Posted on November 17, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
There is an abundance of closers on the free agent market this offseason, with several late-game relievers poised to sign lucrative contracts. One surprising team that appears to be looking to sign a closer is the Miami Marlins, who already have one in mind. According to Jon Heyman, the Marlins are prepared to make signing Kenley Jansen their top priority this offseason, as they hope to build a bullpen that can be considered among the best in baseball.
Jansen has spent his entire big league career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and has been the team’s closer since 2012. After an exceptional season in 2016 in which he posted a 1.83 ERA, Jansen is on the open market and poised to cash-in with a long-term contract. Most consider him to be the second best relief pitcher available behind lefty Aroldis Chapman. Heyman projects Jansen to sign a five-year deal worth $75 million, although his value is hurt to some extent because the team that signs him will have to sacrifice their first round pick after Jansen declined a qualifying offer from the Dodgers.
On the surface, the Marlins need to add starting pitching this winter more so than they need bullpen help. Miami has all-star closer A.J. Ramos at the back end of its bullpen, but the Marlins don’t have much depth in their starting rotation behind Adam Conley and Wei-Yin Chen. However, with a dearth of options on the free agent market when it comes to starting pitchers, the Marlins may choose to leave their largely young and unproven rotation in tact and instead attempt to build a dominant bullpen.
That’s where the idea of going after Jansen comes into play. If the Marlins are able to land Jansen, they could shift Ramos to a set-up role and have a 1-2 punch at the back of their bullpen that’s on par with any other team in baseball. The Marlins also have competent relievers in Kyle Barraclough, David Phelps, and Brian Ellington, all of whom posted an ERA under 3 last season. Miami’s bullpen was middle of the pack in the National League last year, but the addition of Jansen could conceivably give the Marlins one of the best bullpens in baseball.
Outside of trading one of their core position players, such as Marcell Ozuna, Adeiny Hechavarria, or Dee Gordon, there may not be much the Marlins can do to improve their rotation in 2017. However, there are plenty of ways for the Marlins to improve their bullpen next season, and as we saw in the postseason this year, a dominating bullpen can carry a team a long way.
Of course, signing Jansen will be easier said than done for Miami. The Marlins are not accustomed to going after big-name free agents, and so spending the money it’ll take to sign Jansen would be a little out of character for them. There is also going to be a lot of competition for Jansen and the other closers on the market, which could drive prices beyond what Miami is comfortable spending. The Marlins may have identified Jansen as the player they want the most this offseason, but they are still a long way from signing him.