Prior to the start of the 2022 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to grit their teeth and move on from longtime closer Kenley Jansen and hand the ball to sinker specialist Blake Treinen in the ninth.
Then, just before Opening Day, they pivoted once more and shot for the stars, clearing out AJ Pollock from the outfield picture in exchange for Craig Kimbrel.
How was the swap worked out so far? The Dodgers are paying only one year of Kimbrel’s contract ($16 million), while the Atlanta Braves instead opted to pay Jansen the massive sum of … wait, this can’t be right, they’re also paying him $16 million for one year?! Oh. Interesting. Add in the fact that Treinen’s been MIA and may not return this season after suffering a serious injury, and this really comes down to a pretty clear one-for-one comparison (oh, and Pollock would be a helpful piece right now, too).
The Dodgers were understandably fearful about offering the 34-year-old Jansen a multi-year deal, but for just one season and the same amount of money as Kimbrel’s making, the Braves have squeezed a potential All-Star season out of their cutter specialist.
Could Jansen really make the Midsummer Classic roster yet again, appearing in a game taking place at (gulp) Dodger Stadium? He’s right on the borderline — or, in other words, closer than Kimbrel.
Could former Dodgers star Kenley Jansen make All-Star Game for Braves?
Jansen’s All-Star Game case comes down to name recognition and ASG roster needs. The National League needs to account for all 15 teams on the roster, and MLB also needs to make sure the bullpen is accounted for.
Pirates closer David Bednar fills both needs, and should be a mortal lock for the roster. Edwin Diaz of the Mets and Josh Hader of the Brew Crew also have superior numbers to Jansen, though the Braves closer has been remarkable (42 whiffs in 30.2 innings pitched, 0.91 WHIP). But what about Ryan Helsley? The Cardinals’ setup man has been special (0.33 ERA, 37 whiffs in 27 innings pitched), but as a non-full-time closer, will he get the respect garnered to a veteran like Jansen?
Honestly (gulp), will MLB give Braves starter Kyle Wright the benefit of the doubt here, too, or would they rather see Jansen return to his old stomping grounds?
Bottom line? Jansen’s got a shot, and his replacement in LA — replete with a 1.545 WHIP and 4.50 ERA — does not.
If a few bounces go Jansen’s way, he could be in line for quite the Hollywood Moment in July.