At the outset of free agency there was little reason to believe the Los Angeles Dodgers would manage to re-sign Rich Hill, Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner. Each was among the best, if not the top free agent available at their respective position.
Los Angeles moved quickly to retain Hill, announcing a three-year, $48 million deal on the first day of the Winter Meetings. The process of agreeing to terms was seemingly without many hitches.
Matters involving Jansen and Turner, however, were up and down. But by the middle of December both players reportedly agreed to re-sign.
“It goes without saying that heading into the winter two of the most important things for us in terms of our to-do list, was to re-sign Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said from Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.
“Starting with Kenley, in our minds he’s the best reliever in baseball. As we got into how much he’s meant to this team in the past, it was a priority to figure out how to bring him back. He’s been such a big part of our past success, and we expect him to be a big part of our future success.”
Friedman was just as complimentary of Turner. “With Justin, he represents so much of what we value in a player,” Friedman said. “What he does on and off the field, the burning desire to win, it’s part of that clubhouse dynamic that we’re trying to cultivate and continue to build.”
Jansen’s deal is the largest a player has received from the Dodgers under Friedman. Hill’s and Turner’s multiyear contracts represent a break from last winter when Los Angeles was hesitant to commit to long-term to Zack Greinke, another player over 30 years old.
But for a team that was two wins from reaching the World Series despite a record number of injuries and less than a half-season of contributions from Hill, reuniting with the trio was key.
“Heading into the winter, I think one of the most challenging things a front office has to do is assess the team that you ended the season with,” Friedman explained. “We felt like the team we ended the year with was championship-caliber, with a clubhouse dynamic and environment that was really conducive to winning.”
By the end of the free agency process for Jansen and Turner it was clear the duo wanted to re-sign with the Dodgers just as much as the organization wished for their returns. Both players pointed to the culture, among other reasons, for remaining in Los Angeles.
That essentially validated what Friedman, Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten, and the organization as a whole have set out to accomplish. “One of the things we talked about the last couple of years was becoming that destination spot, where players want to play and our own players want to stay,” Friedman said.
“I think representing this city and the passionate fans is a huge advantage in that. But I think it was furthered even more so by the clubhouse dynamic that was created. I think with [Jansen’s and Turner’s] commitment to that, it just strengthens it.”
Friedman acknowledged interest from both sides can make for an easier path to agreeing to terms, but added, “we weren’t sure if we’d be sitting here today,” when reflecting on keeping two prominent contributors with the organization.