After 17 years in the Dodgers organization, Kenley Jansen has a new team. The All-Star closer signed with the Braves for a one-year, $16 million contract, Atlanta announced on Friday.
The Dodgers signed Jansen out of Curacao as a catcher in November 2004, but after it became clear his major league future wasn’t behind the plate, he was convinced to switch to pitching midway through the 2009 season. Almost exactly one year after making his professional pitching debut in High-A, Jansen made the majors during 2010.
His 12 seasons as a Dodger is tied for sixth-most by a pitcher in franchise history.
Jansen debuted with the Dodgers within six weeks of Freddie Freeman’s debut with the Braves. Both signed with the other team on Friday.
Jansen cashed in after bounce-back results in 2021, posting a 2.22 ERA, his best ERA in four years, to go with a 3.08 FIP and 2.83 xERA. Jansen struck out 83 batters in 69 innings, and though he had his highest walk rate (12.9 percent) in 11 years, that improved over the final two months (7.5 percent).
He made $20 million in 2021, the final season of a five-year, $80 million contract signed after the 2016 season. Because Jansen was extended a qualifying offer that offseason, he was ineligible to receive another this year, meaning the Dodgers won’t get draft pick compensation now that he’s signed elsewhere.
Jansen is the Dodgers all-time leader in saves (350), trailing only Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman for the most saves with a single team. Jansen is also atop the franchise leaderboard in games pitched (701) and relief strikeouts (1,022), the 12th pitcher in MLB history with 1,000 strikeouts in relief.
After getting passed over in key postseason moments in 2019 and 2020, including starter Julio Urías closing out the NLCS and World Series in relief to clinch the Dodgers’ first championship in 32 years, Jansen was especially strong this October, allowing no runs in seven innings in his eight postseason games, striking out 14 of his 25 batters faced.
After steering clear of free agency questions during the playoffs, Jansen after the Dodgers were eliminated in the NLCS talked about his future with reporters in Atlanta. From Bill Plunkett at the Orange County Register:
“I’m thankful to have been here all these years. This is the only team I know. They believed in me when I was 17 years old as a catcher. They made me a pitcher and they believed in me as a pitcher and here I am now.
“It happened fast. I enjoyed this journey. I’ll always say whatever happens I’m proud to be a Dodger and I’ll always be a Dodger.”