The Los Angeles Dodgers finally decided to part ways with closer Kenley Jansen following the 2021 season, after years of running the relationship back in smaller and smaller increments.
The 2022 season was the first time in a long time that the Dodgers had a genuine closer problem, opting out of carrying their primary closer Craig Kimbrel on the postseason roster. Coincidence?
Jansen, after saving 41 games in 48 opportunities with a 1.05 WHIP in Atlanta, will be a free agent again this offseason, his one-year, $16 million deal expired and without resolution.
Last offseason, the Dodgers were perfectly willing to cut ties and mix and match in the closer’s role … until they weren’t, importing Kimbrel just before Opening Day and filling a role they’d previously assured fans was all set.
What about this season? Kimbrel wasn’t the answer. Jansen might not be, either; while his 2022 was characteristically great, the former Dodgers stopper has probably peaked. That said, his 2023 season will probably look better than any option on the current roster.
Evan Phillips: Closer? Blake Treinen: Closer, after missing so much time? Alex Vesia: Closer? Yency Almonte: Closer?
The Dodgers will have to address their bullpen in some capacity, but have to avoid overpaying. Could a Jansen reunion be right in that sweet spot? The man himself isn’t ruling it out.
Dodgers Rumors: Will Dodgers fans welcome Kenley Jansen back for 2023?
According to Jansen’s wink-filled recent TMZ appearance:
"“Hey, we’ll see,” he said with a smile. “We’ll see what’s out there.”"
There was plenty of praise left for Atlanta as well; the 35-year-old Jansen isn’t really in a place to rule out any option.
"“I can tell you all great things about Atlanta,” Jansen said. “Atlanta is awesome. The fans, the people, the organization. I had a great time there, and we had a great season.”"
“Bullpen by committee” will always be the thinking baseball team’s preferred method of roster-building. After all, sinking big money into a closer is an expenditure that will fail eight out of ten times.
That said, the Yankees entered the ALCS without a closer; the Astros had Ryan Pressly. The Astros prevailed. The Dodgers entered the NLDS happy to mix and match; the Padres had Josh Hader. The Padres won out.
The Dodgers don’t need to sink a large chunk of their finances into the closer position this offseason, but they need to trust the singular person who lurks at the end of the game to get the job done.
Fans were done with Jansen when he finally departed last winter, then experienced the flip side featuring Kimbrel and several two-year injury rehabilitation deals at the back end of the Dodgers’ bullpen. Will the crowd have a rosier view of Jansen if the two sides reunite? If not, who occupies the role? Is he already under contract?
Multiple years of commitment to Jansen wouldn’t make sense, but it only took a one-year deal last time around. That should be the case yet again, and the price should’ve even gone down a bit with age. Maybe it’s time for the Dodgers to “see what’s out there,” too.