In an offseason that was so improbable, the impossible has happened. The Los Angeles Dodgers finalized their five-year, $80 million contract with Kenley Jansen on Tuesday. Meaning, the club re-signed each of their three key free agents this winter: Rich Hill, Jansen and Justin Turner.
News of Jansen’s deal came as a complete surprise to this writer, who believed the closer was long gone.
After converting to pitching in 2009, Jansen reached the Majors the following year and has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball for the past seven years. Among relievers, he ranks third in fWAR from 2010-16, behind only Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman.
Jansen led relievers in that metric this past season and ranked third on the Dodgers staff, behind Clayton Kershaw and Kenta Maeda. While re-signing Jansen seemed like a no-brainer, the Winter Meetings proved to shape the Dodgers’ offseason by removing viable alternatives.
The San Francisco Giants quickly snapped up Mark Melancon, who was third-best closer on the market. Then, the New York Yankees reunited with Aroldis Chapman on a record-setting, five-year, $86 million deal.
That left Los Angeles with few options. The trade market wasn’t likely to bear fruit, with only one veteran reliever expected to be moved: Chicago White Sox closer David Robertson. However, there was a wrinkle, as Robertson had the Dodgers on his no-trade list.
Tampa Bay Rays closer Alex Colome was another option but was likely cost-prohibitive in terms of prospects. While both Colome and Robertson players would have replaced Jansen in title, they would not have replicated his production.
So, that left Jansen as the best option, but the Dodgers weren’t the only team in the mix. Shortly after Chapman’s deal with the Yankees was announced, rumors began swirling that the Miami Marlins were heavily in play for the Curacao native.
They’d reportedly offered Jansen a five-year deal for more than $80 million. The Washington Nationals, having lost out on re-signing Melancon, were also in the market for a closer.
And then the Winter Meetings ended with Jansen still unsigned. As it turned out, the 29-year-old was getting married in his native Curacao. In attendance was another then-free agent who was of interest to the Dodgers: Justin Turner.
Also there were Scott Van Slyke and Yasiel Puig. Wedding party or recruiting team? Whatever the roles, they’ll be teammates for at least one more year. The front office broke the mold and offered a reliever a substantial five-year contract.
As Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said during the Winter Meetings, “If you’re always rational about every free agent, you’ll finish third on every free agent.”
In this case, the Dodgers being irrational seems perfectly rational to me.