Dodgers: Has Kenley Jansen earned ‘lifetime’ contract?

Adam Weinrib
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 29: Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after closing out the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on June 29, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 29: Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after closing out the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on June 29, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images) /
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If you were ready to usher Kenley Jansen out the Dodgers’ door midway through last October, after several years of regression and with an upcoming contract dispute, then you owe one hell of an apology.

OK, fine. We do too.

Game 4 of the World Series was a difficult time for all of us, and Jansen’s indecision in backing up the plate after his backbreaker to Brett Phillips led to plenty of overreactions, from “The Sky is Falling” to “The Sky Already Fell, And This Sucks.”

Labeling Jansen an unworthy future risk, though, wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction. It was a calculated response to his recent regression, coupled with his likely desire to be paid the type of elite closer money that often hamstrings contenders either immediately or the next year.

In 2018, 2019 and the shortened 2020, Jansen didn’t appear to have his previous cutter-dominant form. Even worse, those were years two, three and four of a five-year, $80 million deal, the type of contract only a team like the Dodgers could readily absorb.

Jansen would be forever cemented a team legend after the 2020 World Series was finished off, but it seemed fair for many fans to want him to sign his next two- or three-year deal with a smaller-market team looking to make a big-name splash and sacrifice to their fans.

And then…

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen is back to elite form.

Should Dodgers fans bank on this version of Jansen appearing more often in the years to come? Well, no.

But as we stated earlier, the Dodgers can absorb a “mistake” like his previous five-year deal. Can’t they come to some sort of compromise to make him a “Dodger for life” on one-year deals until his stuff further disappears?

We’re not endorsing another over-the-top expenditure for Jansen that blows past the luxury tax and precludes Los Angeles from adding help elsewhere (though his previous deal certainly didn’t stop them). We’re just wondering if, now that he’s made a comeback with an entirely different arsenal, the righty has earned special treatment a la Justin Turner.

Perhaps he and the Dodgers can work together each offseason to find a match? Has LA’s front office earned right of first refusal? We don’t want to live in a world where slider-forward Kenley Jansen isn’t working for us in future Giants rivalry matchups.

Of course, the tenor of the conversation could change significantly by the end of the year. As wonderful as Jansen’s “I’m MF’ing Back” season has been, his FIP (3.22) shows room for plenty of regression when paired with his sterling ERA of 1.38. A difficult August could change the calculus on such a relationship.

At this point, though, Jansen’s comeback has led us to the point where both sides should be working together when free agency arrives. He’s earned that respect.

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