ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves capped a busy week with another stunning move, signing three-time All-Star closer Kenley Jansen to a $16 million, one-year contract Friday night.
The 34-year-old Jansen, who had 38 saves and a 2.22 ERA in 69 appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, is expected to take over from Will Smith as the Braves’ primary closer.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos said he discussed the signing with Smith before finalizing the deal.
The left-hander had 37 saves and was especially effective down the stretch and in the postseason for the World Series champions. In the playoffs, Smith had six saves and didn’t allow a run over 11 innings.
“We told him we might have an opportunity to do something like this, but we wanted to make sure he was good with it,” Anthopoulos said. “Will is on board. He said, ‘If it makes the team better and gives us a chance to win another ring and have a parade again, I’m all in.’”
Anthopoulos said Smith is still likely to get save opportunities when Jansen needs a day off.
Otherwise, the lefty will work in a setup role along with Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson and A.J. Minter. The Braves also added Collin McHugh to a bullpen that now looks like one of the team’s biggest strengths.
Jansen has 350 saves in a 12-year career that had been spent entirely with the Dodgers.
He’s saved at least 33 games in seven straight seasons excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, with a career-best 47 in 2016 when he was selected for the first of three consecutive All-Star Games.
The Braves have bolstered their roster with a flurry of moves, even while losing longtime first baseman Freddie Freeman to the Dodgers.
In an interesting twist, Los Angeles introduced Freeman, who agreed to a six-year, $162 million contract, on the same day the Braves landed a longtime Dodgers stalwart.
The Dodgers and Braves have squared off in the last two NL Championship Series, each winning once on the way to a World Series title.
The Braves started wheeling and dealing on Monday, trading four top prospects to the Oakland Athletics for star first baseman Matt Olson and signaling an abrupt end to Freeman’s long career in Atlanta.
The very next day, Olson signed an eight-year, $168 million deal — the most lucrative contact in Braves history.
But Anthopoulos wasn’t done. He also landed McHugh with a two-year, $10 million deal and brought back popular outfielder Eddie Rosario — MVP of the 2021 NL Championship Series victory over the Dodgers — with a two-year, $18 million package.
In addition, the Braves added depth by signing outfielder Alex Dickerson and right-hander Tyler Thornburg to non-guaranteed contracts.
The loss of Jansen creates significant uncertainty in the Dodgers’ bullpen. The team has been handing the ball to its big right-hander in the ninth inning for more than a decade.
The last time Los Angeles had someone other than Jansen with double-figure saves was 2013, when he led with 28 and Brandon League had 14. The last time a reliever other than Jansen paced the club in saves was 2011, his second year in the big leagues.
Blake Treinen had the most saves in 2021 of any returning reliever with seven. The Dodgers also lost another key reliever, Joe Kelly, who signed with the White Sox.
Anthopoulos said beefing up the bullpen was one of his major objectives after the lockout ended, especially with a thin rotation that is largely uncertain behind the top three of Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Charlie Morton.
“Bullpen depth through the season is exceptionally important,” the GM said. “You can’t pitch guys every night.”
Still, it was surprising that the Braves were able to land one of baseball’s most consistent closers.
“It’s been a tiring week, a crazy week, an emotional week,” Anthopoulos said. “But I’m really excited about what we’ve been able to get done.”
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