The Dodgers and standout closer Kenley Jansen have avoided arbitration, according to a club announcement. Jon Heyman tweets that Jansen will receive a hefty $10.65MM salary for 2016 — his final season before qualifying for free agency. Jansen, a client of the Wasserman Media Group, had been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn an $11.4MM payday this winter.
Over the next few days, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.
As young fireballers have gotten more opportunity to close, more arbitration cases with few comparables have emerged. Last year, I wrote about such a foursome of closers who had reached second-year arbitration eligibility, and this year I am writing about two of those closers, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, along with Mark Melancon (who I wrote about separately last year). My arbitration model projects each of these pitchers to get raises between $4MM and $4.85MM this winter, each of which would break Jim Johnson’s current record of a $3.88MM raise for a third-year eligible closer.
Depending on how different statistics are weighed, they all have a compelling case to break this record. Johnson’s $3.88MM raise came after he had a 2.49 ERA and 51 saves in 68 2/3 innings, but Johnson struck out just 41 batters that season. He also only had 72 total saves at that point in his career. Although pre-platform performances generally do not matter outside of first-time-eligible arbitration salaries, one large exception I have found is career saves for closers. It is clear that having a history of being a closer matters, which means that Chapman’s 146 career saves, Melancon’s 121 saves, and Jansen’s 142 saves will all help them have better arbitration cases than Johnson did with 72 career saves.
Melancon also had 51 platform-year saves, matching Johnson’s 51 in his platform year in 2012. Along with his 2.23 ERA in 76 2/3 innings, he should have little trouble topping Johnson’s $3.88MM raise after his 2.49 ERA in 68 2/3 innings. Melancon’s $4.6MM projected raise seems about right.
Although Chapman only had 33 platform-year saves, his 1.63 ERA and aforementioned 146 career saves have led him to get an even bigger projected raise than Melancon. His projection actually slightly exceeded the Kimbrel Rule maximum, which is why he is projected for $12.9MM instead of the $13MM figure that was actually forecast by the model. In spite of the lower platform-year save total, Chapman’s vastly superior ERA and greater bulk of career saves give fair reason to assume he will probably get a bigger raise than Melancon, whose case is a straightforward improvement over Jim Johnson’s 2013 case. Both pitchers are likely to get raises between $4MM and $4.85MM.
Kenley Jansen is projected to land a $4MM raise, which would just barely top Johnson’s record. Jansen had 36 platform-year saves, but 142 career saves, so he has fewer platform-year saves but almost double Johnson’s career saves. His platform-year ERA (2.41) is a bit better than Johnson’s was, although it came in fewer innings (52 1/3 versus 68 2/3) due to the fact that Jansen opened the season on the disabled list with a foot injury. I could see Jansen failing to make the case that he should get a larger raise than Johnson did, although if Melancon or Chapman set new records, he could easily argue that those are more applicable comparisons.
It is difficult to find pitchers other than Johnson that would apply to this trio of players. Jose Valverde had 44 platform-year saves going into his 2009 case, in which he earned $3.3MM, and he did have 142 career saves. However, his ERA was 3.38. A year prior to that, Francisco Rodriguez had a $2.95MM raise with similar numbers, but that case would be even more stale than Valverde’s. Joel Hanrahan got a $2.94MM raise with 36 saves going into his 2013 case, but he only had 96 career saves at that point. Johnson’s case against appears more applicable for all three of these closers.
Each of these three players could set the market for each other, so their raises are likely to be highly interdependent. They are also likely to set the market for future closers, now that more players will presumably reach their third year of arbitration eligibility with a career of closing behind them. I think that my model probably has appropriately guessed their salaries for 2016, but if it is wrong, it will probably be either too high on all three, or too low on all three.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The sudden nature of Kenley Jansen’s unavailability on Wednesday evening led to a good deal of speculation following the contest, especially when the Dodgers saw a two-run ninth-inning lead turn into a loss after Jansen’s bullpen mates couldn’t hold off the Rockies. After the game, manager Don Mattingly told reporters that Jansen wasn’t available and that he learned as much during the game, but he provided no further details. Bill Plunkett of the O.C. Register was among those to report yesterday, however, that Mattingly was merely respecting his closer’s wishes. Jansen woke up Wednesday morning feeling sick and dehydrated, and he told the team in the fifth inning of the game. Given his symptoms and history of heart problems, the Dodgers game him an IV and performed an electrocardiogram, after which the doctor recommended that he not play. Jansen said frustration and feeling as though he let the team down were the reasons that he did not wish to address the media Wednesday evening. The 27-year-old righty has been perfect since returning from the DL this season, firing six scoreless innings with an 11-to-0 K/BB ratio.
