The Dodgers have signed former Red Sox righty Ryan Brasier to a minor league contract, Brasier himself confirmed to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Boston designated the struggling right-hander for assignment in mid-May and released him a week later. He’ll give the Dodgers some experienced bullpen depth in the upper minors.
Brasier, 35, was a vital member of the Boston bullpen during the Sox’ 2018 World Series campaign, returning from a solid stint in Japan to pitch 33 2/3 innings of 1.60 ERA relief. He added another 8 2/3 frames of one-run ball in the postseason, effectively solidifying his place in the Boston bullpen for the foreseeable future.
It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Brasier in Beantown since, however, with more lowlights than highlights. In 176 innings dating back to the 2019 season, the right-hander has worked to an unsightly 5.11 ERA. That’s skewed by particularly rough showings in 2021-22 (6.16 ERA in 83 1/3 innings), which ultimately led to last month’s dismissal.
Recent struggles notwithstanding, Brasier averages nearly 96 mph on his fastball and showed a strong 24.3% strikeout rate and 4.9% walk rate as recently as last season. He continued to post above-average swinging-strike and opponents’ chase rates through the 2022 season. Most of those numbers dipped below the league average in 2023, though Brasier at least kept the ball in the yard at a better-than-average rate during this year’s 21 frames (albeit with concerning exit velocity and hard-contact numbers).
There’s little harm in the Dodgers taking a low-cost flier on the veteran righty, even with this year’s alarming numbers. The Red Sox are paying the remainder of Brasier’s $2MM salary, so all the Dodgers would owe him is the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the MLB roster. Even that’s not a given, as he’s likely headed to Triple-A Oklahoma City for the time being.
The Dodgers are, as usual, a force to be reckoned with in the National League West, sitting on a 35-25 record that puts them in a first-place tie with the upstart D-backs. If there’s one particularly notable flaw in L.A., it’s the bullpen. Dodgers relievers have combined for a 4.64 earned run average this season — the fifth-worst mark in Major League Baseball. They’ve gotten strong efforts from Evan Phillips, Brusdar Graterol and Caleb Ferguson thus far, and Shelby Miller has produced a resurgent 2.77 ERA as well (though with a 16.2% walk rate and .121 BABIP, making him a clear regression candidate). The rest of the relief corps has posted inconsistent or simply poor results, however, so it’s not a surprise to see the Dodgers taking a look at a veteran with some track record in a high-pressure, big-market situation.