The Dodgers signed Brandon League to a three-year contract yesterday worth $22.5 million. General manager Ned Colletti envisions League closing, though ultimately that decision will fall to manager Don Mattingly. The value of League’s contract makes that seem like a straightforward decision — why pay a guy $7 million-plus to pitch the eighth inning? — but the decision on paper is closer than you might think.
For one thing, League is one of three pitchers who closed games for the Dodgers last year (three-and-a-half, if you include Ronald Belisario’s brief time co-closing with league in September). He, Belisario and Kenley Jansen are all high-strikeout power pitchers with a repertoire worthy of the role. Of course, if Jansen weren’t waiting in the wings at the time, the Dodgers might have continued to let Javy Guerra pitch through his early-season struggles; Guerra finished the season with eight saves and a 2.60 ERA. Arguably, that makes four capable closers in the Dodger bullpen. And while Guerra pitched his way out of the job, Jansen only lost the job because of a health setback.
Among that quartet, League has the most career saves (60). Want to guess how many active major-league pitchers have more? Thirty-seven. Experience isn’t everything — I would rather have League pitching the ninth inning in 2013 than, say, Jason Isringhausen — but the point is that Jansen (34 career saves), Guerra (29) and Belisario (3) aren’t that much less proven in the ninth inning than League.
So for today’s poll question, we give you the manager’s jersey and a baseball to hand to your closer of choice.
No Dodgers will win Gold Glove awards this season. That was an anticlimactic revelation in an hour-long show on ESPN2 Tuesday night, when the awards were announced on live television for the first time.
Florida Marlins pitcher Mark Buehrle got the award over Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the last of the Dodgers’ finalists to be announced. Kershaw completed his second consecutive errorless season and hasn’t committed an error since Aug. 1, 2010 but Buehrle, who left the Chicago White Sox to sign with the Marlins last winter, has won the award each of the last three seasons in the American League.
Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves edged Andre Ethier for the award among National League right fielders. Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees got the nod over Adrian Gonzalez among American League first basemen (Gonzalez was one of three AL finalists despite being traded to the Dodgers in August).
Three Dodgers won Gold Glove awards last season — Kershaw, Ethier and center fielder Matt Kemp.
The Dodgers addressed their top in-house priority Tuesday, signing reliever Brandon League to a 3-year contract. According to the AP, the 29-year-old will earn $22.5 million over the life of the deal.
That’s closer-type money. League served as the Dodgers’ closer for the final month of the 2012 season and general manager Ned Colletti said that “we think, after what he did the last two or three weeks in the season, that closing is the role.”
The Dodgers obtained League on July 30 from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for prospects Leon Landry and Logan Bawcom. League, who made $5 million last season, was free to sign with any team in free agency beginning Friday, but wanted to remain close to his San Diego home.
In a nine-year career, League has saved 60 games — 37 for Seattle in 2011. He lost his closer’s job early in the 2012 season and never regained it with the Mariners. But Dodgers coaches Ken Howell and Rick Honeycutt helped correct a mechanical problem that led to instant results. From Sept. 1 on, League was 2-0 with a 0.55 earned-run average and six saves in six opportunities.