Washington Nationals: Should They Pay Big Money For Kenley Jansen?
By Matt Weyrich
Each week, District on Deck’s staff writer Matt Weyrich discusses the biggest question surrounding the Washington Nationals. This week? Should the Nats go all-in for free agent closer Kenley Jansen?
General manager Mike Rizzo of the Washington Nationals has been known to make a bold move or two, and that reputation has rung true so far this offseason. The team traded a hefty package to the White Sox for Adam Eaton at the winter meetings despite widespread criticism of the move.
Eaton solidifies the outfield and adds another left-handed bat to the top of the lineup. With the trade, Rizzo is able to check center field off his offseason to-do list and move on to next most important item: acquiring a closer.
Former ninth inning man Mark Melancon is already a Giant, and the Yankees nabbed Aroldis Chapman off the market with a record-setting $86 million deal. That leaves Kenley Jansen as the only elite closer left in free agency.
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Jansen just wrapped up his seventh season in the majors, posting a 1.83 ERA behind a K/9 of 13.6 and 0.67 WHIP. He converted 47 of 53 save opportunities and earned an All-Star selection for the first time in his career. A native of Curacao, the 29-year old right-hander signed with the Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 2004 and has spent his entire career with the team until now.
Over the past five seasons, Jansen has quietly established himself as one of the best relievers in baseball. Among pitchers to throw at least 300 innings since 2012 and do so as reliever no less than 80% of the time, only Chapman has struck out more hitters or accumulated a lower FIP than Jansen.
There’s no argument against Jansen for his performance so far in his career, and with a good portion of his prime still ahead of him, he’s basically a lock to be a shutdown reliever for the next three years. But is he worth upwards of $70 million over the next five years?
The Nats have a lot of money coming off the books in the next few years. Jayson Werth’s $126 million has reached its final season and both Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy will be free agents after 2018. The team was able to acquire Eaton at a very affordable rate over the next five years, giving the team financial flexibility to make a move for a player like Jansen.
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Washington has been notorious for its bullpen issues over the past few years. From Rafael Soriano to Drew Storen to Jonathan Papelbon, the team has had a roller coaster of a ninth inning. Signing Jansen would put an end to that, while ensuring that it won’t be an issue for at least a few seasons.