Here’s more from the NL West…
- In other Dodgers injury news, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports (Twitter links) that Howie Kendrick, who was injured while sliding into third base on Wednesday, underwent an MRI that revealed no structural damage. Kendrick, however said he “[doesn’t] know what will happen” if the knee is not feeling any better today, suggesting that he could miss a bit of time with the injury. Gurnick also says that right-handed pitching prospect Zach Lee has been experiencing a tingling sensation in his fingers and is being examined by doctors in Los Angeles. That’s a troublesome ailment for a team that is working with a thin rotation. Lee, long regarded as one of L.A.’s more promising arms, has a 2.38 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 56 1/3 innings at Triple-A this season.
- Giants GM Bobby Evans addressed the team’s third base situation in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM yesterday and indicated that recently optioned Casey McGehee could return in the near future (Twitter links). Said Evans: “We’ve given Matt Duffy a long look there and we’ll continue to, there’s a chance McGehee could be back up here soon as well. We’ll continue to monitor that, but we have fallback options in that area.” The Giants will certainly hope that McGehee can solidify the position, and he does indeed seem to have corrected his swing at Triple-A. In 46 plate appearances with Sacramento, McGehee is hitting a hefty .357/.391/.571 with a pair of homers and three doubles. Giants third basemen are hitting .255/.294/.380, though McGehee’s own struggles at the plate have contributed to that rather unimpressive collective effort.
- Rockies right-hander Jordan Lyles, who is out for the season due to a foot injury that he describes as “Tommy John for my toe” (Lyles has a torn ligament in his big toe), knew that he needed surgery when he took the hill for his last outing, writes the Denver Post’s Nick Groke. “I was trying to hold off the inevitable,” said Lyles. “They didn’t think I’d be able to handle the pain. But being a hard-head, I said, ’Well, let’s see about that.'” Lyles said that making the final start, which he left in the second inning, didn’t worsen his injury anymore, as the damage had already been done. Rather, he took the mound simply because he “was trying to be a good teammate.” Lyles adds that during his last injury absence, he developed a split-fingered changeup to add to his pitch arsenal. “Now I’ve got a few more months to find something else,” he told Groke.
Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart joined Mike Ferrin of MLB Network Radio (audio link) to discuss last night’s multi-player deal sending Mark Trumbo to the Mariners. He explained that Welington Castillo (acquired in the deal) was not initially a backstop that had interested him upon taking the helm in Arizona — as he hinted, the club conceivably could have made that move when shipping Miguel Montero to the Cubs — but that the loss of Tuffy Gosewisch forced the team’s hand. “The first guy on my list of catchers was [Dioner] Navarro up in Toronto,” said Stewart, who explained that he “had [him] in my sights even in the winter months, before the Winter Meetings.” Stewart added that prospect Gabby Guerrero, who also comes over in the trade, impressed the club this spring.
That deal is a subject that Steve Adams and I tackle in today’s podcast, which will be available in a few hours. Meanwhile, here’s more from the NL West:
- New Dodgers infielder Hector Olivera will make his professional debut tomorrow at Double-A, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register tweets. Director of player development Gabe Kapler had positive things to say about Olivera’s early time in the organization, as Plunkett also reports. “He clearly can handle either” second or third, Kapler added.
- Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen was unavailable last night for unknown and somewhat mysterious reasons, as Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports. Something apparently occurred during the game itself that changed his status, but what that is has yet to be reported. Meanwhile, four other relievers oversaw a 9th-inning meltdown in Colorado. After the game, the team said that Jansen “wasn’t feeling well, while ESPN’s Rick Sutcliffe tweeted that he was “sending [his] prayers” to the Dodgers and their closer, adding to the intrigue. The outstanding power pitcher has dealt with heart issues in the past, including experiencing an irregular heartbeat while in Denver.
- Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta has changed agencies and is now a client of ACES, Devan Fink tweeted recently and ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick confirms (Twitter link). The 27-year-old has quickly established himself as a solid major leaguer, and owns a .280/.323/.460 slash line in his first 490 plate appearances. With just 120 days of service accumulated last year, he’ll likely not qualify for arbitration until 2018.
The Dodgers have announced that standout closer Kenley Jansen has undergone foot surgery that comes with an eight- to 12-week timeline for recovery. Via Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts, the Dodgers’ PR team released the following statement:
“This morning at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, Dodger pitcher Kenley Jansen underwent surgery to remove a growth from a bone in his left foot. This was discovered when Kenley reported discomfort while running last week. A subsequent X-Ray, MRI and CT scan showed the problem in the 5th metatarsal of his left foot. The surgery was performed by Drs. Earl Brien and David Thordarson under the direction of Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
Jansen will be on crutches for about 10 days and then a boot for 3-4 weeks. How he progresses during the rehab process will determine his return to competition, but it is expected to be approximately 8-12 weeks.”
An eight-week recovery would mean that Jansen is ready to go come April 14, whereas a 12-week recovery would keep him shelved through May 12. While the Dodgers possess a deep roster that many consider to be among the most talented in the game, the loss of Jansen for upwards of six weeks of the regular season would be a significant blow, particularly considering the fact that the bullpen is considered to be an area of weakness.
Joel Peralta, Paco Rodriguez, J.P. Howell and Brandon League all seem like locks to open the year in the Dodger ’pen, while other candidates include Chris Hatcher, Pedro Baez and Juan Nicasio. The Dodgers have also brought in David Huff, Sergio Santos, Erik Bedard and, most recently, David Aardsma as non-roster invitees to Spring Training. Among that group, Santos and Aardsma do have closing experience, though neither seems likely to go from minor league signee to primary ninth-inning option for manager Don Mattingly.
The news of Jansen’s injury makes yesterday’s report that the Dodgers are seeking to add another bullpen arm more logical. Among the free agent options for president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, GM Farhan Zaidi and VP Josh Byrnes to choose from are Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Coke. Jonathan Papelbon is also, of course, available on the trade market and was quite effective closing games for the Phillies last winter. For what it’s worth, Friedman should be plenty familiar with Soriano, as Soriano spent the 2010 season — arguably the best of his career — with the Rays.
Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.
Four relievers enter their second year of arbitration eligibility this winter, with a chance to collectively make a huge impact on that market. Each will influence each other’s salary as they did last year, and will influence many players that follow in the coming years. Greg Holland, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Steve Cishek each became full-time closers during their second full seasons in 2012, and have dominated hitters since.
Becoming a closer so early was a rare feat just a few years ago. Teams used to give three-year or four-year deals worth upwards of $10 million per year for an “established” closer. Players like Francisco Cordero, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Brad Lidge, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Jonathan Papelbon signed such deals that began between 2008 and 2012, and few of those worked out. As I wrote several years ago, teams were paying far more per WAR for relievers than any other position on the diamond by far. Obviously the measurement of WAR is tricky, but regardless of how it is measured, it was clear that allocating $10 million to a guy to throw 60 innings three years down the line was not working out for many teams.
Fortunately, something happened that gave a number of teams the opportunity to change their ways. An onslaught of talented young pitchers emerged onto the scene with incredible fastballs, and many were given the opportunity to be closers quickly. Craig Kimbrel is actually from the same service class as these four players but he signed a four-year deal last winter. However, that makes five teams who quickly established a young arm in the closing position and had some success with it. Of course, now that these guys have some experience, the price has gone up.
