It hasn’t been the most pleasant offseason for Los Angeles Dodgers fans. Re-signing Chris Taylor was great and all, but the departures of Max Scherzer and Corey Seager as well as the uncertainty surrounding Clayton Kershaw certainly outweigh all the positives at the moment.
And perhaps we’ve forgotten one of the best closers of all time is a free agent, too? Kenley Jansen’s five-year, $80 million contract expired when 2021 came to an end. Many believed this would be a situation where the two sides would work together to keep the relationship going.
However, various reports have suggested Jansen is unlikely to return to LA once the lockout is over, which, whether you like Jansen or not, will leave a colossal void in the bullpen. And if you don’t think so, then you’re simply ignoring stats.
Jansen is 13th all-time with 350 saves. He could crack the top five with just 75 more, which we think he still has in him. He’s 12th all-time among reliever strikeouts (1,022), which is just four behind Craig Kimbrel. He can crack the top 10 with 111 more.
Probably shouldn’t have booed him in July after a few bad outings, right? If/when he’s gone, fans might realize how good and important he truly was.
And for now, that’s the reality we have to assume, since there’s been zero traction on his return to LA.
Projecting the Dodgers 2022 bullpen without Kenley Jansen
Here we are. This is what the unit will look like without any further additions … and it’s clear the front office will have to make some if they want to seriously compete.
- Blake Treinen (closer)
- Daniel Hudson (setup man)
- Brusdar Graterol
- Phil Bickford
- Tommy Kahnle
- Alex Vesia
- Victor Gonzalez
- Justin Bruihl
- Evan Phillips
- Caleb Ferguson
- Garrett Cleavinger
- Carson Fulmer (?)
- Beau Burrows (?)
- David Price (?)
- Mitch White (?)
- Andre Jackson (?)
- Tony Gonsolin (?)
The success of this unit, as is, will hinge on the health/longevity of Kahnle and Gaterol. As for replacing lost talent, Hudson will slip in and help absorb the loss of Joe Kelly and Treinen can easily take over ninth inning duties should Jansen leave. The rest will be up to players taking the necessary steps in their development, for the most part.
Will Vesia be as good as he was down the stretch? Will White be given a more definitive role? Can Gonzalez bounce back? Is Phil Bickford for real? Will Bruihl, Ferguson and Phillips continue to be pleasant surprises? Will newcomers in Fulmer and Burrows contribute at all?
The other problem is the thin rotation, which means a combination of Price, White, Jackson and Gonsolin may be logging most of their reps as starters … though that’s still unclear. Maybe LA is considering a trade for Kimbrel, who the White Sox might be willing to move on from since he didn’t succeed in a setup role behind Liam Hendriks?
You should probably hope something of that magnitude happens, because the bullpen, as currently constructed, has far too many question marks and blemishes.