Earlier this week the Dodgers lost All-World closer Kenley Jansen for about a month with an irregular heartbeat. Things have not gone well for Los Angeles since then. Their bullpen blew leads Friday and Saturday as other relievers were pushed into high-leverage spots.
Rookie slugger Ryan McMahon hit clutch late-inning home runs against the Los Angeles bullpen the last two days.
The bullpen has been an issue for the Dodgers pretty much all season, and now things are even worse with Jansen sidelined. So, with starters Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu getting healthy, the club has decided to move Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling to the bullpen to help their relief crew.
Hyun-Jin Ryu will start for #Dodgers Wednesday v #Giants. Ross Stripling and Kenta Maeda will move to the bullpen. Available Tuesday and Wednesday respectively— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) August 12, 2018
Stripling has spent most of the last three seasons in the bullpen before moving into the rotation earlier this year when injuries created a need. He has a 2.62 ERA in 110 innings and was selected to the All-Star Game last month. Reports indicate Stripling could return to the rotation fairly soon.
As for Maeda, he's been primarily a starter since signing with the Dodgers three years ago, though he did work out of the bullpen during the last two postseasons. Maeda has a 3.80 ERA in 109 innings and has arguably been the team's most consistent starter all season, while Clayton Kershaw has battled injuries.
The shift to the bullpen is going to cost Maeda some money,and, in turn, help the Dodgers stay under the $197 million luxury tax threshold, which has been a stated goal. He's made 20 starts and thrown 109 innings this season. His contract includes the following incentives:
- $1 million each for his 25th, 30th, and 32nd start.
- $250,000 each for his 110th, 120th, 130th, 140th, 150th, 160th, 170th, 180th, and 190th inning pitched.
- $750,000 for his 200th inning.
There are seven weeks to go in the regular season, and if Maeda works four innings a week the rest of the way, he'll finish the season with 137 innings pitched. Let's call it 140 even. That means he's potentially going to miss out on all the incentives for 150-plus innings, not to mention the seven-figure bonus for making his 25th and potentially 30th start.
Shifting Maeda to the bullpen has been rumored all season, though injuries to the rotation keep him in a starting role. Now that Wood and Ryu are returning, the Dodgers have the flexibility to move Maeda (and Stripling) into the bullpen to help shore up what has been a weakness to date. Neither guy will replace Jansen, but they will help overall.