Dodgers re-sign Ryan Brasier, trade Caleb Ferguson in corresponding move

Dodgers relief pitcher Ryan Brasier throws against the Angels on July 7, 2023, in Los Angeles.

Days before pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Arizona, the Dodgers’ bullpen situation became a little more clear Monday.

The team and veteran reliever Ryan Brasier agreed to a two-year, $9-million contract, according to a person with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly, to keep the right-hander in Los Angeles after his resurgent performance last season.

In a related move, the Dodgers also traded left-hander Caleb Ferguson to the New York Yankees.

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Brasier, 36, returns to the Dodgers after emerging as the club’s top set-up man over the second half of last season. Originally an Angels draft pick who spent most of his seven-year MLB career with the Boston Red Sox, Brasier was released by Boston last May following early-season struggles and signed with the Dodgers in June.

In Los Angeles, he added a cutter that reinvigorated his pitching arsenal, then quickly established himself as one of the team’s most trusted relievers, giving up just three earned runs in 39 total outings (good for a minuscule 0.70 ERA).

While his re-signing didn’t come until the end of the offseason, the sides expressed mutual interest in a reunion all winter. In addition to the $9 million of guaranteed salary, Brasier’s deal also includes incentives based on relief appearances that could raise its total value to $13 million.

Ferguson, 27, never quite reached the same heights as Brasier during a five-year tenure with the Dodgers. Though the former 38th-round draft pick managed an unexpected rise to the big leagues and posted a solid 3.43 ERA over his time with the team (which included a year-long recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2021), he battled inconsistency in high-leverage situations last year, failing to ever fully separate himself as the club’s top left-handed reliever.

Dodgers relief pitcher Caleb Ferguson works against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 27, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla.

With Brasier back and Ferguson gone, the Dodgers' bullpen hierarchy now seems to be falling into place.

Evan Phillips remains the most trusted back-end option, in line to reprise his role as the closer after earning 24 saves last year. Brasier and fellow right-hander Brusdar Graterol figure to highlight the club’s other primary high-leverage options. Joe Kelly was re-signed earlier in the winter, giving the team another hard-throwing weapon on the back end.

Alex Vesia is now the only late-inning lefty remaining from last year’s team — though the Dodgers acquired another MLB-experienced southpaw, Matt Gage, from the Yankees in exchange for Ferguson. Gage has given four earned runs in 19⅔ innings with the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros the last two years.

The Dodgers also acquired Christian Zazueta, a 19-year-old pitching prospect in the Yankees’ Dominican Summer League affiliate, in the deal.

Monday's news was first reported by the New York Post.

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Even without a clear top left-hander last year, the Dodgers bullpen held up well against left-handed hitters. According to Fangraphs, the team had the third-lowest batting average against when facing lefty hitters in “high leverage” situations, with a .207 mark. Braiser, Graterol and Phillips were particularly effective in such spots, each holding left-handed hitters to a sub-.225 average last year (better marks than either Ferguson or Vesia).

It means, even with a relative lack of left-handed options, the Dodgers might be comfortable trusting their core group of right-handers to handle batters on either side of the plate late in games.

It was a plan that helped the team finish last year with one of the hottest bullpens in the majors — and one they seem to be planning to replicate going into 2024.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.