The Oakland Athletics have had a depleted bullpen for a couple years now, constantly cycling through random names to see if any stick. Dany Jimenez has been a rare bright spot for the team when he’s been healthy, looking at times like an elite major league closer. Though the injury bug bit his shoulder again in 2023, he finished the season strong as a setup man and solidified his role for next season.
Jimenez is a rare two-time Rule 5 draftee, having been taken 7th overall by the San Francisco Giants in 2019 and then again by the A’s in the second round of the 2020 draft. However, both times, the Bay Area teams lost patience and let him go back to his original team, the Toronto Blue Jays. The A’s clearly still liked him a lot as they signed to a minor league deal shortly after he became a free agent in October 2021.
What were the expectations?
Jimenez had a very promising rookie season in 2022, earning an Opening Day spot in the bullpen and quickly grabbing the closer role from Lou Trivino by the end of April. In his first 18 1⁄3 innings of the season, the righty looked like a major steal, pitching to a microscopic 0.49 ERA/2.02 FIP and striking out 19 batters along the way. Unfortunately, a few bad outings following that run derailed his stellar rookie campaign, culminating in a right shoulder strain that plagued him for the rest of the season. Going into 2023, Jimenez looked healthy and ready to build his way back towards the top of the bullpen hierarchy.
On Opening Day, Jimenez looked like he was picking up right where he left off in 2022, earning the A’s first save of the year against the Los Angeles Angels. However, his comeback barely lasted two weeks as he went back on the IL for the same right shoulder strain. This time, he was out until August at which point the A’s optioned him to AAA to continue getting him work in a low-pressure environment.
He finally got the call back up to the major league squad on August 20 and showed once again that he has what it takes to be a plus reliever. In 15 2⁄3 innings, he struck out 17 batters and worked to a strong 1.72 ERA/3.26 FIP. With Trevor May entrenched as the closer, Jimenez slotted in as Mark Kotsay’s go-to 8th inning guy. Even more importantly, he ended the season healthy and heads into 2024 with another solid run on his resume.
What went right? What went wrong?
Having now missed around 6 months over the past 2 seasons due to right shoulder problems, Jimenez may be developing an injury-prone reputation. However, when he’s pitching without discomfort, he looks at the very least like a legitimate setup man with a chance to be a closer. With the bullpen being probably the weakest aspect of the 2023 team, Jimenez’s late-season run was a huge boost for the team, which struggled all year to find anybody who could help them finish off wins.
The A’s bullpen once again looks like it’ll be another game of musical chairs. May retired, Sam Moll is on the Reds, and Zach Jackson is also coming off his lengthy injury issues. Unless the A’s sign a veteran reliever to close out games, Jimenez will likely compete with Lucas Erceg for first dibs on that role. If he can stay healthy, he’ll have a shot at becoming a real weapon for Kotsay to deploy at the end of games.