At the moment, the Dodgers have one thing in mind: clinch their fourth straight NL West title. Once they do that, they’ll focus on the postseason and try to win their first World Series title since 1988. Their short-term goals are clear.
The offseason is going to present a different set of long-term problems for the Dodgers. The players aren’t thinking about that now, but the front office sure is. The Dodgers have several key players due to become free agents after the season, including longtime closer Kenley Jansen.
Because of their deep pockets, it’s easy to assume the Dodgers will simply re-sign Jansen and bring back their All-Star closer. But, as we saw this past offseason, that’s not a guarantee. Los Angeles was outbid by the Diamondbacks of all teams for Zack Greinke. Who saw that coming?
The game is flush with cash right now, so much so that teams like Arizona can make record-breaking contract offers. And come the offseason, Jansen is planning to explore the market and take the offer that is best for him and his family. From Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball:
“LA’s nice. LA’s great. LA gave me the opportunity. LA converted me when I failed as a catcher,” Jansen recalled. “I’m grateful about it, and will never forget LA. But at the same time, we’ll have to see what’s good for the family.”
When he thinks about it, he doesn’t anticipate an easy call.
“It’s going to be a tough decision,” Jansen said. “It’s not going to only be me.”
First of all, of course Jansen is going to say he’ll explore the market. His agent has coached him well. Saying he’ll explore the market gives Jansen some leverage in negotiations with the Dodgers. If he says he’s eager to come back, they’ll low-ball him.
Secondly, free agency is something players earn. It’s not easy to accrue the six years of service time necessary to hit the open market — these days it’s closer to seven years given the way teams manipulate service time — so Jansen and every other player has the right to explore the market. Why wouldn’t he do that?
The reasons to keep Jansen are obviously. He’s excellent, and aside from a two-week stint on the DL for shoulder inflammation back in 2011, his arm has been healthy. You don’t necessarily need a dominant closer to win the World Series, but gosh, it sure makes life easier. A win-now team like the Dodgers should want to retain a player of this caliber.
There aren’t many valid reasons for the Dodgers to let Jansen walk. They’ll be able to make him a qualifying offer and recoup a draft pick, which is nice, plus they won’t have to commit a massive amount of money to a one-inning reliever. The record contract for a reliever is Jonathan Papelbon‘s original four-year, $50 million contract with the Padres. Jansen could beat that.
Despite their big payroll, the Dodgers have been huge spenders the last few seasons. They’ve been a bit more restrained under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. Here are their largest free agent contracts under Friedman, in terms of guaranteed money:
That’s it in two years. Nothing else over $20 million. The Dodgers did try to retain Greinke last offseason, and they also made a run at Johnny Cueto, but obviously they did not go all out. They stayed within their comfort level.
The last huge money closer contract is the four-year, $46 million deal the White Sox gave David Robertson two years ago. Jansen is both better and younger than Robertson was when he signed his contract, so it stands to reason that $46 million is his floor. Clearing Papelbon’s $50 million guarantee should be easy.
Part of me says keeping Jansen going forward is a no-brainer for the Dodgers, and really, it is. It would be hard for them to justify letting him walk. At the same time, Friedman is very conservative in free agency and prefers to spread the wealth around rather that spend big on one player. Perhaps Jansen is the exception.
For now, the Dodgers will focus on clinching the NL West title and making noise in the postseason. Once the offseason comes, Jansen’s free agency will be front and center on the team’s offseason agenda. They either have to sign him or replace him, and doing either figures to be costly.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Kenley Jansen foresees a ‘tough’ FA choice, but the Dodgers have an easy call ahead