Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen has been among the best relievers in baseball for a better part of the last decade, but the 2019 season was arguably his worst as a big leaguer.
Jansen blew eight saves in 41 opportunities, pitching to a career-worst 3.71 ERA to go along with a 3.48 FIP and 1.06 WHIP in 62 appearances. He struck out 80 and walked 16 over 63 innings, which is still productive, but below the numbers Jansen was posting when he was at his best.
There were times throughout the course of the season when fans called for Jansen to be removed as closer, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts stuck with him and remained confident in the three-time All-Star.
With the Dodgers losing to the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series, Jansen’s future with the organization is currently unclear. He has the ability to opt out of his contract and become a free agent, although leaving $38 million for the next two years on the table is considered unlikely.
But should Jansen remain with the Dodgers, his role as closer might not be a foregone conclusion. “I’m not sure. I haven’t really gotten into exact specifics of offseason planning, just more kind of broad strokes,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.
“My sense is Kenley will be our closer. We’ll see how things play out. I think it’s one of those things that he feels good and there were decent chunks of time this year where everything kind of synced up and his stuff was objectively better. And other times where he struggled more.”
Jansen’s trouble with finding consistency was a result of his mechanics getting out of sorts — a byproduct that was a lack of regularly pitching. That led to the Dodgers adjusting their usage by committing to having Jansen appear at least once per series.
“I think so much of it is about his delivery and just syncing all that back up. Obviously he’s a very large human, so sometimes things can get out of wack a little bit. I think a lot of the focus this offseason will be about trying to lock that down and having him be able to repeat more consistently,” Friedman said.
“He’s another guy that as far as making a bet in terms of people doing everything they can to put themselves in position to have success, I will absolutely bet on him. When you have that, and some awareness that we learned during the season it’s hard to make those adjustments on the fly, I’m excited about what he’s capable of next year and feel like he’ll be a big part of us winning games.
“Exactly what that role is, I don’t know right now.”
If Jansen isn’t the Dodgers’ closer in 2019, candidates would be Joe Kelly and Pedro Baez, or a free agent or trade acquisition.