When the 2016 season ends, the Dodgers will have some questions to answer with their pending free agents, just like any other year. The biggest one this upcoming off-season will almost surely be closer Kenley Jansen.
Although it’s still a ways off, should the Dodgers be attempting to lock him up sooner, rather than later?
We all saw what happened when the Dodgers couldn’t re-sign Zack Greinke last year before he was able to opt out of his contract at season’s end. It opened up plenty of more options with different teams, which ultimately led to his departure. If the Dodgers’ intent is to indeed keep Jansen around after this year, perhaps trying to negotiate an extension sometime soon would be more advantageous.
This is, of course, assuming they’re adamant on bringing him back and are willing to give him the big payday that he’ll be in store for.
Since the new front office took over, it’s no secret they have an agenda for everything. Even with deep pockets in L.A., Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi bring over experience with the small market mindset, and have shown a desire to get the most “bang for your buck” when it comes to free agent signings.
That’s not to say they’re not willing to fork out big salaries as they see fit, but so far, they’ve stayed away from outlandish spending. Their first two full off-seasons didn’t see any big name signings, and although they apparently offered Greinke a sizable contract, they didn’t budge when it came to adding on that 6th year, which made all the difference.
So, what about Jansen? Do they value him enough to spend the money it will take to bring him back?
A lifetime Dodger since his debut in 2010, Jansen has been one of the best closers in the league over that span. He’s also been one of the few consistent bright spots in a Dodgers rotation that’s been somewhat shaky over the last few seasons. His last four years stats break down as follows:
2012: 25 Saves, 2.40 ERA, 13.7 K/9
2013: 28 25 Saves, 1.99 ERA, 13.0 K/9
2014: 44 25 Saves, 1.91 ERA, 13.9 K/9
2015: 36 25 Saves, 2.14 ERA, 13.8 K/9
He’s also seen his SV% rise each year, peeking last season at a 94% successful Save conversion rate. So far this season, Jansen has continued to dominate. Entering play today, he’s converted 9 of 9 save opportunities and just gave up his first run of the season Friday, raising his ERA to 0.84.
Certainly by his numbers alone, one would assume the Dodgers would like him back. But perhaps they believe the cost would be too high. Maybe the thought is that there’s other options available, and that kind of money would be better used elsewhere.
If that’s the case, who would the Dodgers turn to? The current alternatives on the Dodgers roster leave something to be desired. Pedro Baez? No thanks. Yimi Garcia? Naw. Chris Hatcher? Absolutely not. While all those guys could show improvements as they progress in their career, it’s probably not an ideal situation to rely on them as your closer by next year.
But maybe the Dodgers will look to bring someone else in. There’s plenty of good relievers on the market next year, including Aroldis Chapman, who the Dodgers already tried to trade for before the start of this season. But considering the circumstances around Chapman that prevented the trade from happening in the first place, it’s probably unlikely the team would pursue him again. And other than Chapman, I don’t think there’s another closer as good as Jansen on the market.
Of course, whether or not Jansen returns is not solely the Dodgers decision. He will also have a say in the matter, and the aforementioned Chapman saga may have not helped any. After the news broke about the pending trade, early reports hinted that Jansen wasn’t very happy about it. No one knew exactly how the Dodgers intended to use that combo, but having two premier closers would have presented some interesting questions, and may have caused some discontent for whoever was not closing out games.
There’s still plenty of time before now and season’s end, and even if the Dodgers don’t strike a deal with Jansen before then, it doesn’t mean they have no shot in the off-season. With that said, if they really want him back in 2017 and beyond, it might behoove them to act sooner, rather than later. And let’s hope that’s the case. With so many other possible questions facing the roster, it would sure be nice to not have to worry about the closer role. And with Jansen, we usually don’t.