A contending team — let alone a team 2 1/2 games out of first place in its division and 2 1/2 games up in the wild card standings — would be insane to trade an elite relief pitcher. But after seeing what the Cubs gave up for Aroldis Chapman on Monday, the Dodger front office has to be wondering, “What could we get for Kenley Jansen?”
Let me preface this by saying there’s a minuscule chance Jansen is actually traded, but if any front office is going to have the guts to move a guy like Jansen, it’s this front office.
The Dodgers haven’t shown much interest in extending Jansen ahead of his pending free agency, and if that’s the case, the front office would be foolish to not at least explore the possibility of moving him. If Chapman brought back a legitimate Top 25 prospect in Gleyber Torres, a solid swingman in Adam Warren, an outfielder who has a good track record of hitting in the minors (this year notwithstanding) in Billy McKinney and another outfielder in Rashad Crawford, then Jansen should be able to bring back an even larger return, right?
First and foremost, there are zero off-field concerns with Jansen. He wasn’t accused of choking a woman and firing eight bullets into a wall in his garage, and that alone makes him more valuable (or at least less of a hassle) than Chapman. But take into consideration Jansen has actually be better than Chapman this season and is, in fact, having one of the best seasons of his career.
Jansen’s 1.44 ERA and 1.72 FIP would be career-bests (save his first season in which he threw 27 innings and posted a 0.67 ERA), his walk rate is the lowest it has ever been (4.4 percent) and, despite a slow start in the strikeout department, Jansen is back to striking out more than a third of the batters he faces (35 percent). Oh, he’s also within 0.3 wins above replacement of his career-high of 2.4.
Why would a team like the Dodgers want to trade Jansen? They probably don’t. But if they could pry a Top 10 MLB prospect and another spare part or two for a guy who, in all likelihood, isn’t coming back, then why not roll the dice? It would bolster and already deep farm system while also allowing them to make a play for a big-time player on the trade market by either including the prospect acquired for Jansen or by making a guy like Julio Urias available, as much as it would sting.
Like I said, this probably isn’t going to happen, but it’d be foolish to think the conversation hasn’t already happened among members of the front office like it has on social media and in the comments. If this is the market for an elite reliever — and the price has always been high for elite relievers — then it’d fit this front office’s MO to trade Jansen.
The Dodgers could replace Jansen internally, but that isn’t an appealing option. A couple guys outside the organization who make sense would be Brad Boxberger or David Robertson. One is the prototypical Friedman bullpen piece (Boxberger), while the other is a high-priced reliever (Robertson). Boxberger has been hurt virtually all season and is rehabbing from an oblique injury. Robertson is having a down season, but is still a quality reliever and is owed $25 million total in 2017-18. His walk rate has skyrocketed, meaning there could be a mechanical flaw in his delivery that could be fixed. Both of these guys figure to be available (at reduced rates), especially if they’re packaged with the starting pitchers the Dodgers have been looking at in Chris Archer and Chris Sale.
You’d be upgrading the rotation (and limiting the damage to the farm system) while significantly degrading the current bullpen. That is the dilemma the front office would have to consider if they dealt Jansen (not to mention the public relations nightmare, but the FO doesn’t care much about that).
I love Kenley Jansen. He’s definitely the glue that holds one of baseball’s best bullpens together, and he’s a really good guy overall. But if he hits free agency, he isn’t coming back — not because he doesn’t want to, but Andrew Friedman has shown a reluctance to spend big money on a premiere reliever. He never had the chance to do so with Tampa Bay, but if he hasn’t extended Jansen by now (something that is baffling, really), odds are, he isn’t going to.
There would be a lot of moving parts, making this highly unlikely, but Jansen’s value will never be higher, apparently. Oh to be a fly on the wall when this discussion was going down.
The Dodgers aren’t going to trade Jansen. Unless they do. We’ll find out soon.