One of the highlighted players on the Dodgers team this postseason has been none other than Kenley Jansen. The 6 foot 5 closer has been instrumental for the club both in the division series against the Washington Nationals and in the current National League Conference series against the Cubs.
Jansen earned his first post season save this year against the Nationals in game 1 with a 5 out 1.2 inning that put the Dodgers ahead in the series early on. Jansen was further instrumental in a must win game 4 where he strikeout two to earn his second save. Capping off what would be one of the most exciting series in history in a Dodgers postseason series against a very well coached Nationals team, Jansen was able to lift his club with a 51-pitch outing to set up Clayton Kershaw and surpass the Nationals in Game 5 to more forward to the National League Conferences Series. In what has been a cementing season for former catcher, the future looks bright for Jansen with hopes that he remains in a Dodgers uniform this upcoming offseason.
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As a free agent this upcoming winter, teams along with the Dodgers will be looking to lock Jansen down. Over the course of his career, Jansen has accumulated a total of 189 saves, 632 strikeouts, 408 innings pitched that earned him his first all star appearance this past summer. The 2016 season has been his best season thus far. Tied for second in the regular season for most saves at 47 behind New York Mets’ Jeurys Familia (51) and the Baltimore Orioles’ Zach Britton (47), Jansen has surpassed former Dodger Eric Gagne for the all-time leader in saves with a total of 189 and a cumulative ERA 2.20. Jansen has also seen time as a reliever but has put himself in a position to maybe the definite closer for the Dodgers in seasons to come.
General Managers and front officers leave the contract talks and negotiations out of the media. However, with some speculation, it looks like Jansen along with other game closers may set the record for the average annual salary. Jansen has earned $10,650,000 this year. At the age of 29, Jansen may surpass the average annual salary for a relief pitcher compared to other notable closers such as Mariano Rivera (2008 3 year deal for $45 million) and Jonathan Papelbon (After 2011, 4-year $50 million). It will be up to the Dodgers to figure out the right match with Jansen and his representatives, however, we’ll have to wait and find out to see how that pans out.
Jansen does have the liberty to go elsewhere. Yes, yes I know. As Dodger fans we would like to see him stay here. Personally, I like hearing “California Love” as his entrance song. However, realistically talking, the Dodgers may need to search for other option if they do not match the offer or request by Jansen. Other viable options include current Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman, most recently Nationals closer Mark Melancon, and Detroit Tigers’ Francisco Rodriguez. Yet, Jansen’s recent performance should make the front office’s decision more inclined to work out a deal.
Jansen and Chapman are nearly identical. Over the course of their careers, Jansen has accumulated 189 saves to Chapman’s 182 at the end of this regular season. Jansen has allowed more hits and HRs than Chapman, yet, Jansen edges out Chapman in the WHIP category sitting 0.67 while Chapman sits at 0.86. Chapman settled for a 1 year $11.33M salary earlier this year where he started the season as the Yankees closer. Although Chapman makes slightly more than Jansen at the moment and has the high-profile 100+ fastball, Jansen does provide some more power where Jansen can close a game with a 6-out save.
Another free agent this upcoming winter is Mark Melancon. Having just pitched a a great series against the Dodgers most recently, Melancon is 31 years old. Over the course of their career, Jansen also edges out Melancon in the WHIP, Strikeouts and Saves categories. Melacon, a four time All Star and candiate for the Cy Young award, also provides a variety of pitches with the four-seam fastball, curveball, changeup and most recently added cutter. It would be interesting to see if the Dodgers pursue this closer.
One more player to look at is Francisco Rodriguez. The oldest out of the above mentioned closer, K-Rod has accumulated a career 430 saves and been named an all-star six times, a Cy Young candidate and an MVP candidate. Similarly to the previous two comparisons, Jansen has outperformed Rodriguez in the WHIP category. However, Rodriguez’s longer career has boosted his number to be a viable candidate should the Dodgers not match Jansen’s request.
Ultimately, Jansen should remain in a Dodgers uniform and there’s no doubt the front office will make every effort to meet that need. He has developed from being a catcher to one of the the game prolific’s closers with a skill set that is unique amongst closers today. As we witnessed in game 5 of the National League Division series, Jansen can provide the flexibility to come in as a closer in the 8th inning. Dodgers fan could not be any more happy with him on this team. As the series enters a critical game 6, let’s wait and see if we can get the ball to Jansen so he can lead us onto the next series and continue to cement his place in Dodgers baseball history.