Justin Turner or Kenley Jansen? Prioritizing the Dodgers Top Two Free Agents

When it comes to priorities this off-season, the Dodgers face a similar scenario as they did a year ago. Just as last winter’s main goal was to bring back Zack Greinke before worrying about anything else, this year the focus is once again on their own free agents. While there’s certainly other needs and areas that could be addressed, nothing appears more imperative than the return of Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen. Bringing both players back should be priorities #1 and #2 for the Dodgers.

But which one is which? Who should be #1 and who should be #2? Undoubtedly, the hope is for both guys to return, but the Dodgers could be forced to choose between bringing back one or the other. As we saw with Greinke’s departure last year, the front office has been hesitant to deal out long-term, expensive contracts. One has to figure the price tag for both Turner and Jansen won’t be cheap, especially given that each guy is among the best free agents available at his position.

Adding to all this is the fact the Dodgers are reportedly in serious debt. And although reports of such debt may be overblown a bit (you can read more about that here), it still may play a factor in signings this off-season.

So, what if the Dodgers were forced to choose? Do you part with your starting 3rd basemen, who’s been one of the best hitters on the team over the last few years? Or, do you let your All-Star closer, who’s been as dominant as they come, walk away?

It’s an interesting question, and one could surely make the case for either player.

The argument for keeping Justin Turner

When the Dodgers signed Justin Turner three years ago, they likely thought that they were getting a fine role player and perhaps someone who could platoon for them at 2nd,  short or 3rd base. A utility guy, if you will. They ended up getting a little more than that.

Fast forward to today as Turner hits the free agent market as the best 3rd baseman available, and is expected to cash in fairly well this off-season. He’s been one of the Dodgers most dependable hitters over his tenure with the club, slashing .296/.364/.492 with an OPS of .856. His power stroke has also continued to develop, as he clubbed 27 home runs last year, leading the team.

[graphiq id=”6DIs7HB9nmd” title=”Justin Turner 2016 Complete Batting Splits” width=”640″ height=”820″ url=”” link=”” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]

Turner is definitely someone the Dodgers would love to have return. However, many other teams would also love his services, so if they truly want him back, they’ll need to open up their checkbook. Most believe Turner will haul in a contract somewhere around 3-5 years at close to $16-$20 mil a year, which is a reasonable price for his value.

If the Dodgers were forced to prioritize between him and Jansen, they could favor Turner for a few reasons. An everyday player almost always holds more value than a relief pitcher would, especially when you’re talking about a middle of the order kind of bat. And regardless of how unlikely it is that Turner has developed into that type of hitter, that’s the reality. Taking away the #3 guy in the lineup would be a blow to any team, but maybe even more so for the Dodgers, who already have a left-handed heavy lineup (we won’t go into Turner’s reverse splits right now.) Replacing 27 home runs wouldn’t be easy, especially with the lack of other options available if Turner leaves.

The next best 3rd baseman free agent this year is Luis Valbuena. If you’re asking, “Luis who?” you’re not the only one. Point being, there is a drastic drop off in options at 3rd base after Justin Turner goes off the board. The same cannot be said for closers this year. Kenley Jansen is not the only top reliever out there, with guys like Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon among others also being available.

If the Dodgers were unfortunate enough to lose out of Jansen, they could still possibly fill his spot with another equally capable player. On the other hand, if they lose Turner, they could be stuck with God only knows who at 3rd base… maybe that “Luis guy” if they’re lucky.

Another factor that could play a role is Turner’s desire to return to Los Angeles. Growing up in Southern California, Turner seems to love L.A and playing for the Dodgers. Not to say that Jansen wouldn’t also like to come back as well, but he’s suggested that his decision might be more about dollar signs than anything else. Could that mean the Dodgers get a home town discount on Turner? Perhaps, although there’s no guarantee of that.

The argument for keeping Kenley Jansen

A dominant closer isn’t something to take lightly in baseball. Not every team has one. Not many teams have one. But the Dodgers are fortunate enough to be one of the teams that do.

