As the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen has taken the brunt of the blame for the franchise failing to snap its World Series drought, Kenley Jansen had largely remained exempt from that criticism. Sure, Jansen faltered — proved to be human — at times, but his contributions often overshadowed that.
However, scrutiny Jansen has received increased last season and rolled over into this year. There are times when he looks the part of a dominant closer that received a long-term commitment from Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, but other cases when velocity and command are shoddy.
So the Dodgers set out to reinforce their bullpen at the MLB trade deadline, reportedly pursuing an array of closers to pair with Jansen. Their efforts, while perhaps valiant, came up empty. The Dodgers’ only move to address relief pitching was to acquire Adam Kolarek from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Jansen welcomed the addition of the lefty specialist and reasoned the trade served as further proof of Friedman believing in the Dodgers bullpen, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“Listen, Andrew and the rest of the staff know what they’re doing. Any move that they will do is going to be better, any arm is going to add onto our bullpen. It’s just a message that our bullpen is great. If you see how Petey and Joe are throwing the ball, if they’re going to keep Julio in the ‘pen, it’s going to be great. They know what they’re doing. Our team is good. We believe what we have can win a championship, and that’s all we can do. Just keep focused and don’t worry about all the outside noise. Lock it in and try to win a championship.”
The Dodgers did attempt to make a splash in the relief market over the winter by signing Joe Kelly to a three-year, $25 million contract after watching him dominate for the Boston Red Sox in the 2018 World Series.
Kelly has yet to meet expectations but appears to be on the right track. Jansen has been among those to voice their confidence in the right-hander.
Even with their much-documented struggles and inconsistency, the Dodgers bullpen ranks eighth with a collective 4.07 ERA; it’s the third-best mark in the National League.
Kolarek, who despite not being in the elk of Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star Felipe Vazquez, nonetheless fills a need for the Dodgers as a left-hander. Tony Cingrani was lost to season-ending shoulder surgery but has since been traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, and Scott Alexander remains sidelined by a nerve issue.