Dodgers have plethora of closer options if Kenley Jansen doesn’t re-sign

Kenley Jansen spent the weekend in Curacao getting married. Congratulations to him and his bride. The ceremony is also the biggest reason why he is still a free agent.

Along with the Dodgers, the Marlins and Nationals appear to be the top contenders for Jansen’s services. The Fish have reportedly made a 5-year offer of more than $80 million to Jansen, while the Dodgers’ offer — if there is one — is unknown. The Nats seem to be a distant third in this race, but they haven’t forked out a lot of money to a free agent or trade acquisition just yet, and they could use a big-name closer.

J.P. Hoornstra wrote about one contract offer the Dodgers made early on, and Jansen’s alleged counter-offer.

“It might be worth noting that Jansen and the Dodgers began this journey rather far apart. Sources with knowledge of the negotiations said the Dodgers began with an offer of four years and $55 million, a record average annual value for a closer. Jansen’s counter-offer? Eight years, $150 million. He might not get eight years, but a shorter-term deal that pays close to $18 million annually suddenly doesn’t seem far-fetched in this year’s market.”

OK, 4Y/$55MM was a lowball figure, which is odd to say for a contract that would average $13.75 million a season for a guy who will throw 60-70 innings, but Jansen’s counter of $150 million over eight years is:

  1. Insane
  2. Unbelievable

More importantly, it’s a counter that actually works in the Dodgers’ favor if Jansen ends up leaving. Whoever Hoornstra’s source is on the 8Y/$150MM, it’s something that comes across as giving Jansen a bit of a bad look if he leaves. The Dodgers are one of the two richest teams in baseball, but there’s no way they’d give Jansen that kind of deal. In fact, no team would give any reliever that deal — not even the Yankees and prime Mariano Rivera. So, I’m skeptical of that figure being a legit counter.

Regardless, if Jansen does end up signing elsewhere, who could the Dodgers get to replace him? That’s the big question. Here are some of the options.

In-house: Pedro Baez, Grant Dayton, Josh Fields, Yimi Garcia

Yeah, none of these guys inspire a ton of confidence. As it stands now, it’d probably be a 2-man job with Baez and Dayton getting the work. Fields has the stuff but not the experience or command. Garcia has the stuff and better command, but his 2016 was cut short because of injury and he’s home run-prone.

The internal options are not great. This makes me think the Dodgers will look elsewhere to replace Jansen if the Marlins or Nats end up with him.

External options: Joe Blanton, Brad Boxberger, Zach Britton, Alex Colome, Neftali Feliz, Greg Holland, Nate Jones, A.J. Ramos, David Robertson, Sergio Romo, Brad Ziegler

That’s a lot of names. We all know Blanton was solid last season, but I don’t think folks would be much more comfortable with him in the role than a guy like Baez. Boxberger and Colome are Tampa Bay pitchers — both of whom have closed in the past. Boxberger pitched just 24 1/3 innings in 2016 because of abdomen and oblique injuries. Colome is a converted starter who thrived in a relief role last season (1.91 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 24.8 K-BB%). Boxberger would be much easier to acquire, but Colome seems to be the better of the two at this rate. Britton would be amazing, but the Orioles don’t strike me as an organization that would sell high on a guy like that — even if it’s the right thing to do. Instead, he’ll continue to sit in the bullpen in a tie game on the road in favor of lesser pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez.

I wrote about another established closer in Robertson on Friday, but that was before it was revealed he can block a trade for five teams — one of which is the Dodgers. I’m guessing that takes the Dodgers out of the running for his services. Perhaps his teammate would be a better option anyway in Jones. Jones had a 2.29 ERA and 2.93 FIP as Chicago’s setup man, and he also had a 29.2 K% and just a 5.5 BB%. He missed plenty of bats (14.3 swinging strike rate) and saw his flyball rate drop seven points from the previous season. He’s signed through 2018 for $5.9 million total, and his contract also has three options: two team options in 2019 ($4.6MM, $1.2MM buyout) and 2020 ($5.2MM, $1.2 buyout), and a mutual option in 2021 ($6MM). That contract status, despite the fact he’ll be 31 next season, increases his value and makes it tougher to be acquired.

Ramos would, in theory, be available if the Marlins reeled in Jansen, but at the same time, they might be trying to build a super bullpen with him, Kenley and Kyle Barraclough — because, you know, that’s all they need to be a title contender.

As for free agents, Feliz, 29, is a former top prospect with the Rangers who was good, got hurt, and wasn’t good anymore before heading to Pittsburgh. While he had a strong strikeout rate under Ray Searage, he’s a shell of his former self. But, the Dodgers do like to take risks on reclamation projects (see: Blanton, Joe) and Feliz would likely come cheap(ish). Holland falls into this category as well. He was one of the most reliable closers in baseball for the Royals before suffering a torn UCL late in 2015. The Dodgers were in attendance at his first showcase (where is velocity was in the 88-91 MPH range, a big step down from the 95.5 MPH average for his career) and have been in contact with his agent. In fact, Ken Rosenthal mentioned the Dodgers by name (and no other team) in a tweet on Sunday. He’d be a worth a gamble if the Dodgers had someone to pair him with if he wasn’t as effective as expected.

Finally, we have the different arm-slot guys in Romo (gross) and Ziegler (less gross). Romo is so incredibly effective against righties (career 2.18 FIP) that his deficiencies against lefties (career 3.79 FIP) don’t appear to be as detrimental. Still, if he were brought in, he’d likely be paired with Dayton in the late innings since Romo does struggle against left-handers. Ziegler’s splits are even more dramatic (2.57 FIP vs. righties, 4.59 vs. lefties), but Ziegler brings something to the Dodger bullpen that it is sorely lacking: ground balls. Ziegler had a 63.3 percent ground ball rate last season, and it’s 66.3 percent for his career. The Dodgers’ bullpen had the 3rd-lowest ground ball rate in baseball last season (41.1 percent). That isn’t a big deal with half their games being in Dodger Stadium, but it’s always better when pitchers get grounders rather than fly balls.

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While Jansen is still my top choice, I’m preparing myself for the possibility (probability?) of him not being a Dodger anymore. There is no shortage of options for the Dodgers to replace Jansen, but the acquisition cost plays into things. Here’s how I’d rank the external options (minus Blanton, Britton, Ramos and Robertson, for reasons outlined above) in terms of who I’d want the Dodgers to bring into the fold.

  1. Jones
  2. Holland
  3. Colome
  4. Ziegler
  5. Romo
  6. Boxberger
  7. Feliz

Jones has some of the highest upside of these seven pitchers, and while he’d cost a couple of good prospects to acquire, he’d be under team control through at least 2021, if the Dodgers wanted it. Holland was once elite, but it remains to be seen how he returns from Tommy John surgery. Otherwise, he’d probably top this list. Ziegler and Romo make sense if they face mostly righties, which would put late-inning pressure on Dayton, Luis Avilan and Adam Liberatore. Boxberger has familiarity with both Andrew Friedman and Josh Byrnes, as both of them traded for him while with the Rays and Padres.

It would be a bummer if Jansen has indeed thrown his last pitch with the Dodgers, but there are a ton of options for the Dodgers to attempt to replace his production. Make no mistake, whoever is tabbed as the closer won’t be as good as Jansen has been in his career, but we as Dodger fans have been spoiled by closers for the last decade-plus.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He does contracts and depth charts for FanGraphs and is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a one-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, California, and has yet to be shot.