Holland had the best year of the foursome, with a 1.44 ERA and 46 saves. Jansen was no slouch with a 2.12 ERA and 44 saves, Chapman’s ERA was just 2.00 and he had 36 saves, while Cishek had 39 saves but a more pedestrian 3.17 ERA. As a result, the model predicted a $4.62MM raise for Holland, $3.5MM for Jansen, $3.1MM for Cishek, and $3.05MM for Chapman. The model weighs heavily on saves since the market for relievers has done so in recent years, so it has unsurprisingly ranked their raises by saves. Holland’s raise is actually subject to “The Kimbrel Rule,” which states that a player cannot beat the record for his role and service time by more than $1MM, so his projected raise is limited to $4.275MM (topping Francisco Rodriguez’s $3.275MM raise from 2007 by $1MM), which gives him a $8.95MM projected salary.
What makes these guys even more unique is the fact that so few teams have gone year-to-year in arbitration with their closers. Jason Motte, Jonathan Broxton, and Carlos Marmol have each gotten two-year or three-year deals in recent years. Obviously Kimbrel’s four-year deal meets those criteria as well.
In fact, the only closer with 30 saves in his platform season, 45 saves in his pre-platform seasons, and an ERA under 3.50 in the last five years who did get a one-year deal during his second year of arbitration was Jonathan Papelbon. He got a $3.1MM raise from the Red Sox in 2010 after putting together 38 saves and a 1.85 ERA. Before him, Francisco Rodriguez’s 2007 raise of $3.275MM is a possible clue (1.73 ERA and 47 saves), as could be Jose Valverde’s $2.7MM raise in 2008 (2.66 ERA, 47 saves), or Chad Cordero’s $2.05MM raise in 2008 (3.36 ERA, 37 saves). However, those last three cases are very old and are less likely to be considered in an arbitration case.
All four of the closers in question will basically have Jonathan Papelbon’s $3.1MM raise and whatever each other get as a reference. I think that there is a strong possibility that Chapman and Cishek do get right around their projected numbers, which are within $50K of Papelbon’s raise. I could see Chapman’s reputation pushing him a little higher, though. And I’m also inclined to agree with the model that Kenley Jansen and Greg Holland, with similar ERA’s and more saves than Papelbon, plus a few years of salary inflation behind their cases, are likely to top Papelbon’s raise. Jansen’s $3.5MM raise seems about right, and while I think the model’s estimate for Holland of a $4.62MM raise strikes me as unlikely, a Kimbrel rule-adjusted $4.275MM raise sounds reasonable.
If I had to guess, I think that these four guys will follow the model well. However, I think that they will either all collectively make the model look good, or the first guy will make it look bad, and the following three guys to sign will make it look worse as they affect each other’s cases. Without many historical comparables that look anything like this foursome, they will all become comparables for each other. Unless their teams follow the Braves and ink a multi-year deal, I would not be surprised if these four guys affect each other’s 2016 salaries as well.
The Dodgers have avoided arbitration with closer Kenley Jansen, with the two sides agreeing to a $4.3MM salary for the coming season, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Jansen, 26, is a client of Wasserman Media Group.
Jansen's settlement amount comes in just above the mid-point between the hurler's $5.05MM filing figure and the team's $3.5MM counter. He falls a full half-million dollars shy of the projection of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Though Jansen has been among the most dominant relievers in the game — last year, in 76 2/3 innings, he maintained a 1.88 ERA with 13.0 K/9 against just 2.1 BB/9 — he has not racked up quite the save tallies (28 last year and 25 in 2012) of several other big-name closers who earned more in their first run through arbitration.
As the NFL season comes to an end, ESPN's Jayson Stark writes that, contrary to popular belief, there's more parity in baseball than football. True, the Red Sox and Cardinals were this year's World Series teams, but five MLB teams made the playoffs in 2013 who didn't make it the year before, including the upstart Pirates and Indians. Meanwhile, every team except the Mets and Astros has had one or more winning seasons in the past five years, whereas six NFL teams haven't had any in that span. Here are more notes from around baseball.
