Dec 11: The Brewers are acquiring southpaw Leo Crawford to complete the Knebel trade, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and others (via Twitter). The Brewers sent Knebel to the Dodgers just before the non-tender deadline. In Crawford, they’re getting a 23-year-old lefty who reached Double-A in 2019. Between High-A and Double-A, Crawford pitched to a 2.81 ERA across 121 2/3 innings with 9.9 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9. Some comparisons have been drawn to Brent Suter in terms of his deception and projectionable functionality as a starter who could work out of the bullpen depending on need.
Dec 2: The Dodgers announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Corey Knebel from the Brewers in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. The trade comes after Knebel was reportedly set to be non-tendered, but it appears that the Brewers instead found an eleventh-hour trade for the former All-Star closer. He’ll still be eligible for arbitration with the Dodgers.
Knebel, 29, struggled this past season in his comeback from 2019 Tommy John surgery. The 2017 All-Star was rocked for a 6.08 ERA with a 15-to-8 K/BB ratio in 13 1/3 innings — his first action on a big league mound since the end of the 2018 campaign.
There were plenty of red flags for Knebel in 2020, most notably a 94.4 mph average fastball velocity that sat three miles per hour shy of its 2017 peak. That said, Knebel’s velocity began to trend upward late in the season, which could have been enough to give the Dodgers hope that he’ll regain some of the life on his heater next year when he’s another season removed from surgery.
Knebel’s struggles in 2020 should prevent him from taking home much of a raise on his $5.125MM salary from this past season, so he’ll be an affordable, high-upside roll of the dice for a Dodgers club that hasn’t been afraid to take chances when it comes to buying low on formerly elite relievers.
From 2017-18 with the Brewers, Knebel racked up 55 saves while pitching to a 2.54 ERA and 2.74 FIP over the course of 131 1/3 innings. Along the way he emerged as one of the game’s premier strikeout artists, averaging an obscene 14.7 K/9 and punching out 40.2 percent of the hitters he faced on the whole.
Obviously, that was two years and one major surgery ago, but the Dodgers will hope for a return to form in what will be Knebel’s final season prior to free agency. If they can successfully round him into form, he’ll join a late-inning mix featuring Kenley Jansen, Brusdar Graterol and Joe Kelly, although the Dodgers figure to further supplement that group between now and Opening Day.