This week in closer news, the Dodgers made what very well may have been the easiest switch in the history of bullpen decisions, removing Brandon League from the closing gig in favor of Kenley Jansen. We’ve been high on Jansen for a while, as a promotion to full-time closer long seemed inevitable, based both on his talent and League’s bad performance. We’ve called Jansen an immediate top-10 RP once giving closing duties, even potentially a top five guy. He’s that good.
Jansen hasn’t allowed a hit or walk in his last four appearances while striking out seven in 4.1 innings. It’s a microcosm of his season, in which he’s earned a 2.38 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 48:6 K:BB ratio in 34 innings. I’m prepared to be bold and say he’ll be a top-five RP for the remainder of the year, but is it really that bold? I drew up a list of the RPs I wouldn’t trade for Jansen in fantasy leagues today, and here’s what I came up with:
Craig Kimbrel. Option number one before the season started, Kimbrel is still my top option going forward. He doesn’t quite have the best strikeout rate among relievers right now, but as dominant as he’s been the past two years, Kimbrel has earned owners’ trust. A 1.85 ERA and 0.99 WHIP certainly isn’t anything to take lightly, either.
Jason Grilli. I had Grilli down as a top-ten RP heading into the season, which means I ended up with him on virtually every team. While I obviously expected big things from the new closer, I didn’t expect a 0.94 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and Jansen-like 47:6 K:BB ratio through just 28.2 innings.
Aroldis Chapman. Chapman seemed like he was headed to the rotation this offseason, and many owners added him in drafts and auctions with that expectation. While his price might have been a little lower at that point if we knew with certainty he would close, his 2.17 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 29 innings have made him profitable nonetheless.
Edward Mujica. He’s owns 18 saves despite not closing for the entire season, but more impressively, he’s the owner of a 1.57 ERA, 0.59 WHIP and 26:1 K:BB ratio in 28.2 innings. His status on the Cardinals may be good for a few more save chances than Jansen over the long run, though that’s hardly a given.
And that’s it. Jansen may well be in the first tier of closers when all is said and done, but right now, I have him in no man’s land between that tier and one that includes guys like Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, Sergio Romo, Glen Perkins and maybe a few others. I own Jansen in a league, and I have to say that if anyone offered me one of those closers for my guy that this point in a one-for-one deal, I’d turn them down.
While the removal of Jansen from a setup role leaves the Dodgers with a huge hole in the eighth inning, it emphatically addresses the huge need they had in the ninth inning. Jansen has the potential to join Kimbrel as the best high-strikeout, high-save closer in the majors over the next few years. Treat him as such, especially if his current owner (if that’s not you) is already stacked in saves and may not value Jansen as highly as I do.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to CBSSports.com's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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