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Dodgers and Corey Knebel avoid arbitration, agree on one-year, $5.25-million deal

Corey Knebel winds up for a pitch on the mound.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ Corey Knebel throws during a practice session July 13.
(Morry Gash / Associated Press)

The Dodgers avoided arbitration with reliever Corey Knebel on Thursday, agreeing to terms with the veteran right-hander on a one-year, $5.25-million deal a day before Friday’s deadline for arbitration-eligible players and teams to exchange 2021 salary figures.

Knebel, 29, was acquired Dec. 2 from the Milwaukee Brewers for a player to be named after a subpar 2020 season in which he compiled a 6.08 ERA in 15 games. He allowed nine earned runs on 15 hits, including four homers, struck out 15 and walked eight in 13 1/3 innings.

Knebel was an All-Star closer in 2017, when he notched 39 saves and a 1.78 ERA, striking out 126 and walking 40 in 76 innings of a league-high 76 appearances, and a reliable setup man in 2018, when he went 4-3 with a 3.58 ERA and 16 saves in 57 appearances.

But he missed the entire 2019 season because of Tommy John surgery and struggled to regain the velocity of his fastball in 2020, when his signature pitch dropped from an average of 97.4 mph in 2017 and 96.9 mph in 2018 to 94.4 mph last season.

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Knebel will get a slight raise from the $5.125-million salaries he was paid in each of his first two arbitration years. He will be a free agent after the 2021 season.

Knebel’s fastball showed a slight uptick in velocity after returning from a hamstring injury in September. The defending World Series-champion Dodgers, who have been aggressive in their pursuit of underperforming veteran relievers, are confident that with good health Knebel will rebound in 2021 and fortify a deep bullpen that also includes Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol, Victor González, Adam Kolarek and Joe Kelly.

The Dodgers also avoided arbitration with reliever Dylan Floro, agreeing to terms with the right-hander on a one-year, $975,000 contract. Floro, 30, went 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA in 25 games last season, striking out 19 and walking four in 24 1/3 innings.

The team has five remaining arbitration-eligible players who, if they don’t come to terms, will exchange salary figures on Friday: shortstop Corey Seager, center fielder Cody Bellinger, pitchers Walker Buehler, Julio Urías and catcher Austin Barnes.

One Dodgers pitcher who won’t be returning in 2021 is free-agent left-hander Alex Wood, who signed a one-year, $3-million deal that includes an additional $3 million in incentives with the National League West-rival San Francisco Giants.

Wood, who pitched out of the rotation and bullpen in four-plus seasons with the Dodgers, went 0-1 with a 6.39 ERA in nine games — two of them starts —in 2020, but he capped an injury plagued and disappointing season by throwing two hitless innings with three strikeouts in a 3-1 World Series-clinching win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Oct. 27.


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