It says a lot about the amount of talent potentially leaving the Dodgers that Kenley Jansen isn’t their best free agent. Jansen, one of the great closers of his generation, is coming off his best season in years. In 69 innings, Jansen struck out 86 batters and posted a 2.22 ERA and a 185 ERA+. Though Jansen often looked at the top of his game, he also finished with his highest walk rate in a full season by a wide margin. This year, he walked 12.9 percent of batters he faced, and his previous high was 11.9 back in 2011.
Most of those walks came at the beginning of the year when he was, uh, trying something new. I’ll let you look at his month-to-month spin rates and you can draw your own conclusions about what he was doing.
On the season, Jansen’s cutter spun around 150 rpm faster than his career norms, but that’s skewed by the first two months of the season. His second-half spin rate was up from the year before, but not to an extreme degree. Interestingly enough, while his walk rate went down post All-Star break, his strikeout rate went up.
Kenley Jansen 1st Half vs. 2nd Half
Obviously, the Dodgers would like to keep Jansen around. Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw aren’t the only pitchers who could possibly leave. The Dodgers already declined Joe Kelly’s club option, and Corey Knebel is a free agent as well. LA still has Blake Treinen, Phil Bickford, and Victor González in the bullpen. They’ll still manage in the later innings, but the arm barn would be worse without Jansen.
If Jansen heads elsewhere, I’d expect the Dodgers to be in on the other top relief arms on the market. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors predicts Raisel Iglesias will move across LA. Kendall Graveman could be a target as well.
As for Jansen, Jon Heyman reports that he’s a target for Philadelphia, and that makes sense. Philadelphia is perpetually in need of bullpen help, and Jansen is exactly the kind of blunt move Dave Dombrowski likes to make. Philadelphia’s bullpen ranked 26th in FIP, so Jansen wouldn’t be the only move they’d have to make.
The Blue Jays had issues with their bullpen this year, so they’re in the market for a closer as well. Jordan Romano, Tim Mayza, and Adam Cimber were solid, but the Blue Jays had trouble filling out the back of the ‘pen. The Jays narrowly missed the playoffs after a 90-win season, and the relief corps was the weak leak.
Jorge Castillo connected Jansen to the Cardinals which might be an overreaction to the way St. Louis’s season ended. The Cardinals were eliminated when Alex Reyes gave up a walk-off homer to Chris Taylor in the Wild Card game. Reyes struggles with command more than the long ball, but Jansen would give more stability in the ninth.
Like with Kershaw, it’s hard to imagine Jansen in another uniform. Still, he might be moving on. Whoever signs him will have one of the best relief arms in the game.
Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.