The Los Angeles Dodgers could certainly use Craig Kimbrel, but Kenley Jansen has shed some light on why Kimbrel is still available.
While Dallas Keuchel has spoken about his free agency situation, things have been far quieter regarding Craig Kimbrel lately. Shy of asking price and draft pick compensation attached to signing both guys right now, as a reliever Kimbrel would likely be able to contribute more quickly than Keuchel.
At 25-15 entering Friday, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a two game lead in the NL West. The bullpen has been an issue though, with a 4.43 ERA (19th in MLB), and it’s the kind of Achilles’ heel that could really hurt them down the road.
Closer Kenley Jansen has 12 saves this season, but with a 4.67 ERA and two blown saves in 17 appearances. The Dodgers as a team have blown seven saves, with eight losses by relievers too.
Even with some cracks that showed last year, Kimbrel has been a very successful closer. That idea lingers in the background of why he is still available, as he’d surely prefer to step right as first in line for save opportunities, with salary and term commensurate with his resume.
Smart front offices don’t give contracts based strictly on resume though. It’s mostly about what someone can do going forward. Bullpen deployment often means a team’s best reliever will be called upon to pitch in a higher leverage seventh or eighth inning, rather than start cleanly in the ninth. But holds don’t stand out on a stat sheet, or get someone paid.
Jansen was asked about Kimbrel joining the Dodgers on Wednesday. His response was obvious, and illuminating in a broader sense.
"Why not?” “We want to win a championship, right?”“That’s what I get paid for,” “I get paid for closing ballgames. Why should I have to do anything different? That’s my question. It doesn’t make any sense."
Jansen, despite his early season struggles, does not feel he would or should have to relinquish the closer role to Kimbrel.
Jansen is not in Los Angeles’ front office, and it’s unclear if they have any real interest in Kimbrel. But the Dodgers’ closer has put quotes to how teams may view Kimbrel’s eventual, variable role. Assuming he has been adamant about strictly being a closer, which is a fair assumption at this point, Jansen’s comments may give Kimbrel a dose of reality.