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Dodgers

Dodgers Dugout: Why didn’t the Dodgers sign Craig Kimbrel?

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Craig Kimbrel
(David J. Phillip / AP)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and I’m looking forward to the Women’s World Cup.

Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel finally signed with someone this week. It wasn’t with the Dodgers. Why?

Kimbrel agreed to a three-year, $43-million deal with the Chicago Cubs, where he will become the closer. And that’s the key. Kimbrel wants to be a closer. He doesn’t want to be the setup man, or to share the job. He wants to be the closer. The Dodgers already have a closer. So, there really was very little chance the Dodgers would ever sign him. The only way it would have happened was if no team that needs a closer had offered him a deal.

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Now I can hear you saying that the Dodgers could have thrown a boatload of money at him and he would have signed. But maybe not. Kimbrel could be the type of guy who wants to be in key situations and will take less money to pitch the ninth rather than more money to pitch the eighth. Also, at what point do you draw the line? Do you offer him $20 million a season? So, no, signing Kimbrel was never a realistic option as much as many of us wanted it to be.

So, what does this mean for the Dodgers?

It should come as no shock to anyone, but the Dodgers are running the team like they have for a while now: They have a set roster with players who can play multiple positions. A deep rotation with pitchers they prefer not throw more than 100 pitches. A bullpen where they ride the hot hand (or hands) as the bridge to Kenley Jansen.

Only this season, the hot hands have been few and far between. The last two seasons, there were always a couple of relievers who were pitching great at different times during the season. Not the case this season. But with the team at 43-20 (the best record in baseball) and a division lead of 10 games, the need to address the bullpen hasn’t been an urgent need, something they needed to do to stay in the division race. They can afford to be patient and hope the bullpen works itself out.

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When it comes to the playoffs though, the Dodgers just can’t win that last step. Last season was their inexplicable love affair with reliever Ryan Madson. But you could also point to Cody Bellinger going one for 16, or to Clayton Kershaw going 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA. In 2017, Brandon Morrow had a brilliant season before his arm fell off in the World Series. But you could also point to Kershaw failing to hold onto a four-run lead and a three-run lead. Or Bellinger going four for 28 with 17 strikeouts. Or the Dodgers hitting .205 as a team.

So, while it would have been nice to sign Kimbrel, it would have guaranteed nothing. And when you try to convince yourself otherwise, keep in mind one important thing: When the Boston Red Sox needed someone to pitch the final inning of the Series-winning Game 5 last season, they didn’t turn to Kimbrel. Why? They had lost some faith in him because he had a horrible postseason, including giving up two runs to the Dodgers in Game 4. His postseason ERA was 5.91.

So, no, signing Kimbrel wouldn’t have guaranteed a thing. But, deep down, it would have been nice, right?

The draft

The Dodgers chose Tulane third baseman Kody Hoese and North Carolina second baseman Michael Busch in the first round of the draft earlier this week. You can see all of their draft picks by clicking here.

Hoese hit .391 in 58 games this season and was fourth in the nation with 23 homers. He also rates as a plus defensively. He compiled more walks (39) than strikeouts (34). He was named the American Athletic Conference player of the year and Baseball America ranked the 6-foot-4 third baseman as the 29th-best prospect in the draft.

Busch hit .294 with 16 home runs this season for the Tar Heels, but his season isn’t over as North Carolina is still competing for a spot in the College World Series.

Will these players become solid major leaguers? Who knows? So many things can happen. Let’s take a look at the Dodgers’ first-round draft picks since 2010 and see what happened to them.

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2018: J.T. Ginn, RHP, Brandon HS (Mississippi). did not sign, playing for Mississippi State.

2017: Jeren Kendall, OF, Vanderbilt. Hitting .210/.354/.383 with Class A Rancho Cucamonga this season.

2016: Gavin Lux, SS, Indian Trail HS (Wisconsin). Considered one of the team’s top prospects and is hitting .306/.364/.526 in double-A Tulsa.

2016: Will Smith, C, Louisville. One of the top catching prospects in baseball and made it to the majors this season.

2016: Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt. One of the team’s top prospects. Has gone 3-2 with a 1.82 ERA while splitting time between Rancho and Tulsa.

2015: Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt. Not sure what happened to him.

2015: Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville. Did not sign and returned to Louisville. Was drafted by Detroit in the fourth round the next year and is 0-3 with a 7.64 ERA at triple-A Toledo this season.

2014: Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway HS (South Carolina). Was traded in 2016 as part of the deal that brought Rich Hill to the Dodgers. Currently 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA at double-A Midland.

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2013: Chris Anderson, RHP, Jacksonville. Released by the Dodgers in 2017. Picked up by Minnesota, which released him after three minor-league games. Now out of baseball. Was 23-26 with a 4.75 ERA in his minors’ career.

2012: Corey Seager, SS, Northwest Cabarrus HS (North Carolina). No idea what happened to him.

2012: Jesmuel Valentin, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. Was traded to Philadelphia in 2014 for Roberto Hernandez. His .177 in 46 games with the Phillies last season and is now in the Orioles organization, hitting .190 in double A.

2011: Chris Reed, LHP, Stanford. Was traded to Miami in 2015 for Grant Dayton. Pitched in two games for the Marlins that season, finishing with a 4.50 ERA in four innings. Released by the Marlins in 2018 and now out of baseball.

2010: Zach Lee, RHP, McKinney HS (Texas). Was the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect, but got hammered in his one start with the team in 2015 (11 hits and seven runs in 4.2 innings). Was traded to Seattle in 2016 for Chris Taylor. Seattle put him on waivers and he was taken by San Diego. Pitched in three games for them in 2017 (5.63 ERA) and was released. Currently in the triple-A for the New York Mets, where he is 3-2 with a 6.07 ERA.

