This isn’t terribly surprising news, as every contending team is always interested in improving their pitching arsenal as the trade deadline approaches. What is surprising is that the Dodgers find themselves three games behind the Giants in the NL West, a team that few picked as division favorites at the start of the season. And that divisional alignment is at least somewhat attributable to the fact that the Dodgers have lost to the Giants by blowing ninth-inning leads the past two nights.
Overall, the bullpen hasn’t been a glaring weakness for the club this year. The Dodgers’ relievers, as a whole, have an ERA of 3.73, the 10th best in the Majors. But they’ve also taken some hits lately, with Jimmy Nelson and Scott Alexander heading to the Injured List. David Price has also had to move from the bullpen to the rotation, in order to cover for the recent injury to Clayton Kershaw.
For Kennedy, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that he will be changing jerseys in the coming week. He is a free agent at year’s end and is currently playing for a Rangers team that is 35-62, behind every team in the American League except the Orioles. Thus far, he’s pitched 31 1/3 innings for Texas, accumulating 15 saves with an ERA of 2.59. Advanced metrics are somewhat skeptical, with xERA, FIP and xFIP pegging him at 3.40, 3.80 and 3.88, respectively. But he has excellent strikeout and walk rates of 26.8% and 5.7%.
Kenley Jansen has been the Dodgers closer for a decade now, and will probably continue in that role. But there are reasons for pessimism in his profile this year. Despite 21 saves, an ERA of 3.05 and a strikeout rate of 27.2%, Jansen has a ghastly walk rate of 16%, more than double his career rate. That’s probably why some advanced metrics think his ERA is a mirage, with xFIP placing him at 4.79 and SIERA at 4.56.
It’s possible this is just small sample noise, since we’re only talking about 38 1/3 innings and Jansen’s Statcast profile still looks quite healthy. But since Jansen is in the last year of his contract and will be 34 years old by season’s end, the Dodgers don’t have to be invested in Jansen for the long term and could certainly pivot to an alternative such as Kennedy if they felt they had to.
On the money side, Kennedy’s is playing on a salary of $2.15MM this year, leaving less than a million still to be paid out. The Dodgers don’t have to worry about tiptoeing under the luxury tax, since they’ve already blown past the top threshold of $250MM. (Roster Resource currently has their luxury tax calculation at $262MM.) But that means that they’re paying a whopping 62.5% tax on any additional salary they take on, which could make a modest contract like Kennedy’s more appealing than a costlier addition such as Craig Kimbrel, who is still owed over $6MM of his $16MM salary this year.