Dodgers right-hander Kenley Jansen passed on the opportunity to opt out of the final two years and $38MM on his five-year, $80MM contract, as was first reported a few days back by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter).
It’s not a surprising decision in the least. Now 32 years old, Jansen has seen his velocity and his results decline in each of the past two seasons, and he assuredly would have been in line to receive less than $38MM on the open market.
Jansen’s strikeout and walk rates remain excellent (11.4 K/9, 2.3 BB/9), but he’s become more hittable and more homer-prone over the past 15 months in particular. Jansen carried a 2.28 ERA and a 57-to-13 K/BB ratio through 51 1/3 innings into the month of August in 2018. From that point forth, however, he surrendered 11 earned runs on the strength of seven homers in his final 20 1/3 innings. He was sharp through the NLDS and NLCS last season before being tagged with a pair of blown saves in the team’s World Series loss to Boston.
The 2019 season was Jansen’s worst as a Major Leaguer. In 63 regular-season innings, he was tagged for a 3.71 ERA with nine homers surrendered. Dating back to last August, Jansen’s overall regular-season numbers are wholly unremarkable; he’s tallied 83 1/3 innings with an even 4.00 ERA. And despite his robust strikeout totals in that time, he’s yielded an average of 1.73 homers per nine innings pitched.
Perhaps a correction of this year’s explosive ball will prove beneficial, but it’s also worth noting that Jansen’s homer troubles were greater in 2018 than in 2019. At this point, with his once-94.3 mph cutter checking in at an average of 92.1 mph, it’s equally possible that Jansen simply won’t return to the dominant force he once was. His K/BB rates still give him a chance to be a quality late-inning arm, but he’ll need to curtail the home runs to some extent — even if he can’t return to his 2016-17 form, when he yielded just nine home runs over a span of 137 innings. He’ll earn $19MM in each of the next two seasons, but in spite of that salary, the Dodgers may be forced to push him into a lower-leverage role and alter the manner in which they handle their highest-leverage situations moving forward.