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Kenley Jansen turned down more money to return to the Dodgers

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Examining what we know about the competing offers for the closer

NLCS - Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs - Game Two Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The lure of familiarity was surely an important factor in Kenley Jansen deciding to return to the Dodgers. But while reports surfaced Monday that Jansen turned down more money from both the Nationals and Marlins to say in Los Angeles, the Dodgers still had to step up to get the deal done.

Jansen’s agent, Adam Katz, spoke with Joel Sherman about Jansen returning to the Dodgers, which Sherman revealed in a series of tweets.

“The Nationals’ presentation was exceptional and generous and for more money. They conducted recruitment of this player in a high caliber professional way. Kenley and I were very impressed,” Katz said. “At the end of the day Kenley loves Los Angeles, his Dodger family, the fans here and although money was a factor, it wasn’t the most important thing.”

While it may have seemed at times the Dodgers were in jeopardy of letting Jansen get away, after not signing him to an extension before the season, or after hearing reports of the Marlins’ “monster offer” at the winter meetings, LA’s patience was buoyed by an overture during the regular season, as noted by Bill Plunkett of the LA Daily News in September.

The Dodgers reached out to Jansen’s agent as a courtesy during the season to let him know Jansen was a priority for them to retain in the offseason (they did the same with Justin Turner, per Plunkett, a seed planted which also seems destined to bear fruit this week).

“That means they showed respect, that they know it’s up to them to keep me here,” Jansen told Plunkett at the time.

Jansen signed with the Dodgers for $80 million over five years, with a reported opt-out clause after three seasons. It is unclear what the offer from Washington was, but Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reported that the offer was more, at least nominally, than the Dodgers’ $80 million offer.

But as Janes noted, “their offer, like so many of the offers they have made to big-name free agents over the last two years, included significant deferrals.”

Perusing Cot’s Contracts, the Nationals have a number of players under contract with money deferred:

  • Max Scherzer signed for $210 million over seven years, but is paid out over 14 years. Because of the deferrals, MLB calculated the total value of the contract at $191.4 million.
  • Stephen Strasburg inked an extension earlier in 2016 worth $175 million over seven years, with $70 million deferred, reducing the value to roughly $162 million.
  • Daniel Murphy signed a three-year, $37.5 million deal last winter, and $5.5 million of that is deferred, reducing the total value to $37.27 million (not all of these deferrals make a huge difference to the total value).
  • Jayson Werth in 2015 agreed to defer $10 million of his 2016 salary to 2018, after his contract expires.

So it’s unknown whether Washington’s total offer, when factoring in the deferrals, was in fact still more than the Dodgers’ offer. But they weren’t alone.

The Marlins offered “more than $80 million” for Jansen, per Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald characterized $80 million as “about what the Marlins offered” Jansen, but also noted that Miami’s proposal was heavily backloaded and might not have included a no-trade clause.

The lack of a state income tax would have sweetened Miami’s offer relative to the Dodgers, but not significantly so — maybe a few million dollars over the life of the contract, roughly.

But even if the offers of the Nationals and Marlins weren’t significantly better than the Dodgers, it was pretty clear the interest of both teams were sincere, especially since either of those teams would have had to forfeit their first-round pick had they landed the elite closer — as it stands, No. 13 for the Marlins or No. 26 for the Nationals.

The Dodgers, it turned out, just had to be in the ballpark, which they were with the second-largest contract ever given to a relief pitcher. So while Jansen decided to “go with his heart” as Marly Rivera of ESPN reported, the money certainly helped, too.