Looking to repeat as champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers will be returning most of their core nucleus of players in 2021.
Despite that, there are some roles within the team that have still yet to be determined, with the primary one being the closer position.
Kenley Jansen has been the Dodgers’ only primary closer since he took over the role in 2012, although it’s no secret that he struggled in 2020 and essentially lost his job in the postseason.
Despite Dodgers manager Dave Roberts’ public remarks to the contrary, it was evident the team’s confidence in Jansen was wavering by the time the postseason rolled around.
While Jansen may not have been on the mound to finish the Dodgers’ season in the World Series, Roberts is hoping he’ll be able to return to that role next season, via Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:
“The best-case scenario is Kenley is our closer,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said this week, “but that is solely dependent on him.”
Jansen’s decline has been ongoing for the last few years, and in 27 appearances this year, he converted 11 of 13 save opportunities while pitching to a 3.33 ERA, 3.03 FIP and 1.15 WHIP with 33 strikeouts and nine walks in 24.1 innings.
He had a couple of rough October outings, resulting in a 5.14 ERA in seven innings. When it came time to win the World Series, the Dodgers went to Blake Treinen to close out Game 5 and Julio Urias in Game 6 as Jansen watched on from the bullpen.
Jansen is entering the final season of a five-year contract, so this could very well be the three-time All-Star’s last in a Dodger uniform if he continues to decline.
Dodgers complete trade with Brewers for former closer
If Jansen does not retain the Dodgers’ closer job next spring, it remains to be seen who would replace him. The primary candidate in 2020 was Treinen, although he is currently a free agent and may not be back with the team.
One other option could be Corey Knebel, who the Dodgers just acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers. Knebel was one of the best closers in baseball in 2017 and 2018, but he has since undergone Tommy John surgery.
While the Dodgers are hoping he will be able to get back to that level, there is no guarantee Knebel does so in 2021.
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