With salary arbitration season nearly upon us, the Dodgers player in line for the largest raise is closer Kenley Jansen, after putting up yet another stellar season in 2014.
Jansen avoided arbitration his first time through the process in 2014, settling for a one-year deal worth $4.3 million, which on its own is already above the projections for the other four remaining Dodgers eligible for arbitration in 2015. Jansen is due a hefty raise himself as he climbs into the upper echelon of closers in baseball.
The Dodgers haven't yet indicated a willingness to sign Jansen to a multi-year deal, though he has two more years of arbitration before reaching free agency. Craig Kimbrel is in a class by himself among major league relievers, and he did sign a multi-year deal with the Braves, before his 2014 season, that at the very least can be used as a loose guideline for Jansen's worth.
First, it should be noted that Jansen, despite his great achievements to date, is not Kimbrel, who has been hands down consistently the best relief pitcher in baseball for a few years running. They are at similar points in service time, though, so let's compare numbers.
Kimbrel signed before last season a four-year deal with a guaranteed $42 million, that bought out one free agent year with a club option for a second free agent year, with the following payout (per Cot's Baseball Contracts):
$1 million signing bonus
2014: $7 million
2015: $9 million
2016: $11 million
2017: $13 million
2018: $13 million club option ($1 million buyout)
The deal was signed after Kimbrel and the Braves had exchanged salary arbitration figures, to give some idea his value relative to Jansen last year. Kimbrel asked for $9 million and the Braves filed at $6.55 million. Jansen, by contrast, asked for $5.05 million while the Dodgers filed at $3.5 million, before settling at $4.3 million.
While the Kimbrel deal on one hand could serve as an upper limit of sorts for Jansen, it's important to note the relative discount of the contract for the club making the risk of a long-term commitment.
Where Jansen trails Kimbrel the most is in saves, with periods of setting up before Jansen ultimately took over the Dodgers closer position for good. Saves get you paid.
Last year we took a look at some relief pitchers with similar numbers, and save totals, to Jansen, in trying to figure his 2014 salary. Let's review those comparable pitchers again, this time with one more year of service time.
|Recent closers comparable to Kenley Jansen|
Bailey really dropped off in 2012, limited by injuries to 19 innings, so he isn't as comparable to Jansen as he was last year. Jansen distanced himself in saves from Clippard, with Perez and his lofty save total the best of the three old comparable players to use. I added in Hanrahan as a new comp, though more in save total only.
The good news for Jansen is that his performance to date far outweighs that of Perez and Hanrahan through 2012, so look for him to blow past the $7.3 million Perez received in 2013.
The question is by how much?
Jansen was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $8.2 million in 2015, which seems about right.
I'll go slightly less for Jansen, putting him at $8 million for 2015, an increase of 86 percent over 2014. If we assume another hefty 86-percent raise for Jansen in 2016, that puts him at roughly $14.9 million, for a total of $27.2 million for his three years of salary arbitration, keeping him just under the $28 million earned by Kimbrel over the same period.