The Dodgers have brought righty Pedro Baez back to the organization on a minor league contract, reports Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). The longtime Dodger setup man hit free agency following the 2020 season and inked a two-year, $12.5MM contract with the Astros but was designated for assignment and released by Houston earlier this season. For now, Baez is headed to the Dodgers’ complex in Arizona to work with the staff before being assigned to a minor league affiliate.
That Baez isn’t jumping directly into minor league games shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The 34-year-old was limited to just 6 2/3 innings in 2021-22 combined thanks largely to a shoulder injury that limited him to just 4 1/3 frames last year. Baez was healthy enough to take the mound for 2 1/3 innings this season, but he was tattooed for six runs in that time and sat at 90.2 mph with his fastball — a catastrophic drop from the 95.9 mph he averaged as recently as 2019.
There’s little harm in the Dodgers taking what amounts to a free look at Baez. He’ll only be owed the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the big league roster, as the Astros are otherwise on the hook for the right-hander’s 2022 salary. Given Baez’s track record with the Dodgers — 3.03 ERA, 25.3% strikeout rate, 8.2% walk rate, 100 holds, 356 innings — it’s understandable that L.A. brass would be hopeful of getting him back into form. Boosting Baez’s heater all the way back into the 96 mph range might be a long shot, but he had success in 2020 even with his heater sitting at a slightly lower 94.4 mph.
The Dodgers don’t necessarily need bullpen help at this point, but teams generally never feel they can have too much depth of this nature. Los Angeles relievers have combined for a 3.22 ERA and 3.29 FIP that rank fifth and fourth in the Majors, respectively, and they also have the game’s fifth-best strikeout rate (26.8%) and third-best walk rate (7.6%). That said, they’re a bit banged up as well, with Blake Treinen out until after the All-Star break, Victor Gonzalez on the 60-day IL and right-hander Tommy Kahnle recently landing on the 15-day IL.
Harris tweets that Kahnle is dealing with a bone bruise in his elbow, which the Dodgers are treating with a one-to-two-week shutdown from throwing. Adding another experienced arm like Baez, even if he’s now something of a project, gives them a lottery ticket of sorts who could potentially help later in the season if he’s able to rebuild some strength and velocity.