Let’s look at it another way. Since the draft began in 1965, the Dodgers have had 67 first-round picks (this includes supplemental picks the Dodgers received after losing a free agent). Let’s break down how well those players have done, listed by career WAR.

Hall of Famers (One of 67, 1.5%)

Clayton Kershaw, 65.3

Good major league careers (9 of 67, 13.4%)

Bob Welch, 43.7

Rich Rhoden, 35.3

Rick Sutcliffe, 33.9

Paul Konerko, 27.7

Mike Scioscia, 26.1

Chad Billingsley, 17.2

Corey Seager, 15.2

James Loney, 12.1

Steve Howe, 10.3

Average major league careers (11 of 67, 16.4%)

Tom Goodwin, 8.6

Darren Dreifort, 7.8

Dave Anderson, 5.7

Walker Buehler, 3.7 (he will rise to good quickly)

Franklin Stubbs, 2.7

Bryan Morris, 2.5

Bobby Valentine, 2.0

Blake DeWitt, 1.9

Scott Elbert, 1.5

Chris Withrow, 1.5

Jason Repko, 1.2

Below average major league careers (12 of 67, 17.9%)

Chris Reed, 0.0

Jamie McAndrew, -0.1

Mark Bradley, -0.2

Terry McDermott, -0.3

Damian Rolls, -0.3

Zach Lee, -0.3

Ethan Martin, -0.5

Ross Jones, -0.6

Ben Diggins, -0.7

Jesmuel Valentin, -0.8

Chris Gwynn, -1.4

Bubba Crosby, -1.6

Never made the majors (24 of 67, 35.8%)

John Wyatt

Lawrence Hutton

Donnie Denbow

Jim Haller

John Harbin

Ted Farr

Steve Perry

Erik Sonberg

Dennis Livingston

Mike White

Dan Opperman

Bill Bene

Kiki Jones

Ron Walden

Mike Moore

Ryan Luzinski

David Yocum

Glenn Davis

Greg Miller

Justin Orenduff

Preston Mattingly

James Adkins

Aaron Miller

Chris Anderson

Too soon to tell (7 of 67, 10.4%)

Grant Holmes

Jordan Sheffield

Gavin Lux

Jeren Kendall

Will Smith

Michael Busch

Kody Hoese

Did not sign with Dodgers (3 of 67, 4.5%)

Kyle Funkhouser

J.T. Ginn

Luke Hochevar

Comparison

Comparing the Dodgers through 63 games this season to the same number of games the last two seasons:

2019: 43-20, .265/.348 OB%/.468 SLG%, 5.40 runs per game, 3.38 ERA, 39 IRS%

2018: 32-31, .243/.321/.420, 4.79 runs per game, 3.75 ERA, 34 IRS%

2017: 38-25, .249/.329/.412, 4.76 runs per game, 3.15 ERA, 25 IRS%

In case you missed it

The Dodgers activated Austin Barnes from the disabled list Wednesday and sent Will Smith to the minors. The theory: it’s better for Smith to play daily in the minors rather than occasionally backing up Barnes and Russell Martin.

Ask Joe Davis

Dodgers TV broadcaster Joe Davis will answer your questions again this season. Just click here to email me with your question for Joe. I will pass selected questions on to him and he will answer in a future newsletter. Thanks. And thanks to Joe for taking part.

Ask Ross Porter

Ross Porter will once again answer reader questions this season. All you have to do is email me your question at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. I will forward the email to Ross, and he will answer some each week. Take it away, Ross.

Justin Stafford of Oslo, Norway asks: Who are some of your favorite baseball play-by-play announcers?

Ross: Joe Davis, Dan Shulman and Joe Buck.

Bob Saxon asks: I’m curious why so many of the international players on the Dodgers don’t speak English on interviews. Do the Dodgers encourage them to learn English or offer them classes/tutors?

Ross: The Dodgers do offer assistance. All Spanish speaking players coming out of Campo Las Palmas in the Dominican Republic receive English lessons. Most foreign-born players feel more comfortable using an interpreter.

Jack Bishop asks: What is the official strike zone?

Ross: The area between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants to a point just below the kneecap.

Marc Rosenberg of Sydney, Australia asks: If a batter needs a triple to hit for the cycle and he slugs his second home run, can he stop at third base?

Ross: No. Rule 4.01 (e) says, “After a home run is hit out of the playing grounds, the umpire shall not deliver a new ball to the pitcher or the catcher until the batter hitting the home run has crossed the plate.” Source: baseball-reference.com.

Dick Smith of Woodland Hills asks: What do major league umpires earn?

Ross: Between $150,000 and $475,000. Their contract with major league baseball expires later this year.

You can follow Ross on Twitter: @therossporter

TV schedule

KTLA will televise one more Dodger games during the season:

Saturday, June 15, vs. Chicago Cubs, 6 p.m.

Up next

All times Pacific

Tonight: Dodgers (*Clayton Kershaw) at San Francisco (*Drew Pomeranz), 7:15 p.m.

Saturday: Dodgers (*Rich Hill) at San Francisco (Jeff Samardzija), 4:15 p.m.

Sunday: Dodgers (Walker Buehler) at San Francisco (*Madison Bumgarner), 1 p.m.

*left-handed

Scheduling alert

I will be off the next two weeks (hey, stop clapping), so we will pick thing back up the week of June 23.

And finally

Will Smith hits a walkoff homer for the Dodgers. Watch it here.

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston.


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