MLB free agency starts to pick up around the Winter Meetings, which kick off this week in Washington D.C. A few major players worth watching include three big reliever options in Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon, and Kenley Jansen. The latter served as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ closer over the years and is set to get a truckload of cash to finish games for another team. So who is interested in Jansen’s services? These four teams will give him a serious look.
1. Miami Marlins
Although it seems like the Miami Marlins should target starting pitching above all else, their top target is apparently Jansen going into the offseason, according to an offer they’ve laid on the table worth north of $80 million. The Marlins actually had a strong bullpen in 2016, with A.J. Ramos, Kyle Barraclough, David Phelps, and Dustin McGowan all coming in with ERAs under 3.00 for Miami. But we’ve seen how teams with a shutdown bullpen can really be successful.
Maybe Miami plans to trade away some of their bullpen depth after acquiring Jansen, packaging it with other prospects in return for a starting pitcher. Since the tragic passing of ace Jose Fernandez, the Marlins are left with very little in their starting rotation going forward. As of now, their best pitcher is Adam Conley, who had a 3.85 ERA and 4.20 FIP in 25 starts last year.
2. San Francisco Giants
The first reason the San Francisco Giants would love to sign Jansen is because their bullpen really let them down throughout the second half of the season as well as the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. The second reason? It never hurts to steal away a great player from your closest rival. Having Jansen available to pitch the ninth inning would make the Giants a lot better while hurting the Dodgers in what could be a very close NL West division race next year.
While Jansen saved 36 games with a 1.83 ERA last year for the Dodgers, the Giants blew a total of 30 saves during the regular season and had a bullpen ERA of 3.65. This came to a head in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cubs, when the Giants’ bullpen couldn’t hold a three-run lead in the ninth inning — they allowed four runs and were eliminated from the postseason that night.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Of course, it makes a lot of sense for the Dodgers to sign Jansen. Los Angeles had one of the better bullpens in the National League last year, in large part because of the excellent season that Jansen had pitching in the ninth. But the rest of the bullpen is somewhat questionable heading into 2017, and there’s no obvious choice for someone to step in and take over the closer’s role should their ace reliever sign elsewhere.
Rumors indicate that the Dodgers will cut payroll this winter, which could present them with a major problem if they’re trying to bring Jansen back on a new deal. If the bidding gets high enough, expect the Dodgers to let Jansen walk away and focus on cheaper options, such as Greg Holland, the former closer for the Kansas City Royals who’s coming off of Tommy John Surgery.
4. Mystery team
There’s also the classic “mystery team,” which often seems to land the big free agent in the final hour. The mystery teams include the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, and Boston Red Sox. The Cubs will likely lose Chapman and end up with an open spot in their bullpen. While they’re under no pressure to win again in 2017, don’t rule out Chicago getting into the bidding for Jansen.
The same could be said of the New York Mets, who lost the 2015 World Series and then the 2016 National League wild-card game, making them a bit desperate to make a big free–agent splash. The Red Sox have a lot of relievers hitting free agency; somebody to pair with Craig Kimbrel would do them a lot of good.