Signed RHP Kenley Jansen to a five-year, $80 million contract. [12/12]
Signed 3B-R Justin Turner to a four-year, $64 million contract. [12/12]
The story of the Dodgers post-Frank McCourt has been defined, perhaps more than anything else, by the team’s willingness to spend—a willingness that serves as the title of the book on their recent history. This winter seemed to have the potential to change that. First came the news that after spending more than $1 billion on player salaries over the past few years, the team needed to begin cutting down their debt, thanks to a mandate from MLB.
That debt reduction was meant to happen “without any dramatic alteration” to the team’s on-field product, according to commissioner Rob Manfred. But even if the announcement didn’t indicate significant cutbacks, it still didn’t seem to suggest more big spending in the Dodgers’ immediate future. Then, scarcely a week later, came the new collective bargaining agreement and its new penalties for team payrolls over the luxury-tax threshold.
While that change wasn’t enough to make spending like the Dodgers’ impossible, it was enough to make it more difficult. And yet the Dodgers apparently don’t care, as the money committed to Jansen and Turner yesterday shows. Or, to be more precise, it's not that the team doesn’t care about the luxury tax. It’s simply that they feel the new contracts are worth it. And even with a corresponding bump in their luxury tax payment between $5 and $10 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, they should be worth it.
One perspective here is that re-signing both Jansen and Turner allows the Dodgers to keep their core intact. When coupled with last week’s Rich Hill re-signing for three years and $48 million, it means that there are no significant departures from a team that was two games from the World Series. Another perspective, equally true, is that it was grabbing the best players available at their respective positions on the market.
In Jansen, they get a closer with one pitch—one pitch that’s given him a strikeout percentage hovering at or over 40 percent in recent years and a sub-2.00 DRA that put him among baseball’s five best relievers last season. That one pitch, a cutter, certainly made him the best relief pitcher available when he signed yesterday, and it arguably made him the best relief pitcher available even before Aroldis Chapman signed. (I'll avoid in-depth comparison, but while Chapman got the bigger contract, a quick by-the-numbers from last year shows Jansen with a higher strikeout rate, a lower walk rate, and a better DRA.)
In Turner, they get a third baseman who’s found his game in Los Angeles after joining the team as a minor-league signing cut loose by the Mets. He’s posted a WARP of 4.0 or greater in each of his three years with the Dodgers; he maxed out at 1.5 WARP in the five years prior. His greatest red flag is his health, but the Dodgers should know that health better than anyone—and while those injury concerns were perhaps enough to deflate his cost based on what his stats alone might have gotten him, they clearly weren’t enough to take him off the table.
Not re-signing either player would have left the Dodgers with a hole that was difficult to fill—in any market, given the talent of both Jansen and Turner, but especially in this one, with relief pitching options picked over and third base options basically nonexistent to begin with. Fortunately for the Dodgers, they don’t have to worry about whatever those cheaper patchwork solutions might have been.
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