The Los Angeles Dodgers avoided salary arbitration with closer Kenley Jansen today. The two sides reached an agreement upon a one-year, $4.3 million deal that is roughly the midpoint between Jansen's initial submission of $5.05 million and the Dodgers' contract offer of $3.5 million. Jansen was the Dodgers’ last arbitration case, as they agreed to terms with catcher A.J. Ellis last week.
As the incumbent closer, Jansen’s salary will actually be less than two of the other relievers currently in camp with the Dodgers, as Brandon League ($7.5 million) and Brian Wilson ($10 million) are set to earn more this season. If you include J.P. Howell’s signing bonus ($3 million, along with the $4 million salary), even he is making more than Jansen this season. Given Jansen’s closing abilities, the contract is an absolute steal. Jansen will remain under team control for each of the next three years.
Jansen’s story is somewhat famous at this point, as he converted from minor league catcher into big league pitcher in a matter of nine months. In comments made to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Jansen recalled his rapid ascent through the Dodgers’ system after the conversion:
"You just look back, a catcher, struggling hitter, they put me on the mound and in nine months [reached the big leagues]," Jansen said. "It's unbelievable how stuff works that quick. The next thing you know, you sign a million-dollar contract. Pretty awesome. I just have to stay humble. I don't know what to say. I just have to improve myself every year."
The bullpen figures to be a strength of the Dodgers this season. Along with Jansen, former closer Wilson figures to be the set-up man. Both pitchers were lights-out last season, though Wilson’s performance was in an admittedly small sample size. Lefties Howell and Paco Rodriguez were both incredibly reliable throughout the season (except for Rodriguez’ late-season collapse), and the team added another former closer, Chris Perez, along with familiar face Jamey Wright. League was the most ineffective of the bunch, and if the Dodgers are willing to swallow his contract (unlikely with two years remaining), Chris Withrow is available to join the bullpen.
With plenty of depth and plenty of options, manager Don Mattingly should be able to avoid any overuse of his relievers, keeping them fresh for the postseason.
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