Kenley Jansen

was a bit of a baseball fairy tale story. A light switch-hitting minor league catcher with a gun for an arm who first gained notoriety when he played in the 2009 World Cup for the Dutch and was seen throwing out baserunners from his knees. The Dodgers converted him to a pitcher that summer and ……….

One year later he was pitching in the major leagues, and seven years later holds the Dodger franchise record for saves with 189, a number that might not increase.

The Dodgers made Jansen the qualifying offer today of $17.2 million. Jansen has until 14:00 PT next Monday to say yes or no. He’ll certainly say no as he’s expected to be one of the top free agents of this year’s class. Unless the Dodgers sign him, the Dodgers will receive a sandwich pick between the 1st and 2nd round of the 2017 draft.  Unlike other players who have had trouble getting signed after being offered the QO, that will be no problem for Jansen as he should have multiple suitors. One of them could be the SF Giants.

Should the Dodgers sign Jansen? Common sense says yes, but the Dodgers will employ sophisticated statistical analysis to make this decision. There is a reason they have 20 numerical analysts on staff and this is one of the big reasons.  I’ve seen a number of 5/85 for Kenley Jansen.

How the Dodger front office handles this decision will have a domino effect on the rest of the winter.

If Jansen is signed how much will that impact the Dodger ability to fill the other holes on the team?

If Jansen signs elsewhere how do the Dodgers go about using  their considerable in-house assets to find an alternative.

One thing to keep in mind, as dominant as Kenley Jansen has been, the reality is that you don’t need to be the best relief pitcher in baseball to be a lock down closer. KJ has an 88.40 % success rate in saves.  You could say that Shawn Tolleson was worst closer over the past three years and his success rate was 88.50%

A team as smart as the Dodgers should be able to find a cost affordable option that allows them to use their resources elsewhere.

When fans lament who will close if Jansen leaves, they fail to take into account that almost all closers come out of nowhere. I can break down every closer in baseball and show you that for 80% of them, no one saw that 40 save season coming.

But for brevity, let’s just take a look at the 21st century Los Angeles Dodger closer history.

In 2001 Jeff Shaw was finishing his run as the Dodger closer. It was a high price the Dodgers paid to get Jeff Shaw when they traded Paul Konerko and Dennis Reyes.  Shaw retired and the Dodgers went into 2002 without a closer. As late as August 31st, 2001 Eric Gagne was still starting for the Dodgers. By April 7th he was the closer, but don’t let anyone tell you that in October of 2001 they felt Eric Gagne was going to be the Dodger closer in 2002.

Gagne would close from 2002 – 2004 but like most closers, his run was spectacular but brief. From May until June Gagne was the closer in 2005 but that was it. Who would step up while Gagne was hurt? Ghame Over Yhency Brazoban took the reigns and put up 21 saves. Honestly, Brazoban wasn’t very good and the Dodgers were searching for a closer headed into the 2006 season.

Ned Colletti traded assets for Danys Baez to be the closer. Baez had collected 96 saves the prior three years and seemed a safe bet to be the Dodger closer in 2006. Baseball had a different opinion and while Baez collected nine saves, he wasn’t very good. Out of nowhere, a thirty something relief pitcher from Japan stepped into the void and shockingly became an excellent closer. Not only 2006 but for all of 2007 and parts of 2008.

Closer in waiting, Jonathan Broxton, took the reigns in 2008 and held that role several years. I will say with Broxton and eventually Jansen the Dodgers had an in-house option that most everyone felt was destined to be a closer. Broxton met those expectations during the regular season and picked up 84 saves from 2008 – 2012.  Kuo picked up a few saves in 2010, and guess who else? Kenley Jansen. Eventually, we all knew Kenley Jansen would become the closer and here we are. Yes, I skipped by the Javy Guerra era.

The Dodgers like the 2002 and 2006 teams don’t appear to have a viable in-house option to replace Jansen but it will probably end up being someone that no one expected on Nov 7th, 2016.

No one likes Pedro Baez for many reasons but it would not shock me if Baez can grow into a role of closer. He has the stuff, he just needs to take that step.  I wouldn’t bet on Baez to make that step, but it would not shock me if he did just as everyone was giving up on him.

Alex Wood could be that guy.

Jose De Leon could be that guy.

Josh Ravin could be that guy.

Yes, n0ne of them are likely but neither was Gagne or Saito.

A large part of me wants to see Kenley Jansen return, an equally large part of me wants to see how the LAD front office goes about replacing him.

 

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3 Comments

  1. 68elcamino427

    I must say, this is one of the best written pieces you have produced to date. I like the verbiage, pace, and tone. The more you do, the better you get, congrats!

    I agree that the Dodgers will find an alternative to Jansen.
    Ravin was excellent when he finally made it back on the field in 2016.
    He can hold down the fort until Alvarez is ready.

    Like

  2. Thanks Gary, I thought it was a bit choppy, maybe choppy is better?

    Like

  3. 68elcamino427

    Just keep creating and allow the expression to flow.
    Your work is more than good enough now.
    It’s good stuff.

    Like

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