The Dodgers Re-Sign Kenley Jansen and Get the Band Back Together
The band is getting back together.
Having already signed starting pitcher Rich Hill to a three-year, $45 million deal, the Los Angeles Dodgers have brought back a huge piece of their 2016 puzzle by agreeing to a five-year, $80 million contract with closer Kenley Jansen.
Jansen's deal is slightly better than the four-year, $62 million deal Mark Melancon signed with the San Francisco Giants, and slightly below the five-year, $86 million contract signed by Aroldis Chapman with the New York Yankees.
Simply put, Jansen has been one of the best closers in baseball since 2012.
His 11.4 fWAR over this period of time is second among all qualified closers (behind Chapman's 13.0) and his 180 saves are third, behind Craig Kimbrel and Chapman. Only four pitchers (Chapman, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Kimbrel) have a better K/9, his 2.22 ERA is 9th-best and his fielding independent pitching (FIP) of 1.97 is second (again, behind only Chapman).
As hard as it is to imagine, Jansen stepped up even bigger in last year's playoffs.
Much like Andrew Miller did for the Cleveland Indians and Chapman did for the Chicago Cubs, Jansen had multiple outings where he was the team's fireman, coming in earlier than normal and pitching more than one inning to secure victory. He appeared in seven games this past October and pitched 11.2 innings, putting up a 3.09 ERA and allowing a slash line of .125/.239/.250.
He pitched more than an inning in four of those outings, including a season-long three innings in the team's Game 6 loss to the Cubs, shown above. And he was only scored on in one of those seven appearances, a four-run outing in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals.
It's unlikely Jansen will be asked to do as much in the regular season, but it's clear teams are viewing relief pitchers differently. It's why the three big free agent closers all broke the record for largest contract ever given to a relief pitcher this winter, beating the $50 million awraded to Jonathan Papelbon by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012.
Both the Miami Marlins and Nats were pursuing Jansen and must now turn their attention elsewhere.
Former Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland, who is coming off Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2016, is the best free agent option left. The rebuilding Chicago White Sox will probably trade David Robertson at some point, the Tampa Bay Rays could decide to unload Alex Colome, and Oakland could move one of Sean Doolittle or Ryan Madson.
The Phillies are also said to be listening on all their players and could decide to make their perceived 2017 closer, Hector Neris, available for the right price.
Los Angeles doesn't appear to be done, either. They have reportedly agreed to re-sign third baseman Justin Turner, and have been rumored as possible trade suitors for the Minnesota Twins' terrific second baseman Brian Dozier.
L.A. is shelling out a ton of money once again, even though the luxury tax implications are far more severe under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
They know they fell two wins short of reaching the World Series last year, and with the old boys coming back and the possible addition of one more piece to an up-and-down offense, the Dodgers could once again challenge the Cubs for National League supremacy in 2017.