money pitching for a team who needs a closer rather than sticking around as a middle relief pitcher. That would make more sense. I would like to think that this is the reason he has not been offered a contract. It is easy to see that Baez would have been a better signing than Knebel when looking at the valuation of a player. There is no doubt that Knebel has proven he can elevate his game to a higher level, but right now, he has not proven that he will return to the 2017 form. He seems to be in recovery mode. It did not help him in 2020 that he played in a team that was living in the 500 range, but this signing is a bit of a gamble given his high ERA in the short 2020 season. His ERA will automatically go down for the simple fact that Dodger Stadium is known as a pitcher’s stadium, and he has championship level defense that can save runs and help keep his numbers down but it is still a bit of an experiment. A wait and see project to see if he can recover his 2017 form. Interesting part is that Baez is proven. Subtract the World Series home runs and Baez was excellent in 2020. 

Another “return to 2017 form” experiment that the Dodgers could have gone with is Alex Wood. IN 2017, our first year back to the World Series in 28 years, Wood posted a 16-3 record as a starting pitcher. He did not seem to catch his form with the Reds as a relief pitcher due to nagging injuries, and with the Dodgers he had a career high ERA of 6.39 in 2020. Keep in mind though that with the Reds he had a 60 day stint on the DL and again a small stint on the DL in 2020. In 2020, any small stint on the DL meant a considerable percentage of the season was lost because of the short season. There are a lot of similarities between Knebel and Wood as well.The thing you have to love about Alex Wood is that you cannot teach that delivery. Wood was signed for 4Million in 2020 and if we can get him at that same price, or at a range like Knebel, he would also be a great option. Especially if we can get the 2017 Alex Wood. He can also spot a start for us in that long 162 game season.  I will not bring up Blake Trienen because I feel he is in a different category and will cost more. Trienen made 10 Million and he would be a more expensive option but I could definitely see the Dodgers bringing him back as a solid relief pitcher to compliment the bullpen as a leader of that pen. That is where I see Trienen, a higher end pick up.  Of course, we have to keep in mind where we are in terms of financial times. Teams have been put under financial stress due to the loss of various revenue streams in 2020. Teams might be looking for a way to use their farm players a bit more to help them save money. Perhaps, the answer to a higher end replacement for Blake Trienen is moving Julio Urias, or Dustin May into the middle relief role. These players will be less costly than Trienen. Good news for the Dodgers is they have options. We will also see an appearance by Josiah Gray next year. Hopefully, he comes out swinging and he earns a spot on the roster. Where he winds up is another story. The important part is that he wins a spot on the roster first. Does he earn a place in the starting rotation? Or do they match him up with Graterol in middle relief? Josiah can also be a spot starter.

I like the idea of getting Baez, and Wood at two year deals each for an average at about 5 Million per year: Baez gets 2 years for 10 Million and Wood gets 2 years for 10 Million. I am sure Wood is confident he can return to his 2017 form. He is only 29 years old with good MLB experience. His experience makes him wiser and there are still players that have not faced his unorthodox delivery which I am not sure how a team can get used to even after seeing him a second time around. Baez is 32 years old and all he has to do is continue to eat up innings successfully during the season to get us to the playoffs. He has been a model of consistency posting the following ERA’s for the Dodgers. 

Baez ERA over the years. 

2014= 2.63

2015= 3.35

2016= 3.04

2017= 2.95

2018= 2.88

2019= 3.10

2020= 3.18

Experience, consistency, ability to get lefties with his changeup, and a player that will not come with a high price tag. There is a reason we have had a solid overall ERA from our bullpen over the past 7 years. Our bullpen has been one of the best in the league year after year. Baez has been a part of that. I say sign him right away.

Published by Pete Reyes

Dodger Fan since Fernandomania. I am a baseball aficionado and a former baseball coach. I am father of 3 and I am very proud that our Dodgers finally won the World Series. Follow me for some fun Dodger News and Updates.

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