Kenley Jansen Rumors
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.
Over the next few months, 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.
The league is full of young closers nowadays, and they all seem to be entering their first year of arbitration at the same time. There are seven different pitchers with at least 16 saves in 2013 who are entering arbitration for the first time, nearly a quarter of the entire league’s closers. Craig Kimbrel has already been discussed in a previous article and his case is far stronger than any of the other pitchers. Aroldis Chapman has a pretty unique case, if not a better one, because he has been an elite closer for two years and will be opting out of a large contract to go through arbitration. Mark Melancon is different than the others as well, because he only really was a closer in the second half of this season, and only due to injury. However, there are a number of similarities between Ernesto Frieri, Steve Cishek, Greg Holland, and Kenley Jansen, and this article will be about the cases for each of them. The model only sees arbitration salaries of $3.4MM for Frieri and $3.2MM for Cishek, while it sees $4.9MM for Holland and $4.8MM For Jansen. In this article, I will explain why the model is making these predictions and discuss whether the actual salaries will diverge this much.
For relievers, the primary determinants of their arbitration salaries are the number of saves they had in their platform season, and the number of saves they had before their platform season, as well as the number of holds in their platform season and pre-platform season. To a lesser extent, platform-year ERA and pre-platform year ERA are important as well, and innings and strikeouts all play a key role too.
Holland has the most platform year saves of the group, with 47 this past year, on top of the 20 pre-platform saves he had. This number along with his 1.21 ERA explains why he had the largest salary projection of this group at $4.9MM. Although Jansen had fewer saves than the others with 28, his 1.88 ERA was better than Cishek’s 2.33 and far better than Frieri’s 3.80 this past season. Combining that with his 2.22 ERA pre-platform (better than the other three) and his 16 holds, and Jansen is projected nearly as high as Holland, with a $4.8MM estimate. Jansen’s 34 pre-platform saves were also the highest of the four, and his 21 pre-platform holds stood only behind Holland’s 27.
Frieri did have 37 saves in 2013 and 23 more beforehand, which is definitely a good case. Although his 3.80 ERA is high for a closer, his 98 strikeouts are way more than Cishek’s 74, but less than Holland’s 103 and Jansen’s 111. Cishek had 34 saves in 2013 with 18 pre-platform. Frieri is projected to get $3.4MM and Cishek is projected for $3.2MM.
The record for closers entering their first year of eligibility still belongs to Jonathan Papelbon at $6.25MM (until Kimbrel breaks this record). His 41 platform year saves and 72 pre-platform saves puts him well ahead of this group. Even Bobby Jenks’ 30 platform year saves were augmented by his 87 pre-platform year saves, putting him ahead of this group when he got a $5.6MM salary back in 2009.
Looking for pitchers who had similar pre-platform saves as well as platform saves is important, since anyone with three years of closing will have earned more than this group of four will. Holland’s 47 platform year save count and 20 pre-platform year save count are a pretty unique pairing, so it will tough to find a perfect comparable. Everyone with over 40 saves in recent memory during their platform years had more pre-platform year saves.
Brian Wilson’s 38 platform-year saves and 48 pre-platform year saves make for an interesting comparable. In 2010, he earned $4.46MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Of course, his 2.74 ERA is far worse than Holland’s 1.21, so there seems to be a good chance that Holland could top this salary. On the other hand, if pre-platform year saves becomes important, than perhaps J.J. Putz’s 2007 numbers of 36 platform-year saves and 10 pre-platform year saves could be a floor—but he only earned $2.7MM. Given how stale that number is at this point, I don’t see Putz’s name coming up in negotiations. I think that Holland will have a hard time arguing for anywhere over $5MM, which is what John Axford earned last year after accumulating 35 platform year saves and 71 pre-platform year saves, so I think that the $4.9MM estimate is probably about right for him.
