The Dodgers and Kenley Jansen came to a contract agreement on Tuesday and avoided going to an arbitration hearing which was scheduled for February 18th. The Dodgers closer agreed to a one-year $4.3 million deal.
Both sides reached a compromise between the two competing salary offers. Jansen submitted a proposal of $5.05 million while the Dodgers offered $3.5 million. Kenley will get a big bump in pay from his modest salary of $512,000 that he received last season.
Jansen had told the media during after reporting to Spring Training that he was not distracted by the arbitration process, and that he felt confident in his ability to do his job. He also stated that he respected the members of the projected 2014 Dodger bullpen which he will work with this season.
The converted catcher from Curacao was sidelined in recent years with an irregular heartbeat which was corrected by a surgical procedure in 2012. Javy Guerra, who is also in Major League camp fighting for a spot on the team, began 2012 as the closer when Kenley’s heart problem continued and Broxton blew up. Javy filled in admirably for the injured Jonathan Broxton, but he was ultimately demoted back down to AAA-Albuquerque after faltering on the mound after a scary line drive to the face.
Kenley realized that the Dodgers had to temporarily replace Kenley’s spot while he overcame his health issues, and Jansen was very humble yet confident when asked about not only Guerra but also the Dodgers signings of Brandon League and Brian Wilson:
“Last year, I knew I could be a closer, but they had me coming in as a setup guy and I respected the decision they made,” Jansen said. “I had to earn it back. I knew the heart issue kept me down. They had to get some insurance for the closer role. At the same time, now I know the closer role is mine and I never doubted myself that I can be that guy.”
Jansen is still under team control for another three years, so it is likely that they will continue to negotiate one-year contracts with the 26-year old reliever. After shelling out $27.5 million to Brandon League, which of course has been nothing short of a disastrous signing thus far, the Dodgers are understandably wary of signing a reliever to another pricey long-term deal.
I hesitate in comparing Kenley to Brandon League since Kenley has been nothing short of dominating during his Dodger career so far. Other than his heart condition which has been corrected, he has been reliable as well. Kenley also has less stress on his arm than most pitchers since he has only really been pitching since 2009 when the Dodgers converted him from a light hitting catcher to a relief pitcher. I wouldn’t be that hesitant in offering Kenley a long-term deal, but I can understand why the Dodgers might not want to go there.
Kenley will be a part of one of the most multi-dimensional Dodger bullpens they have had in some time. Former closers Brian Wilson and Chris Perez, along with long-man Jamey Wright, lefties Paco Rodriguez and J.P. Howell, and LASIK patient Brandon League are members of the projected bullpen. The Dodgers will also have plenty of reserve arms at their disposal including Chris Withrow, Jose Dominguez, Javy Guerra, Chris Reed, as well as potential extra starting pitchers.
With Kenley’s new contract agreement, the Dodgers have now come to terms with all of their arbitration eligible players.