The Los Angeles Dodgers reset for 2017 with the important signings of free agents Rich Hill, Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen. On Monday, news broke out stating 29-year-old Kenley Jansen agreed to a 5-year / $80 million contract with an opt-out after three years with the Dodgers. Jansen, who also received competitive offers from the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins, is the second highest paid reliever behind newly signed New York Yankees reliever, Aroldis Chapman. Jensen’s signing unfolded in a curious way and it will have a profound effect on the bullpen, but how will it affect the Dodgers’ finances going forward? 

Cue “I Love LA” By Randy Newman

As expected, Jansen was sought after by many teams who were willing and able to get close to his high demands. The Washington Nationals reportedly offered Jansen higher than what he agreed to with the Dodgers. The Marlins reportedly had the better sell for Jansen with Don Mattingly as manager and former teammates Dee Gordon and A.J. Ellis also in the pitch, had an eye-opening offer of more than $80 million for five years. The money was certainly there for the taking. However, as we have come to find out, the biggest factor for Jansen was following his heart.

On Tuesday, Jansen’s agent Adam Katz mentioned on MLB Radio “we were instructed to explore positions and explore the market, at the beginning.” With the Marlins offering a better deal economically considering state taxes, Katz mentions they considered the serious offers from the Nationals and Marlins as the front runners.

Yet, something changed during the month of December. Jansen got married and was reunited with some of his teammates pictured below. Katz mentions in the interview “we seemed to pivot over the weekend, and we were instructed to get the deal done,” referring to the Dodgers. Katz mentions he doesn’t know if it was the fact he was with his teammates or talks that went on, but there was some effect at Jansen’s wedding that convinced him to return to Los Angeles.

Dodgers News: Kenley Jansen’s Agent Says Wedding “Pivoted” Decision

Jansen wants to be with his teammates with the city he knows.

You can hear more of the short interview, here

Jansen Backs up a League Leading Bullpen

The Dodgers bullpen ranked atop of the list among Major League Baseball teams in 2016. The relief unit outperformed the rest of the league with a 3.35 ERA, a .221 AVG, 633 strikeouts and 1.16 WHIP this past season.

In his article “There’s never been a team like these Dodgers — ever,” Jayson Stark wrote, “Manager Dave Roberts set another record, making an unprecedented 606 pitching changes. Meaning this guy logged more mileage, just going back and forth to the mound, than your average Uber driver.

Now, I’m not sure what that mileage adds up to be and I’d be curious what the number really is, but we certainly know that the bullpen and depth of this roster was the leading topic of discussion for many.

With Jansen returning, the bullpen lay out finds a little more certainty. A few other options are on the market, and one of the first options is relief pitcher Joe Blanton. Not many are fond of Blanton right now, and we know why. But, considering the Marlins are rumored to take their Kenley-snubbed offer to Joe Blanton, you have to consider the value Blanton brings to the team. The starting pitcher turned relief pitcher and set-up man produced 2.48 ERA striking out a quarter of batters faced this past season. Should Blanton re-sign with the Dodgers, look for him to repeat as setup relief pitcher to Kenley Jansen.

If Blanton does not return, an option many have been talking about is Greg Holland. The two time All-Star from the Kansas City Royals has garnered interest from multiple clubs, however, the terms may not be suitable for the Dodgers. Ken Rosenthal recently tweeted the Dodgers are looking for a free agent that would sign for one-year instead of a multi-year contract.

Holland underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2015. Dodgers may be setup for a bargain in a two-year contract should they still be interested later this off-season in Holland per MLB TradeRumors, here. Unless Holland will agree to a one-year price suitable to his asking price, look to the rest of the bullpen to fill in the set-up man spot as of now.

Whether anyone on the roster would fill-in as the set-up man from this bullpen relies on many options. One of the options is Grant Dayton, who saw action this season with 26 innings pitches while striking out 39 of 101 batters faced. Dayton can see some innings as a setup man, with Pedro Baez and newly acquired reliever Vida Nuno.

