The LA Dodgers, fresh off of capturing the 2020 World Series and first crown in 32 years, want more. And the Dodgers’ front office is wheeling and dealing behind the scenes pulling off the moves to make it happen. The latest addition is an All-Star relief pitcher and former top closer. It’s undeniable, with this newest signing the Dodgers are sending a clear message to closer Kenley Jansen.
LA Dodgers win 2020 World Series in pandemic-shortened season
After multiple recent years of coming close, the 2020 LA Dodgers won the World Series for the first time since 1988. It started at the plate, where the Dodgers offense generated a power surge in the pandemic-shortened 60-game season, hitting a league-leading 118 home runs with an MLB-best .483 slugging percentage.
The Dodgers’ pitching staff matched the team’s offensive production and dominated on the mound, leading all of MLB with a league-best 3.02 ERA. Clayton Kershaw led the way, starting 10 games, finishing with a 6-2 record, and a 2.16 ERA.
Add in a strong performance from the LA bullpen, and it was a perfect combination for the LA Dodgers and their fans to celebrate their first World Series title in three-plus decades.
Kenley Jansen’s declining numbers
During the shortened season, LA Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen finished tied for seventh in saves with 11. He recorded a 3.33 ERA. While those numbers aren’t terrible, they’re not anywhere near the top for closers in MLB. More concerning is a trend that has developed as Jansen’s ERA is above three for the third consecutive season.
Since 2017, his second of three consecutive All-Star seasons, Jansen’s ERA has gone up. At the same time, his number of saves has gone down.
In the postseason, Jansen has had more than his share of struggles. In Game 4 of this year’s Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, he blew his fourth career World Series save, setting a dubious new record. Add into the mix that he’s now 32, and age isn’t working in his favor.
Dodgers add All-Star reliever Corey Knebel
In 2017, Milwaukee closer Corey Knebel made the All-Star team en route to a season with 39 saves and a 1.78 ERA. That same year Jansen finished with an NL-leading 41 saves and 1.32 ERA for the LA Dodgers. Knebel had a down season in 2018, finishing with just 16 saves and a 3.58 ERA.
Despite missing all of the 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and a lackluster performance in 2020, the Dodgers acquired Knebel in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
The Dodgers recognize the potential in Knebel and understand he is just a couple of years removed from being a top reliever. And he’s three years younger than Jansen.
There’s no doubt Kenley Jansen will be the LA Dodgers No. 1 closer to start the 2021 season. The addition of Knebel serves as an insurance policy. Should Jansen’s ERA continue to slide and he fails to live up to expectations, the Dodgers know they now have Knebel who can slide right in and fill the pressure-packed position because he has already done it at a high level.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.