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Kenley Jansen and Dodgers have tough decision to make this offseason

After one of the best seasons of his career, Kenley Jansen will be a free-agent this offseason.

Championship Series - Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Three Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

There’s a strong chance that no player will ever wear No. 74 again for the Dodgers. At 34 years old, Kenley Jansen has at least a couple more years left in the tank. If he’s able to pitch at an All-Star type of level for a few more seasons, he’ll have a pretty strong Hall-of-Fame case.

If Jansen enters Cooperstown, he’ll do it wearing a Dodgers cap. If that’s the case, the Dodgers will all but surely be retiring his No. 74,

Personally, I’m hoping we see No. 74 out there on the field in 2022. Preferably worn by Jansen himself. The closer will be a free-agent this offseason, as he’s coming off a five-year contract that was worth $80 million.

Entering the season, it seemed likely that the Dodgers wouldn’t bring back Jansen following the season, as his production seemed to be on the decline. Well, Jansen proved that he’s still got plenty left in the tank, as he had one of the better seasons of his career in 2021.

Aside from a disastrous three-game stretch in July, Jansen was fantastic for the Dodgers in 2021. He was even better in the postseason, as he tossed seven scoreless innings and had 14 strikeouts.

“I think he’s been able to focus on things that are important and that can help you instead of a little bit in the past,” manager Dave Roberts said during the NLCS. “The scope gets a little bit more broad and the noise gets a little bit more loud and invasive.

“So now I think that this whole year, especially after that little stumble he had after the break, he’s just really harnessed that focus and this is as good as I’ve seen Kenley Jansen pitch in my time here with the Dodgers.”

The Dodgers have a number of free-agents they’ll need to consider bringing back for 2022. Will Jansen be one of them?

“It’s not in my hands,” Jansen said to the media following the Game 6 loss. “I gotta thank God for the great opportunity I had here as a Dodger. I’m thankful to be here for all these years.

“This is the only team I know. They believed in me when I was 17 years old as a catcher. And then they made me a pitcher and believed in me as a pitcher. And here I am now. It happened fast. I enjoyed this journey. And I’ll always say, whatever happens, I’ll always be a Dodger.”

Jansen has been a member of the Dodgers organization for nearly two decades. He’s spent about half of his life with this organization. It’s his home. There’s no question he’d like to remain here. It’s just a matter of whether or not the Dodgers would be willing to bring him back.

“I’m gonna take three days off and then get back to work,” Jansen said Saturday night. “Get my conditioning back down. Lose a couple of pounds. Get stronger and be healthy for a healthy season next year.”

Jansen is coming off a contract that saw him make an average of $16 million a season. I certainly don’t think he’ll be getting another five-year deal, but based on his performance I certainly don’t think that $16 million a year is out of the possibility for him, especially if he is willing to accept fewer years.

I went back and looked at some notable free-agent deals for relievers since 2019 to get a general idea of the ballpark of what a potential deal could look like.

  • Liam Hendriks (Age: 31) 3 years/$54 million ($18 million average)
  • Will Smith (Age: 30) 3 years/$40 million ($13 million average)
  • Craig Kimbrel (Age: 31) 3 years/$43 million ($14 million average)
  • Zack Britton (Age: 31) 3 years/$39 million ($13 million average)
  • Andrew Miller (Age: 33) 2 years/$25 million ($12.5 million average)

As you can see, all of these contracts are right around the same number, with the exception of Hendriks who received a big pay-day last offseason, though he’s only 31 years old. Jansen will be 34 years old entering the 2022 campaign, which certainly can impact a potential contract.

At this point, I think it’s just a matter of what Jansen would prefer. Would he prioritize more years or a bigger payday? It’s tough to see him getting anything longer than three years, but you never know what can happen in free-agency.

If he’s willing to accept a team-friendly deal to remain in Los Angeles, I don’t think the Dodgers would hesitate to bring him back. With that being said, he’s earned whatever amount of money a team is willing to offer him.

Jansen has 350 career saves, all of which have come with the Dodgers. I know there are no guarantees in life, but I can guarantee you we won’t see that number broken by another Dodgers pitcher in our lifetime.

I certainly hope that Jansen and the front-office can figure something out this offseason. Jansen is one of the few players in baseball who deserve to never wear another MLB uniform the rest of their career. He’s earned it.

Not to mention, he was also a pretty damn good pitcher this year.