Cumulatively, the Dodgers bullpen ranks first followed by Yankees, Cubs and Indians. As we know, the Cleveland Indians are led by Andrew Miller. The Giants have reinforced their bullpen by adding closer Mark Melancon. Teams have put more focus on strengthening the end of their bullpen staff, however, the Dodgers have remained up top with the resigning of Jensen.

Lean Mass Roster Building

The Dodgers are the top paying organization in Major League Baseball, followed by the New York Yankees. Kenley Jansen marks the biggest free agent signing for President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman since Friedman started with the Dodgers in 2014. Along with Justin Turner and Rich Hill this offseason, the total amount of all three signing as we have seen is $192 million.

At first glance, this does not fit the philosophy of a front office many have been questioning. However, taking a closer look at the deals as structured and with the new CBA outlined recently, it appears the Dodgers are maintaining their leading payroll position in Major League Baseball while adding some lean muscle. The Dodgers are set to win now in the short term, but also prepared for what is to come in the long term.

As our fellow writer Jeremy Evans pointed out in his article regarding the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, one of the important things to note is the new luxury tax formula. The new luxury tax formula threshold goes from $189 million in the prior CBA in 2016 to $195 million in 2017, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $208 million in 2020, and $210 million in 2021. The Dodgers spent an estimated $250 million on their payroll this past season, meaning the Dodgers paid roughly $30 million in luxury tax. However, as mentioned by Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Timesit is reported that the tax luxury penalties will not take effect until the 2018 season. So what does this mean for next season with the signing? It has also been reported in the same article that the luxury tax formula will apply to an average of what the team would have paid under the former CBA and the new CBA for the 2017 season.

Per the table below and as mentioned in the article by Bill Shaikin, the Dodgers paid an estimated $30.5 in luxury tax based on a $250 million dollar payroll. Since the new agreement takes effect in 2018, the 2017 tax is averaged with the 2016 tax luxury threshold and surcharges. With the recent signings, it appears the Dodgers will be running about the same payroll at $250 million. Per the new CBA, the Dodgers would pay about $36.5 in luxury tax entering the 2018 season. Averaging 2016 and 2017, the Dodgers would spend $3 million more than what they previously paid in 2016. As Bill Shaikin point out, this is tip money for the highest paying ball club.

Year Threshold (amount in millions) Tax Surcharges (for every dollar spent over threshold)
2016 $189 M %50 on every dollar over $189
2017 $195 M %50 on every dollar over $195. Plus –

%12 on every dollar between $215M and $235M

%45 on every dollar over $235 M

2018 $197 M %50 on every dollar over $195. Plus –

%12 on every dollar between $215M and $235M

%45 on every dollar over $235 M

The grid above demonstrates the tax breakdown up to the 2018. The end of 2018 is expected to be a big free agent season for Major League Baseball with names such as Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson and even Clayton Kershaw if he opts out of his current contract. The Dodgers by then will have expiring contracts for Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy which will allow them to bring up top prospects such as Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo and Willie Calhoun. As such, the next two years,  you can expect the Dodgers to pony up the tax payments. However, given the status of current contracts entering the 2019 season, it appears the Dodgers are built to maybe a high-profiled free agent as well as formulate a winning young team.

As of now, let’s give our front office some credit. The signing of Rich Hill, Justin Turner and Kenley Jensen help solidify the core of this ball club. As fans, we could not be more appreciative Jensen chose to stay. Remember, a closer is only as good as he’s being used, so let’s support the team as they set him up for success to come.

Dodgers News: Kenley Jansen’s Contract Contains Opt-Out

About The Author

Hugo Alexander Maida is a Los Angeles native residing in San Diego. He is member of the Sports Law Fellowship Program with the Center for Sports Law and Policy at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. If he was granted one wish to meet any Los Angeles Dodgers player, it would be Jackie Robinson!

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