For the last six-plus years, Kenley Jansen has been a steady presence at the back end of the Dodgers bullpen. He’s recorded 189 Saves, a franchise record, and posted a 2.20 ERA and 13.9 K/9 rate over his career. He possesses one of the best cutters since Mariano Rivera, and continues to be one of the top closers in the game.

[graphiq id=”lpgFSboP9XL” title=”Kenley Jansen 2016 Complete Pitching Splits” width=”600″ height=”797″ url=”” link=”” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]

So yes, like Justin Turner, the Dodgers would like to retain Jansen’s services too. Also like Turner, Jansen is expected to make a pretty penny this offseason, with estimates being anywhere from a 4-6 year deal at around $16-$20 mil a year. Again, the Dodgers will have to be willing to sign that check if they really want him back.

So why should the Dodgers prioritize signing Jansen? Well, we saw first-hand just how valuable a player like him can be in the playoffs. He was brought in for more than one inning on multiple occasions, including that spectacular Game 5 performance against the Washington Nationals, where he threw a career high 51 pitches. Jansen was as dominant as any other reliever, and that’s saying something in a year where we saw guys like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman excelled like they did.

A superior bullpen is one of the biggest assets a team can wield. We all saw the Kansas City Royals ride theirs to the World Series a year ago, and teams like the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs both showed again this year that great relief units can go a long way. And if you need any more proof about how valuable a good reliever core is, just ask the San Francisco Giants.

The Dodgers had one of the best bullpens in baseball in 2016, but that was anchored by Jansen. If he were to go, it would be a huge void to fill, especially if they can’t acquire any of the other aforementioned free agent closers on the market. If they can’t re-sign Jansen, and happen to miss out on others like Chapman and Melancon, there’s really no ideal internal options for the Dodgers. Joe Blanton, this year’s set up man, is also a free agent and likely won’t be back. Sure, they could try someone like Adam Libertore or (gasp!) Pedro Baez. Maybe even young guys like Yimi Garcia and Jacob Rhame could emerge as candidates as well, but none of those options would figure to fill the shoes someone like Kenley Jansen.

[graphiq id=”bCrSo649LG5″ title=”Mark Melancon Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB” width=”600″ height=”523″ url=”″ link=”” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]

At 29 years old, Jansen is also three years younger than Turner. If the Dodgers are going to dish out a big contract and invest multiple years to a player, they could be persuaded by how much longer they believe each guy can still contribute at a high level.

Third base is a demanding position, and Turner already has a history with bad knees. His durability might be a concern at this stage of his career. Trusting Jansen to stay healthy and productive for the next five years might be more appealing to the Dodgers than trusting Turner for the next 3-4 years.

Hopefully this is all just a futile exercise, and the Dodgers find a way to bring back both Turner and Jansen. Each player has been vital to the team’s success in the past, and would be sorely missed if they were to leave. Having to choose one over the other wouldn’t be an easy decision, and for the sake of Dodgers fans, hopefully one the team won’t have to make.

[button color=”red” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”newwindow” url=””]MLB Rumors: St. Louis Cardinals Interested In Justin Turner?[/button]

Written by Brian Robitaille

Originally from Southern California, and currently stationed in Northern Virginia, Brian is a devoted Dodgers fan, and has been since he was a kid. He's an Active Duty member of the U.S Air Force, and has been serving for the last 16 years. While he loves all things sports related, and supports all his teams (Lakers, Steelers, L.A Kings, & USC) his true passion is the Dodgers, and loves writing about the boys in blue.


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  1. really tough spot the dodgers are in with both players (not to mention no clear number 2 in rotation, and no clear 2nd baseman as of yet). my two cents, is that jansen is top priority for many of the reasons outlined (age/durability being the big one).

