The Dodgers are close to an agreement on a major-league contract with right-handed pitcher Tom Koehler, who could aid the team’s bullpen while providing insurance for the rotation.
Koehler, 31, was non-tendered by Toronto earlier this month. He will still be under team control and eligible for arbitration for the 2019 season.
The signing fits a pattern of bullpen construction practiced under the leadership of president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. The team has found success in searching for undervalued assets with upside, and the organization believes itself capable of unlocking that hidden potential.
After signing Brandon Morrow to a minor-league contract before the 2017 season, the team saw Morrow flourish into closer Kenley Jansen’s primary setup man in October. Wary of further exceeding the luxury-tax threshold, the Dodgers allowed Morrow to sign with the Cubs this week and recommitted themselves to finding replacements.
Koehler spent four seasons as a starter with Miami before seeing his production crater for the Marlins in 2017. Traded to Toronto, Koehler posted a 2.65 earned-run average in 15 appearances, all but one of them as a reliever.
The Dodgers are expected to continue to mine the free-agent market for affordable options. They stayed on the sidelines as teams handed out multi-year contracts to relievers this past week at the winter meetings, and are not considered likely to make aggressive overtures for All-Star closers Wade Davis or Greg Holland. The team has proved capable of building a bullpen at a more affordable rate.