- Kenley Jansen isn't worried about being the last arbitration case for the Dodgers, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. "I leave all that to my agent," says Jansen. "I know what my No. 1 goal is, and that’s to get ready for the season." Jansen filed for $5.05MM, and the Dodgers countered with $3.5MM. Jansen mentions that he is excited that three former closers — Brandon League, Brian Wilson and the newly-signed Chris Perez — will join him in the Dodgers' bullpen.
- The Rays have added plenty of depth this offseason, including new infielder Wilson Betemit, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. Logan Forsythe, Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez can all play the outfield as well as infield, so there might be a way for Betemit to earn a bench job out of camp. Topkin also suggests that the Rays could re-sign free agent outfielder Sam Fuld if Fuld doesn't find a Major League contract elsewhere.
- The Red Sox, meanwhile, have lots of depth on their pitching staff, but perhaps not enough at third base or center field, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. That could mean trouble if Will Middlebrooks or Jackie Bradley Jr. struggle. The Red Sox did recently sign Grady Sizemore, but he and Bradley both hit left-handed, and there isn't likely to be space for both on the team's active roster. Shane Victorino could also play center, but an outfield of Jonny Gomes, Victorino and Daniel Nava wouldn't be ideal from a defensive perspective.
MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker is the place to go to see the arbitration contracts agreed upon thus far, as well as the figures exchanged between teams and players that were not able to reach agreement before today's noon deadline to swap salary positions. Matt Swartz's arbitration projections are available here.
As MLBTR has previously explained, 146 players officially filed for arbitration (after some eligible and tendered players had alread reached agreement). Of those, 40 players will exchange figures with their clubs. Of course, those players can still reach agreements before their hearings (which will take place betwee February 1st and 21st). If the case goes to a hearing, the arbitrator must choose one side's figures, rather than settling on a midpoint.
For the Braves players listed below, however, Atlanta says it will cease negotiations and take all cases to a hearing. Two other teams that have swapped figures with some players — the Nationals and Indians — also have employed variations of the "file and trial" approach with their arbitration cases.
Though a tweet from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal indicates that the Reds have joined the list of teams employing "file and trial," GM Walt Jocketty did not seem to echo that position in comments today to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. It turns out that the team has only taken that position with respect to players whose deals were valued under the $2MM level, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
We will use this post to keep tabs on the the highest-stakes arbitration situations remaining — those where the player files for at least $4.5MM:
- A.J. Ellis filed at $4.6MM while the Dodgers countered at $3MM, tweets Passan.
- Gerardo Parra filed at $5.2MM while the Diamondbacks countered at $4.3MM, tweets Passan.
- Tyler Clippard filed at $6.35MM while the Nationals countered at $4.45MM, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
- Alex Avila filed at $5.35MM while the Tigers countered at $3.75MM, tweets Jason Beck of MLB.com.
- David Freese filed at $6MM while the Angels countered at $4.1MM, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
- Mark Trumbo filed at $5.85MM while the Diamondbacks countered at $3.4MM, tweets Heyman.
- Kenley Jansen filed at $5.05MM while the Dodgers countered at $3.5MM, tweets Heyman.
- Craig Kimbrel filed at $9MM while the Braves countered at $6.55MM, tweets Bowman.
- Jason Heyward filed at $5.5MM while the Braves countered at $5.2MM, tweets Mark Bowman of MLB.com.
- Doug Fister filed at $8.5MM while the Nationals countered at $5.75MM, tweets Heyman.
- Aroldis Chapman filed at $5.4MM while the Reds countered at $4.6MM, tweets Heyman.
- Greg Holland filed at $5.2MM while the Royals countered at $4.1MM, tweets Heyman.
- Justin Masterson filed at $11.8MM while the Indians countered at $8.05MM, tweets Heyman.
- Freddie Freeman filed for $5.75MM while the Braves countered at $4.5MM, tweets Heyman.
- Matt Wieters filed for $8.75MM while the Orioles countered at $6.5MM, tweets Heyman.
- Homer Bailey filed for $11.6MM while the Reds countered at $8.7MM, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
- Jeff Samardzija filed for $6.2MM while the Cubs countered at $4.4MM, tweets Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.