Ever MLB offseason means a new list of players who get tagged with the dreaded qualifying offer. For the most part, many of these players are so good the connection to a lost draft pick does not really factor into a team signing said free agent. Some other players are not as lucky, as the qualifying offer completely tanks their free agent stock. This year 10 players were extended this offer, which is valued at 17.2 million dollars. Any player who accepts the offer will make that much money on a one year deal.
One of those 10 impending free agents is the closer from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kenley Jansen. Of the two potential categories, Jansen would find himself on the side of barely being affected by the draft pick compensation being attached to his name.
The big right-handed flamethrower is coming off arguably the best seasons of his career. He saved a career-high 47 of 53 games while striking out 104 batters in 68 and two-thirds innings. He had an outstanding 1.83 ERA and 0.67 WHIP to go along with his big time fastball. Because of all of that, Jansen is expected to be a lock to decline his qualifying offer.
But when you look at the big picture, Jansen would be wise to accept the offer.
First things first, this offseason’s crop of available relief pitchers is loaded with talent. Aroldis Chapman headlines the class and is in line to receive the biggest contract for a reliever all time. Then there is Mark Melancon, who should come at a cheaper price than Kenley given he is older and not quite as dominant. But at the end of the day, he is still an All-Star closer who gets the job done. Both of these men also have the luxury of not having the draft pick compensation of a qualifying offer attached to their names, as both players were traded mid-season.
The Kansas City Royals are also set to make this market even more crowded. The team is going to dangle closer Wade Davis in trade talks, as the team needs to shake things up and Davis is down to one year on his deal. Former Royals’ closer Greg Holland, who missed all of 2016 while recovering from Tommy John is also a free agent and should come at a much cheaper price than Chapman, Jansen or Melancon.
So Jansen is going to be facing some serious competition this winter. Given Kenley is the only one who has the qualifying offer associated with his name, his value is going to take a slight hit. Teams with the big bucks will go for Chapman first, while teams without as much cash will likely try to get a bit of a discount with Melancon or Holland.
Now flip to the free agent market next winter, and the field appears fairly thin. Some of the top names include the likes of Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Bryan Shaw and Tony Watson. Jansen would hands down be the star of that draft class if he were to re-enter the field in 2017. If Jansen were to accept the qualifying offer, he would do just that.
With an annual salary of 17.2 million dollars, Jansen would top any average annual salary he would get in a multi-year deal this offseason. Then we fast forward to next winter, and he would be in line for a deal very similar to what he would get this offseason as long as he does what he has been doing. Yes, he is gambling on staying healthy and not having his production drop, but he is in his prime. There is no reason to believe Kenley will be taking any major steps back in 2017.
So by accepting the qualifying offer, not only would Jansen be giving himself a higher salary in 2017, but also in the three or four years to come. The depleted market of next offseason would give him some serious leverage, which he does not have against this year’s group that is loaded with talent.
So Kenley Jansen should give some serious thought about the idea of accepting his qualifying offer. It is widely expected Kenley will do the opposite and decline the offer. So what will Kenley do? Will he shock the world and make the right decision? Or will he simply decline the offer and try to compete with the likes of Chapman, Melancon, and Davis?