Could the next Colorado Rockies closer come from the Dodgers?
By Kevin Henry
The Colorado Rockies are reportedly looking for bullpen help this offseason, including the possibility of a new closer. Could a key player for the 2021 Los Angeles Dodgers be an excellent fit for the ninth inning?
In an article on Monday in The Athletic (subscription required), Jim Bowden discusses some of the Dodgers who may or may not be back with the team when the 2022 season begins. On the fence is right-hander Corey Knebel who, as Bowden writes, had a successful season in Los Angeles, “posting a 2.45 ERA in 27 appearances, a WHIP of 0.974, and three saves, bringing his career total to 60.”
Bowden goes on to mention in his analysis that, while the Dodgers will likely try to keep the 29-year-old reliever, he could also head to a team that would offer him a long-term contract and the opportunity to be the team’s closer.
This is where the Colorado Rockies could enter the picture.
Why the Colorado Rockies and Corey Knebel could be a fit
Knebel has pitched very well when he has taken the mound at Coors, with the Rockies slashing .143/.189/.257 against him in 10.1 innings of work. During that time, he’s allowed five hits and posted a 0.87 ERA. That includes a 2021 campaign where Colorado went 1-for-15 against him overall, including 0-for-7 at Coors Field.
There are other factors as well. He also has a ground ball tendency (45.0 percent career-wise, including 45.2 last season). Additionally, his experience pitching in Colorado also extends back to his Triple-A days with the Milwaukee Brewers when he suited up for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. In 2016, in 11 games with 13.2 innings spread among them, Knebel allowed opponents to hit just .122 and had a 0.59 WHIP.
Back to last season, one of Knebel’s biggest weapons was his curveball, a pitch he threw a career-high 41.9 percent of the time according to BaseballSavant.com. It was a pitch he used to get the save in a game of 2021’s opening series at Coors Field against the Rockies.
Knebel will, of course, come with a price tag. He made $5.5 million last season in a one-year deal with the Dodgers and could well be looking at more per season after a successful stint in Dodger blue this year (statistics above plus a FIP of 2.90 and ERA+ of 169).
Certainly signing any reliever to a long-term deal can be dicey in Colorado (see the overall stats of Bryan Shaw, Mike Dunn, Wade Davis, Jake McGee, and others as recent examples). However, if the Rockies are looking to bring in outside help in the form of a veteran pitcher who has enjoyed personal and team success, Knebel could well be a fit.