Kenley Jansen is the best closer in Dodgers history. At least that’s what the stats suggest. This season has been a historic one for Jansen. He made his first All-Star game and he’s notched 27 saves thus far, putting him on pace to break his career-high of 44 in 2014.

Jansen’s 1.16 ERA would be a personal best. His 51:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio demonstrates his exceptional combination of power and control. He’s allowed just five runs on the year, and only one ball has been hit out of the park. Jansen’s 1.34 FIP indicates he’s pitching the best in his life.

And all this is in a contract year.

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Los Angeles’ stance on Jansen has been questionable. The team clearly hasn’t viewed his contract situation as urgent, but maybe it should. Kansas City validated the need for a strong bullpen during its World Series run. Letting Jansen walk would be a potential train wreck to the Dodgers. He isn’t an easily replaceable player, and the money saved likely wouldn’t be put into a better resource.

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The bullpen has been very hit and miss in 2016 despite a misleading ERA. The Dodgers needn’t test it next year by letting Jansen walk. That’s where the circumstances get sticky.

Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reported Monday that executives believe Jansen is looking at a five-year deal with the highest annual salary for a closer in baseball history.

The current record is held by Mariano Rivera at $45 million over three years ($15M per season).  Our own Jeremy Evans broke down the numbers and comparable players, which paints a vivid picture of what to expect.

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For the sake of discussion, we’ll guesstimate Jansen’s salary at $80 million over five years, or $16 million per season. Los Angeles has the money. Jansen is the best at his position in franchise history. Yet he appears destined to hit the market.

Which begs the question: What does Jansen have to do to be re-signed? The simple answer is to continue at his current rate. There are no red flags to predict a regression in the second half. Assuming Jansen continues mowing down the opposition as the Dodgers qualify for the playoffs, it’ll be a tough sell if one of the richest franchises in America let’s him leave for nothing but a draft pick (which this regime does seemingly value).

Jansen isn’t a flash in the pan. He is a proven, top five closer. Those aren’t in abundance.

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If he hits free agency, the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants would make sense. If Jansen left L.A. to sign with the Giants, that won’t reflect well on fan morale or in the standings.

Point is: There will be big market suitors. A $16M/per price might be his floor. If the Dodgers can get him to sign for that, it needs to be done tomorrow. Like Zack Grienke, it only takes one team to drastically overpay. With so many desperate for relief reinforcements, it’s not ludicrous to image a team submitting an $18 million or higher bid. It sounds ridiculous on the surface, but the direction of contracts is trending that way.

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This is a player with a 2.16 ERA since he’s cracked the Majors. For perspective, Mariano Rivera had a 2.63 ERA in his first seven seasons (though that number is inflated by a 5.51 ERA his rookie year, and Rivera’s save total obliterates Jansen’s). But the fact the two are even close to comparable in any stat is a testament to Jansen’s career.

The Andrew Friedman regime has proven it shies away from heavy commitments, as pointed out by Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Greinke, trading Matt Kemp, cutting Carl Crawford, signing Scott Kazmir instead of a Johnny Cueto or David Price. Putting $80 million into a closer would go against that philosophy.

On the other side of the coin, being conservative has gotten the team nowhere when it matters. The setback produced by Jansen’s departure would be more detrimental than him flaming out two years into a big contract. At this point, it seems only an injury could slow him down in the near future. Now is the time to win.

L.A. has the best pitcher in the sport, a MVP-candidate 22-year-old, an awakening offense, a 19-year-old pitching phenom, a No. 1 ranked farm system and one of the best closers in the game. Don’t interrupt that.

The Yankees kept Rivera because they knew his value and had the funds to reward him handsomely. If Jansen was on the Brewers or A’s, this is a challenging situation; but he’s not.

He’s a Dodger and the franchise should make him its own Rivera.

Then one day, perhaps Jansen is closing out a final World Series game for the boys in blue.

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About The Author

News Desk

Gabe Burns is an award-winning journalist. He serves as a reporter and editor at the DodgersNation news desk. He additionally works as editor-in-chief of The Spectator, Valdosta State University's student paper. Gabe's work has been featured on a number of platforms, including Draft Breakdown and Pro Football Spot. His byline has been cited in media such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. Aside from covering Dodgers baseball, Gabe enjoys watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Orlando Magic and Tampa Bay Lightning. He can be followed on Twitter at @GabeBurns_DN.

8 Responses

  1. movonup

    Absofuckinglutely, but don’t bet on it. This is the era of #Guggengreed.

    Reply
  2. jsportwood7

    One hundred percent in agreement on this. A good closer is hard to find, and Jansen is better than good. I think for too many execs think closers are a dime a dozen and that is simply not true.

    Reply

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