Kenley Jansen is getting married, as he awaits the details of the biggest payday of his life. And wherever he lands, his next employer will possess one of baseball’s three best relievers (Zach Britton and Andrew Miller being the others), and for big dollars, Jansen will lock down three to four outs just about every night.
But what comes next for the bidders that don’t land him?
Let’s face it: Miami’s pursuit of Jansen is a little strange, because they have a decent closer in A.J. Ramos and they don’t have the resources of the teams they’ve been bidding against. As viewed purely through the prism of baseball business, it’s illogical for the Marlins to sign Jansen and give up a first-round draft pick. But apparently Jeffrey Loria has gotten fixated on the idea of landing one of the superstar closers, and Loria is the guy writing the check, so here we are.
If the Marlins don’t get Jansen, the 30-year-old Ramos presumably will continue as the Miami closer, coming off a year in which he collected 40 saves and allowed one homer in 64 innings. One way or the other, the Marlins’ pitching depth needs to be bolstered, as they try to make up for the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez.
The Dodgers constantly were tied to Aroldis Chapman in rumors this winter, as they are to Jansen now. But some involved in the relief market wonder if the Dodgers are actually serious about spending big dollars in a long-term deal for a closer, because they never really went more than a layer deep in their pursuit of Chapman, and they haven’t taken Jansen -- their own player -- off the board.
There’s a strong argument to be made that this would be a prudent course, because the Dodgers might need their available dollars for third baseman Justin Turner, and L.A. is already way over the luxury-tax threshold for each of the next two years. And Andrew Friedman has a history of successfully constructing bullpens, and they could do that again in 2017.
But there is this: If Jansen signs with another club, an organization that is focused on winning its first championship in almost 30 years wouldn’t have any of the top 10 relievers in the majors -- not Miller, not Britton, not Chapman, nor Wade Davis, nor Jansen -- and the need for high-end relief seems to grow annually.
• The Dodgers are preparing for the possibility of life without Jansen, writes Andrew McCullough. From his piece:
The Dodgers have engaged in trade talks with the White Sox, who are conducting a fire sale that could include former All-Star reliever David Robertson. In Robertson, there exists an example of the perils of free-agent relief contracts. An elite set-up man with the Yankees, he has regressed into a solid closer in Chicago across two seasons with a 3.44 earned-run average.
Robertson struggled with his command in 2016, and saw his strikeout rate decline while his walk rate rose. The White Sox owe him $25 million through 2018, making him a more-affordable, less-dominant option for the Dodgers.
The free-agent market also is flooded with pitchers like Robertson, a sizable group of talented-but-flawed assets. The Dodgers have had talks with former Royals closer Greg Holland, who missed last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Before his elbow reconstruction, Holland was considered one of the best relievers in baseball from 2011 to 2014.
Tim Kurkjian made an interesting observation on Baseball Tonight: just a few months ago, the Nationals wouldn’t part with Lucas Giolito and other prospects for Miller, who would’ve solved their closer issue through the 2019 season –- and this week Washington moved Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning for outfielder Adam Eaton in a market saturated with outfield options.
“Their view of Giolito obviously changed completely,” said one evaluator. “Whatever it was, they were working to move him.”
They could’ve had Miller then, and now the Nationals continue to look for the caliber of closer who mostly has eluded them. Year by year, Washington reminds you of those great Atlanta Braves teams that won one division title after another: They had a great rotation with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, but never could consistently identify someone to finish games.
If Jansen signs with the Marlins, the Nationals again will need to look at Grade B options -- a possible trade with the White Sox for Robertson, or a free agent.
• A question hovers over the Nationals, writes Barry Svrluga: Can they close? Barry writes about the team’s payroll:
Given the nine-figure contracts Nationals ownership has awarded to Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, it can’t be broadly labeled as “cheap.” But clearly the team still doesn’t operate as what anyone in the industry would consider to be a normal baseball franchise.
All this leads to legitimate speculation that the Nationals can’t add payroll to the $163 million or so they spent in 2016.
Can they, Mike [Rizzo]?
“We’ve said from the beginning we have the flexibility financially to do something,” Rizzo said Wednesday.
Flexible enough to add Jansen? And if so, would bringing on $80 million-ish over five years allow them to retain similar flexibility going forward? Adding Jansen is not just Rizzo’s decision. This is an ownership decision, for sure.
Sluggers altering 2017 draft order
The White Sox will jump into the 11th spot in next year’s draft once the Rockies finish their signing of Ian Desmond and give up that pick as compensation. If the Marlins sign Jansen, they would give up the 14th overall pick. The Nationals would give up the 28th pick. The Astros could move up to the 14th spot, the Yankees to 15th.
The good news for Trumbo: The Orioles really like him. And his side has resumed talks with Baltimore.
Fowler rejuvenates Cardinals
SS Aledmys Diaz
2B Kolten Wong
This deal leads a rejuvenation of the Cardinals, writes Benjamin Hochman.
If the Cardinals are going to challenge the Cubs in the NL Central, it will have to be on the backs of their young starting pitchers, who could be difference-making -- Carlos Martinez, of course, but also Alex Reyes. Chicago’s lineup is better than that of St. Louis, the Cubs have a markedly better defense, and they have more depth. The Cubs’ bullpen is probably better and deeper, as well.
But the Cardinals have high-end potential in their rotation, backed by an offense that should be improved with Fowler.
From ESPN Stats & Information: Fowler should be a big upgrade offensively in center for the Cardinals. St. Louis, with Grichuk primarily playing center, had the worst average and on-base percentage at the position in the NL last season.
Fowler is coming off a career year, especially in the plate discipline/patience department, where he ranked among the best in baseball.
To review: Fowler bypassed a $33 million offer from the Orioles last spring to take a one-year deal with the Cubs, betting on himself. Now: payday.
After Desmond, Rockies now seek pitching
The Giants added Mark Melancon to a good team. The Dodgers have tons of resources and re-signed Rich Hill. The Diamondbacks have a great core of talent, although it’s not clear whether their young starting pitchers are capable of sustaining a playoff run. The Rockies have a loaded everyday lineup, and GM Jeff Bridich is looking to add pitching, writes Patrick Saunders. From Saunders’s piece:
“There is a still a lot of work left, but we definitely have leads and we have ideas,” Bridich said. “We certainly made contacts with teams and with agents. For the most part, we were running on parallel courses at these meetings in terms of meeting our needs as far as first base and the bullpen.”
The Rockies have met their first need, agreeing in principle Wednesday with free agent Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million deal to play first base. The move is not official yet, but Desmond is expected to be signed early next week.
Dunn is in the bullpen mix, in part, because he was the eighth-inning setup man for former Miami manager Mike Redmond, who was recently hired as the Rockies bench coach under new manager Bud Black.
“With (Dunn) being in the National League, we’ve seen him a number of times and there’s some level of familiarity there,” Bridich said. “And he’s still available. He’s somebody, to a certain degree, we’re paying attention to.”
The Rockies are wholly intent on using Ian Desmond at first base, writes Saunders.
A possible Colorado lineup for new manager Bud Black in 2017:
2B DJ LeMahieu
LF David Dahl
1B Ian Desmond
SS Trevor Story
Winners and losers
• Bob Klapisch has the winners and losers from the winter meetings.
• The Rays have a lot of good possibilities to trade a starter, writes Marc Topkin.
• Rival evaluators fully expect the Astros to be at the forefront of the chase for starting pitching.
• Some theories about why the market for Edwin Encarncion and Jose Bautista has cooled.