The Los Angeles Dodgers have had two major pitching constants over the last several seasons. One of them is starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw. The other one is closer Kenley Jansen. Kershaw is locked up to a long-term deal, but Jansen is currently set to become a free agent at the end of 2016.
If the Dodgers want to actually be successful in the future, having a lights out closer is one surefire way to ensure that your team wins their share of games. While you can definitely be a winning ball club without a traditional closer, you still need someone you can rely upon to get the job done. That’s Kenley Jansen. But you have to pay him.
Jansen, 29 in September, may be the game’s best reliever. The Dodgers’ closer boasts massive strikeout rates, and he added a career-best walk rate last year. Jansen is practically unhittable, and he doesn’t come with the off-field baggage Chapman does. Jonathan Papelbon’s record four-year, $50MM contract for relievers could fall, as it’s possible Jansen could land a five-year deal.
Last season, Jansen racked up 80 strikeouts in 52.1 innings and walked just 8 batters. Over the last four seasons, the hulking right-hander has a 2.33 ERA, 133 saves, and 391 strikeouts in 259.1 innings. He’s averaging a ridiculous 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and a befuddling 5.84 strikeouts to walks ratio. He’s ungodly.
However, as unbelievable as he is, Jansen does not possess a contract that extends him beyond the 2016 season, and that makes him a prime free agent candidate that other teams would love to swoop in and steal. After all, he might just be the best reliever in the game, as Dierkes writes.
Paying Jansen seems like a no-brainer, and it should be, so it will be interesting to watch as the season goes along. Will the team offer him an extension? Or will they just ride it out and see if he can sign a deal in the offseason? One thing is for certain, though. They absolutely cannot let him walk away.