For Jansen, his 28 pre-platform saves are on the low side, but his 16 holds, 1.88 ERA, and 111 strikeouts augment his case. He also 34 pre-platform year saves and his 2.22 ERA and 236 strikeouts before his platform year are a strength as well, in addition to the 21 holds he had already accumulated. Andrew Bailey’s 2012 arbitration salary of $3.9MM could come up as a comparable for him. He had 24 saves in his platform-year but 51 in his pre-platform year, so he could be argued to be a ceiling for Jansen based on the pre-platform save total. However, his 3.24 platform-year ERA is far behind Jansen’s 1.88 and Jansen’s holds could help make up for the gap in pre-platform saves. Especially given the fact that Bailey had only 41 strikeouts in his platform season, I could see $3.9MM being a floor for Jansen.
Another potential comparable could be Chad Cordero, who received $4.15MM back in 2007. Although this is a stale number at this point, the 29 saves that Cordero had in his platform year are similar to Jansen’s 28, and even though his 62 pre-platform year saves beat Jansen, his 3.19 ERA and 69 strikeouts fall short of him. Furthmore, Jansen’s holds are really unique for a guy who has mostly been a closer and give him a small leg up on other names that keep coming up. In the end, something in the $4.8MM neighborhood could be a good bet, though I could see him ending up with less than this if platform year saves become too large of a factor.
Looking for comparables for Frieri is tricky if the high ERA comes into play. Even though he accumulated 37 saves in 2013, the 3.80 ERA that went along with them is abnormally high for a closer. In recent years, few such pitchers have met their criteria. Axford had a 4.68 ERA going into last year’s negotiations, which yielded him $5MM, but given that he had 71 pre-platform saves, that would dwarf Frieri’s 23, despite the similar number of saves during their platform years. Chad Cordero’s name might make some sense as well, when he earned $4.15MM in 2007, but his 62 pre-platform year saves are also too many to make for a good comparable and an ERA of 3.19 isn’t so bad either.
Another name that could come up in the negotiations over Frieri’s salary is Juan Carlos Oviedo, who had a 4.06 ERA in 2009. He only had 26 saves though and no pre-platform saves. These factors got him only a $2MM salary, which probably is way below what Frieri will receive. Brian Wilson keeps coming up as a ceiling for Frieri. He had 38 platfrom year saves and 48 pre-platfrom year saves, so he has Frieri on the pre-platform year saves, and his 2.74 ERA is much better as well. His $4.46MM salary will almost definitely exceed Frieri’s.
It’s hard to pick anyone who makes sense in between these numbers so really anywhere from $2MM to 4.4MM seems possible for Frieri. Of course, I suspect he’ll be somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, so I think that the $3.4MM projection is about right.
Cishek had 34 saves last year, but with only 18 pre-platform saves, he probably has a weaker case than these other closers. Pre-platform year saves matter a lot for first-time eligible closers, so looking for his comparables will entail limiting this. Akinori Otsuka seems to line up in some ways, but his projection is very stale. Back in 2007, he earned $3MM after recording 32 saves and a 2.11 ERA, but he only had 3 saves prior to his platform year. Since Cishek’s ERA was 2.33, it could be that $3MM becomes a floor for Cishek. On the other hand, David Aardsma received $2.75MM in 2010 after recording 38 saves, but those were the first of his career. Given his 18 career holds are similar to Cishek’s 16, and his 2.52 ERA is also near Cishek’s, I could see the Marlins trying to hold down Cishek’s salary by suggesting this comparable.
Of course, if Cishek can downplay the importance of pre-platform saves, he may be able to sneak Brian Wilson’s $4.46MM salary into the argument. Wilson had 38 platform year saves, which is similar to Cishek’s 34, and his 2.74 ERA was higher than Cishek’s 2.33. However, I suspect the 48 pre-platform saves will make it hard to make this argument. Cishek coming in near $3.2MM as he is projected, just above Otsuka’s $3MM and Aardma’s $2.75MM seems likely.
Overall, despite the uncertainty and the difficulties in finding perfect comparables, it seems like the model is probably about right on all four of these guys. Although they each may be used as comparables for each other if one or two sign earlier than the others, drawing their salaries closer together based on the similarities between their platform year and pre-platform year saves, I suspect that the large gap in ERA and strikeouts ends up pushing them further apart, as well as Holland’s standout headline of 47 saves.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.