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Hard-Hitting Baseball Analysis

Analysis: Dodgers flex financial muscle, re-sign Jansen, Turner to long-term deals

With their seemingly unlimited financial capital, the Los Angeles Dodgers are poised to be a big player every offseason for the foreseeable future. Although Los Angeles was conspicuously quiet during the Winter Meetings last week aside from inking SP Rich Hill to a three-year deal, it made a loud statement today by re-signing two of its best players, relief ace Kenley Jansen and third baseman Justin Turner, to long-term deals.

Jansen reportedly turned down more lucrative contract offers, presumably from the Washington Nationals and/or Miami Marlins, to stay in Los Angeles to the tune of five years and $80 million. As his dominant 2016 season demonstrated, Jansen is one of the few truly elite relievers in the game, a stalwart whose brilliance is matched only by his consistency. As if his preposterous 2016 numbers (1.83 ERA, 1.44 FIP in 68 2/3 innings) weren’t enough, Jansen’s workmanlike effort in the postseason elevated his price tag even further. Need him to go two innings? Piece of cake. Three innings? Sure, he can do that too.

This was a player the Dodgers could not afford to lose. Although the Dodgers’ motley crew of bullpen arms performed well last season, they didn’t have anything close to resembling a viable late-inning replacement for Jansen on their roster. And with the other two elite free agent closers — Mark Melancon and Aroldis Chapman — already off the market, the best closers available to Los Angeles likely would have been free agent submariner Brad Ziegler and White Sox right-hander David Robertson, both of whom represent a sizeable downgrade from Jansen.

relief ace kenley jansen resigns with los angeles dodgersBut that’s all a moot point now with Jansen locked up for five years. Sure, the contract is exorbitant for a relief pitcher, but the Los Angeles Dodgers have plenty of money, and this team is trying to win a championship. While signing a pitcher into his 30s is normally a dubious proposition, that may not be the case here. Jansen started out as a catcher in Los Angeles’s farm system after signing with the club in 2004 as a 17-year-old, and did not convert to pitching until mid-2009. With significantly less wear and tear on his arm than most pitchers his age (29), Jansen should be a productive player for the full duration of the contract. More importantly, perhaps, he will almost surely be an indomitable force for the next two years as the Dodgers aim to notch their first World Series title since 1988.

But in order to win a World Series, you need some good position players as well, and Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman made sure he obtained just that by re-signing unheralded star Justin Turner to a 4-year, $64 million deal. Turner put forth a superb 2016 campaign, grading out very well according to defensive metrics with excellent offensive numbers to match (124 wRC+, 27 home runs). Moreover, a case could be made that Turner was a little unlucky at the plate last season since his .293 BABIP was well below his career average of .314.1

Either way, Los Angeles has to be thrilled to solidify both the third base position and the middle of its batting order in one fell swoop. Although Turner just turned 32 last month, he has shown no signs of decline, and at an AAV of $16 million, the Dodgers may have gotten a heck of a bargain for a player who posted a 5.6 fWAR season just last year.third baseman justin turner returns to los angeles dodgers

In addition, like Jansen, the Dodgers had no clear recourse to solving their third base conundrum had Turner opted to sign elsewhere. Trevor Plouffe and Luis Valbuena “highlight” the remaining third base options on the free agent market, and as a left-handed hitter, Valbuena would not fit the Dodgers’ dire need for warm bodies that can hit left-handed pitching.2 The trade market appears relatively barren at the moment as well, aside from White Sox slugger Todd Frazier. But why would the Dodgers eschew a known commodity in Turner in favor of an arguably lesser player who would cost the club valuable prospects?

There is no good answer to this question from my vantage point. And evidently, the Dodgers felt the same way as well.


1: On the flip side, one could point to Turner’s career-high 40% fly ball rate as the reason for his BABIP dip.

2: Last year, Los Angeles was the worst hitting team in the majors against left-handed pitchers on a park-adjusted basis.

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Updated: December 12, 2016 — 6:53 pm

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