Kenley Jansen Would Be Classic Head-Scratching Move for Adrift Marlins Franchise

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2016

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning of game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Kenley Jansen is one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. By definition, he'll improve any club that signs him.

He doesn't make sense for every team, however, financially or strategically, including the Miami Marlins.

So, naturally, they're in deep on Jansen.

In fact, the 29-year-old right-hander is the Marlins' "top target," per FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman. The Fish, Heyman noted, "are considering the idea of putting together a super pen since there aren't the types of starters available at reasonable cost to help them upgrade their rotation in a meaningful way."

That's not absurd. Far from it. The super bullpen is baseball's latest fad. It propelled the Kansas City Royals to a World Series title in 2015 and carried the Cleveland Indians to Game 7 a few short weeks ago.

If Miami lured him in, Jansen would join a pen headlined by All-Star A.J. Ramos, who posted a 2.66 ERA last season and racked up 73 strikeouts in 64 innings. 

Jansen also has ties to Marlins skipper Don Mattingly from their days with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He boasted a 1.84 ERA with 47 saves and 104 strikeouts in 68.2 innings and proved his mettle in the postseason. 

"Having a shutdown closer like Jansen changes the way teams have to plan against the Dodgers," an unnamed talent evaluator told FanRag Sports' Jack Magruder. The same would be true for any squad that inked him.

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The dots connect.

Ask yourself, though: Is Miami really one superlative reliever away from bona fide contention?

The Marlins finished 79-82 last year, a distant third place in the National League East.

The offense is laden with potential. All-Star center fielder Marcell Ozuna and left fielder Christian Yelich are coming off breakout campaigns. Still, Miami ranked No. 27 in baseball in runs scored, "thanks" in part to the inconsistent stylings of $325 million man Giancarlo Stanton, who hit a scant .240 and paced the team with 140 strikeouts. 

Offensive anchor Giancarlo Stanton had a down year for Miami.
Offensive anchor Giancarlo Stanton had a down year for Miami.Rob Foldy/Getty Images

The starting rotation lacks a legitimate No. 1 after the tragic death of Jose Fernandez and will rely on a muddled mishmash topped by veteran lefty Wei-Yin Chen, who posted a 4.96 ERA in his first season in South Beach. 

There are no aces to be had via free agency. Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter, meanwhile, ranked the Marlins' farm system No. 27 in baseball, meaning a roster-remaking trade is unlikely. 

Speaking of which: Jansen would cost the Marlins their first-round draft pick since he rejected the Dodgers' qualifying offer.

If we were talking about a team that was an elite closer away from World Series glory, that would be a worthwhile trade-off. 

For Miami? Not so much.

Then again, this is a franchise that defines dysfunction. They're a team, as Bleacher Report's Scott Miller put it in December, "that always is just one elephant short of going full Barnum & Bailey under the carnival-barker owner Jeffrey Loria."

Polarizing owner Jeffrey Loria has shown a propensity for head-scratching moves.
Polarizing owner Jeffrey Loria has shown a propensity for head-scratching moves.Marc Serota/Getty Images

The Marlins have won two titles in their relatively brief existence and proceeded to tear each roster down posthaste. They built a gaudy new stadium on a financially unstable foundation. They hired Barry Bonds, arguably baseball's most polarizing figure, to be their hitting coach and canned him after one season.

We could go on. Even casual observers, however, understand that the Marlins and bizarre decisions go together like stuffing and gravy.

On the grand Miami head-scratching scale, signing Jansen for the $80 million to $90 million he's sure to command wouldn't rate near the top. 

But it would be a classic Marlins overreach: Big-game hunting for a splashy name at the expense of a draft pick and a hunk of payroll without an apparent plan. Miami's budget ranks in the bottom third, per Spotrac. Unless Loria is preparing to untie the purse strings, Jansen is an incongruous luxury.

Miami should hang on to its first-round pick. It should figure out which parts of its current offensive core it wants to keep and nurture.

It should methodically bolster and rebuild the starting rotation over the next few seasons and sketch a road map that goes deeper than the shiniest free agent on the shelf.

For the Marlins, though, "should" is rarely synonymous with "do." Which means Jansen will probably soon wear an "M" on his hat.


All statistics courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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