Final Blue Jays free agent Dustin McGowan signs with Dodgers
Around these parts, there was some internal hope that the Toronto Blue Jays would find a way to bring back free agent reliever Dustin McGowan. Unfortunately, it appears the book has closed on that hope with news that McGowan appears to be close to signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers per MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick.
As Gurnick indicates, no deal has been announced by the club, but McGowan’s presence at the Dodgers’ Spring Training facility would seem to indicate that a contract could be in the works.
A deal with the Dodgers certainly makes a lot of sense. Los Angeles lost closer Kenley Jansen a few days earlier after the big right-hander had an abnormal growth removed from his foot. The surgery is expected to cost Jansen the first month of the season and has put the Dodgers back into the relief market with just a few days before the first work-outs of the spring. With a depth chart that includes former Mariners closer (and former Blue Jay) Brandon League, former Rays set-up man Joel Peralta, newly acquired Chris Hatcher, and holdover Pedro Baez, the Dodgers are simply looking to add depth at this point in the winter.
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The 32-year-old McGowan has spent his entire career in a Blue Jays uniform before the team declined their option for the 2015 season. The right-hander is coming off of a career-high 53 appearances, including 8 starts, but put together a lackluster 4.16 ERA and 5.02 FIP while watching his strike-outs fall by nearly 3 per nine innings pitched (6.7 in 2014).
Needless to say, Dustin McGowan isn’t likely to slide into the closer role in Los Angeles, even if only for one month, and he certainly isn’t going to make the Dodgers forget about Kenley Jansen for that month (44 saves, 2.76 ERA, 1.61 FIP, 13.9 K/9 last season). However, McGowan did pitch much better when he shifted back to the bullpen last season, posting a 3.35 ERA and watching his strike-outs climb from a pedestrian 5.8 K/9 as a starter to 7.5 as a reliever. Additionally, McGowan held hitters to a mediocre .205/.276/.321 slash-line during high-leverage situations in 2014.
As I mentioned in the lead, there was some hope among the fan base that the Blue Jays could find a way to bring McGowan back into the fold. Perhaps it was an uncomfortable feeling with the existing relief options or simply some residual loyalty towards a player that was once considered to have the best stuff in the Blue Jays system but was held back by injuries.
Regardless, the Blue Jays appear to be heading into camp with the collection of arms they have in hand and will allow competition to drive them to greater measures. Meanwhile, the one-time prince Dustin McGowan will be slinging in Dodger blue this season, a slightly different look than the one we are used to seeing on him.