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Dodgers: Could This Be Kenley Jansen’s Final Season In Los Angeles?

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 31: Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium on May 31, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

Some two years ago, Kenley Jansen signed a 5-year, $80 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Moreover – many at that time figured this would be Jansen’s final spot as a professional – running out of the bullpen to ‘California Love’ until the sun sets on a career.

However, there is a proverbial elephant in the room in regards to Jansen’s contract. Namely, pay attention to the last sentence in the first paragraph from the original MLB.com news article.

LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers on Tuesday confirmed the signing of free-agent closer Kenley Jansen, who received a five-year, $80 million deal to remain with the club. Jansen also has an opt-out after three years.

What this means, is Kenleys is free to opt-out of his contract at the conclusion of the 2019 season to seek greener (or less blue) pastures.

Will he or won’t he? Furthermore, should we care? We pen this article to ask the questions.

Do We Want Kenley Jansen To Finish His Contract in Los Angeles?

The closer has three years remaining on his current deal. Equally important – I think it’s fair to consider Jansen a ‘drawing card’ at this stage in his career. He brings a presence, he is an icon; there has not been an experience of a closer entering a ballgame since Mariano Rivera’s ‘Enter Sandman’ routine that rivals when Kenleys enters to shut one down in the ninth.

Then again, is this really enough to desire him to get through the remainder of the deal? To know the answer to that, we must look back on the short past. That past is no further back than 2018 – the toughest year of Jansen’s big league career.

Was 2018 an Outlier Year, or the New Norm?

Jansen’s 2018 was stormy. However, looking back at his career stats; it appears that it could just be a simple outlier year. The closer faced health problems, the birth of a child, and overuse in the 2017 postseason that may have carried over. Still, the Dodgers need to learn if Jansen can be depended upon to be the guy from 2011 to 2017. If so – they have one of the top stoppers in the entire game. On the negative side, a repeat subpar year could bring about further questions.

Jansen allowed 13 home runs, and finished with a 3.01 ERA; both highs for his career. Furthermore, his strikeouts-per-nine dropped to the lowest of his career (10.3). These numbers will need to trend in a different direction for a better holistic outcome.

To emphasize, if Jansen has a similar year to 2018; it could make an opt-out a tough decision. Why would Jansen want to enter the open market and come off a healthy contract coming off two poor seasons?

Truly, the best of all outcomes is if the Southern California closer continues to be the guy he’s been known to be over his large body of work. Less questions will arise that way – both for Jansen and the organization. Another monster season could bring about Jansen testing the open market. If that happens, the Dodgers will need a contingency plan in place.

Options For Closer Beyond 2019

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Joe Kelly this offseason to a three-year contract. Now, pay particular attention to the language within the contract. This was built in by Kelly and his agent – and the Dodgers – for a reason.

See that ‘games finished’ clause? Yep. That’s the money line in the contract, literally. This could also be considered ‘closer’s money’ if viewed by the right eyes.

I believe that the Dodgers did this as insurance against a Jansen tailspin, and you should believe it too. Of course, Kelly is just one of a myriad of options who could develop into the roll if called upon. However, it is important to remember that Kelly has these incentives in his contract that could come into play if he happens upon the role of stopper. He’s being as paid as handsomely as any set-up man in baseball. What is the reason?

One year from now, we will know the answers to much questioned within this column.

[button link=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/dodgers-news-stan-kasten-speaks-at-fanfest-and-many-fans-are-not-happy/2019/01/28/” type=”big”] Stan Kasten Speaks At FanFest[/button]

Written by Clint Evans

Clint lives in Ohio, and played collegiate baseball. He loves the Dodgers due to his first memories of Chavez Ravine when he was nine years old. The voice of Vin Scully has been a staple in his life since he was a kid. No amount of baseball talk is ever enough, and he wishes the regular season was year round. He has written about baseball online since 2007.

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  1. Jansen must have a great, injury free 2019 season to even consider opting out of the guaranteed $38MM ($18MM in 2020 and $20MM in 2021) remaining on his contract. Hard to imagine another team offering him more $ and more years considering his health and age (he will be 32.5 opening day 2020) and the loss of a draft pick as the Dodgers will undoubtedly make a QO if he has a great 2019 season

    • First, I agree with SoCal’s analysis posted above; it is right on point. Second, lets worry more about this season in which we will monitor the progress or lack thereof of KJ. Lets now focus on adding those players needed to get us through 2019, and in the process, reduce the number of innings that KJ will be called upon to work. Go Blue Crew!!!

  2. If KJ even notches 35 plus saves, he will opt out and seek more years for less money per year. Thinking maybe 4 to 5 years at $13 mill a year.

  3. I agree with you guys. Remember, Kenley had better offers but opted to stay with players and an environment he loves. Please don’t create a problem where there is none. It’s just smart to have a back up closer like Kelly.

  4. I agree 100% with Daniel P. Jansen wants to be a Dodger,is loyal, could have left sOOner, but he stayed.

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