Dodgers Remain Among NL Elite by Re-Signing Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterDecember 12, 2016

Justin Turner's contract may be the steal of the offseason.
Justin Turner's contract may be the steal of the offseason.Harry How/Getty Images

Nearly $200 million and exactly three familiar faces later, the Los Angeles Dodgers have retained a roster worthy of the top of the National League power structure.

The first $48 million went into a three-year contract for lefty starter Rich Hill, who continued his late-career revival with a 1.83 ERA in six starts for the Dodgers in the home stretch of 2016. On Monday, Los Angeles committed another $144 million to relief ace Kenley Jansen and third baseman Justin Turner.

As Jim Bowden of ESPN and SiriusXM confirmed, Jansen's deal is for five years and $80 million:

According to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports, the reliever's pact also includes an opt-out after 2019.

Confirmation on Turner's contract is stuck in the pipeline for the moment. But Joel Sherman of the New York Post teased it will be for four years and $64 million. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com is hearing the same:

The Dodgers aren't finished with their offseason checklist. They still need an everyday second baseman. After Josh Reddick's departure, they could also use corner outfield depth.

For now, though, the Dodgers deserve a tip of the ol' cap for focusing their offseason maneuvers on the right places and the right players.

Given that he's a 36-year-old who only twice has gone over 100 innings, Hill comes with durability questions. But talent that's produced a 2.00 ERA in 24 starts since 2015 made him the most desirable starter on the open market and a good fit for a Dodgers rotation that had depth but needed a proper partner in crime for Clayton Kershaw.

For a player like that, $16 million per year isn't too much. It certainly sounds better than $16 million per year for a relief pitcher, anyway.

Of course, it's not the Dodgers' fault they had to back up a truck filled with that much money for Jansen. Mark Melancon set the market for elite relief pitching when the San Francisco Giants signed him for $62 million over four years. Aroldis Chapman further drove the point home when he accepted five years and $86 million from the New York Yankees.

Kenley Jansen got the going rate for elite relief pitching.
Kenley Jansen got the going rate for elite relief pitching.Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Simply going with the flow of supply and demand is out of character for a Dodgers front office that favors being analytical and, above all, rational. But, you know what they say about that.

"If you're always rational about every free agent, you will finish third on every free agent," Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times.

It's also not like the Dodgers are spending big on a bad reliever. Jansen has dominated since the start of his major league career back in 2010. He's taken it to a whole 'nother level since sharpening his control in 2013, compiling a 2.19 ERA and 7.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 268 appearances.

Through the lens of FanGraphs WAR, here are the top two relievers in baseball since 2013:

  1. Aroldis Chapman: 9.7
  2. Kenley Jansen: 9.4

See that difference? That doesn't look like a $6 million difference to me.

The concern is that Jansen, now 29, will lose zip as he ages. But that's a smaller concern with him than it is with other relievers. He averaged 93.6 mph on his cutter in 2016 but has been successful even with an average as low as 91.9 mph in 2012.

For Jansen, it's not about velocity. It's about movement. Like so:

That movement should ensure Jansen ages just fine. You know, sort of like another reliever who had a world-class cutter even after he was past his peak velocity.

It doesn't take as many words to justify Turner's contract. Although his $64 million is nearly $50 million less than the $110 million Yoenis Cespedes got from the New York Mets, it's going toward arguably the best free agent the market had to offer.

That was Corinne Landrey's argument at MLB.com. And mine right here, for that matter. Over the last three seasons, Turner has posted an .856 OPS with 50 home runs while also rating as a strong defender at the hot corner.

Cue Dave Cameron's summary at FanGraphs:

Turner is not that much worse of a hitter than Edwin Encarnacion, only he can also play the field. The power isn’t the same, and teams continue to pay less for singles and doubles than home runs, but Turner gets to a similar overall value, and when you toss in the ability to play third base, 4/$64M in this market seems like a steal.

Although he's already 32 years old, what sets Turner apart from other veteran free agents is how well-preserved he is. He didn't become an everyday player until the Dodgers picked him up in 2014, which can only help him age gracefully.

With Hill, Jansen and Turner returning to the fold, the 2017 Dodgers will look a lot like the 2016 Dodgers. At worst, that could mean a repeat of a campaign that brought L.A. 91 wins and a fourth straight NL West title.

It's likelier that even better things are in store.

Justin Turner's OPS+ since 2014 is a superb 136.
Justin Turner's OPS+ since 2014 is a superb 136.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Dodgers can expect a lot more from not only Hill but Kershaw as well after a back injury limited him to 21 starts in 2016. They'll also have healthy versions of Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Alex Wood. The young arms of Julio Urias and Jose De Leon contain all sorts of upside.

The Dodgers thus figure to have more than enough pitching to back up an offense anchored by capable veterans (Turner, Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal) and explosive young guns (Corey Seager and Joc Pederson).

And since they've only used money to flesh out their roster to this point, the Dodgers can now use their farm system to solve their second base conundrum. Brian Dozier and Ian Kinsler are among the available trade options, per Rosenthal. The former fits the Dodgers like a glove.

Even as is, the signings of Hill, Jansen and Turner ensure the Dodgers have enough firepower to remain among the NL's elite clubs in 2017. The reigning champion Chicago Cubs loom as the team to beat, but the Dodgers are right there with the Giants and Washington Nationals among the clubs that could bring them down.

Which is to say, the $192 million they've spent to bring back their guys is going toward a good cause.

        

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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