    I’d also add that even though yes, there is another top closer on market (chapman, and to a lesser degree melancon) I dont think chapman comes cheaper than jansen. if they dont sign jensen, i dont think they sign chapman (jensen is younger by a year too right?) No reason to not bring back jansen

  2. deadfish90 Thanks for readying. I agree, it’s a tough spot. I would love both guys to come back, but not sure how realistic that is for the Dodgers. There’s also a trade option out there as well (Wade Davis perhaps?)

  3. If I had to choose one or the other it would be JT. I
    believe the Dodgers need to sign JT as there is nobody else in the organization
    capable of filling his shoes; offensively or defensively.But 4 years at $80M is too rich for me.Martin Prado just signed 3 years at $40M through
    his age 36 season.Chase Headley 4 years
    at $52M with two years remaining at $26M through his age 35 season.Both Evan Longoria and David Wright were far
    younger and were the face of their respective teams at the time of their
    extensions and have an AAV of less than $17M for the remaining years.JT is very valuable and a very good 3B, but
    certainly not the face of the Dodgers.While not a 3B, Daniel Murphy who is arguably the best hitter in MLB
    signed 3 for years at a $12.5M AAV.If the
    Dodgers offer 4 years at $16M with a 5th year team option at $12M and a $3M
    buyout, I think that would be more than fair.That’s more AAV than any of the 3B other than Longoria and Wright.These monopoly money contracts have to become
    more realistic.If I had my choice for 3B,
    I would push to make a deal with the Cubs for their AAA 3B Jeimer
    Candelario.Younger, less expensive, and
    potentially a long term solution.The
    Cubs already have their 3B of the future…Kris Bryant.
    There are a more options other than Chapman and Melancon as
    a closer.4-5 years with an AAV in
    excess of $18M (figures thrown around) are ridiculous for a pitcher who
    averages less than IP.He has also
    stated that he is going to go for the $$$, ala Greinke, the Mercenary.While Kenley had a tremendous post season, he
    did have 6 blown saves during the season.The Dodgers were looking for a closer when Kenley was found.Alex Ramos (Marlins), Alex Colome (Rays),
    Brad Boxberger (Rays), Shawn Tolleson (FA), even Greg Holland (FA) are known
    closers who may be available at far more reasonable price tag. They may even have one in their
    organization.I think Grant Dayton may
    be a potential. Could one of their
    starters move to the pen and become the closer?Many examples to indicate that this is a possibility.I might take a serious look at Alex Wood.Wood is outstanding one to two times through
    the lineup.The only question is whether
    he can pitch on multiple days.Ross
    If I am going to spend $$$ it is going to be on a RH power OF
    bat and a #2 starter.I would also try
    to extend Kershaw to cancel his opt out clause.I would also look to sign Seager and Pederson out of their arbitration
    and 1-2 FA years starting in 2019 after AGon contract is gone.

  4. AlwaysCompete I would lean towards JT myself. Although I really hope both return. If the Dodgers aim is to get better next season, it’s hard to believe it’s a good start for them if they lose either player. But I think losing Jansen might be a reality unfortunately. I would hope we give Turner a 3 year deal with perhaps a 4th as an option.

    I think moving Wood to the BP is a great idea, but not so sure as a closer. I think he’s probably better suited to be a middle reliever. I also think our BP overall will be fine, but if Kenley walks, the closer spot will be interesting.

  5. Great article and comments guys…We all agree that we want both back. JT I believe is more important as an everyday player and along with his bat do not forget his glove he is a plus defender. If Areindo (sp?) for the Rockies was not in our league JT would be a Gold Glove.
    Jansen in my estimation is the top reliever out there because of his cutter. Chapman uses his velocity but that will not last. The Cutter has proven to stay potent aka Rivera…..
    They have several contracts Etheir, Gonzo etc that drop out next year. So they will get some flexibility soon. But I believe they bite the bullet and sign both….
    I am concerned they are flirting with Hill as we have so many damaged arms, elbows, shoulders and blisters it is amazing how much of the budget they have in damaged pitchers. I am hoping they can get rid of a couple of the old damaged ones and go with some young arms… But who will take them??

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