The LA Dodgers are going to be in a tough spot this coming offseason with longtime Dodger closer Kenley Jansen set to ride off into the sunset of free agency. The 12 year Dodger vet is likely to walk in free agency at the season’s end, especially after a tumultuous 2020 postseason that saw Jansen hand over the closer reigns to Julio Urias. The Dodgers’ confidence in Jansen has been shaken for a while now and although Jansen isn’t doing so bad this season that doesn’t necessarily mean the Dodgers will want to commit to him again. Jansen will likely command a multi-year contract that could pay up to $20 mil a year and at the age of 33, I doubt another multi-year contract for the closer is viable on the Dodgers end. Of course, the Dodgers can shell out at much as they want if they feel they need to secure Jansen, but do they really want to secure him?
The Dodgers have already signed Jansen to an extension back in 2017 that saw them retain his services through the 2021 season. This contract included an opt-out clause following the 2019 season which would allow Jansen to test free agency for big money. Unfortunately after signing the extension Jansen fell into a sharp decline that saw his numbers drastically fall off all across the board. 2017 saw Jansen put up his best season as a Dodger to date, a season which included a league-leading 41 saves, a Top 5 Cy Young finish as well as a Top 15 MVP candidate. The following season, however, saw Jansens ERA nearly triple (2017- 1.32, 2018- 3.01) his strikeouts fall off a cliff (2017- 109 Ks, 2018- 82 Ks) and his HRs allowed more than doubled (2017- 5 HRs, 2018- 13 HRs). It would save time to just tell you that Jansen performed at his worst in every category imaginable in 2018 and somehow managed to do even worse in 2019. Following the 2019 season Jansen refused his opt-out clause and dodged the free-agent market in order to hang on to his $38 million guaranteed with the Dodgers.
The Dodgers, both the team and the fanbase, have already been burned by Jansen when it comes to handing him a big contract and I doubt either will want to test that again. Though he is off to a good start this year his walk rate has been horrendous (6.9 BB/9) which signals it’s only a matter of time before he shows his decline again. Here we are now, facing the end of the Jansen dynasty and wondering what we will have to look forward to. While the Dodgers will have no shortage of options on the free agent/trade market the team may very well already have the best candidate for the job already within the organization.
Dodgers prospect Cameron Gibbens is firmly entrenching himself as the next big bullpen star for the Dodgers with every appearance he makes. We were lucky enough to catch Gibbens while he was with Rancho Cucamonga and catch an interview with the young star. We won’t rehash every detail from that article here, but to sum it up: when it comes to strikeout maestros I’m not sure if it gets any better than Cameron Gibbens. The 2021 season has been the 25-year-olds first professional season as Gibbens has just recently come aboard the Dodgers organization, the young star coming out of Melbourne, Australia in 2020. The signing of Cameron Gibbens was a real diamond in the rough move by the Dodgers as Gibbens only had 14.1 innings of work in his foreign league career before being picked up by the Dodgers.
At the age of 25, Gibbens opened the 2021 season with the Dodgers Low-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes by slinging a wildly impressive 10.1 IP which saw the future closer strike out 23 hitters with only 4 walks to the tune of a 0.87 ERA. Gibbens quickly received a promotion to High-A before the first month of 2021 was over and just recently made his High-A debut in a game that saw him secure a 2.1 inning save with 4 Ks and no runs allowed.
Cameron Gibbens pitched a perfect 9th to get his second save for Great Lakes, with one K. He threw three sliders, two were pretty sharp, it's nice to see the secondary flashing plus. pic.twitter.com/sKebYpXIeX
— Josh Thomas (@jokeylocomotive) June 3, 2021
It’s a bit crazy when you think about it. This kid with almost no work in a foreign league, that doesn’t often send over MLB talent, is discovered by the biggest franchise in the world on recommendation by a coaching connection. Gibbens barely even pitched in 2019. He had a 4.2 inning season that Gibbens refers to as a “developmental season” before getting a chance in 2020 and delivering with 9.2 innings of 17 K baseball. It’s almost too Hollywood to be true. Are all the stars aligning for a shot in the dark talent to take his name onto the biggest stage in the world and show what he’s made of? What makes Gibbens valuable is how truly advanced he is for his age and experience, we don’t want to lay too heavy an expectation on the young star but if his development continues to cruise as it is there is a chance that the Thunder from Down Under will be a Dodger by the end of this season.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Dodgers bring up Gibbens before 2021 rounds out in order to get him to see Major League work so the organization can decide whether they can realistically move forward with the idea of Gibbens as a potential replacement for Jansen. I’m not going to say the Dodgers will go all in and name him closer as soon as Jansen is out the door, but I am extremely positive that as long as his development continues to progress he will be landing himself in contention for the closer role very soon.