LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers fans are starved for a World Series, and management gets it, having spent more money on free agents this offseason than any other club.Closer Kenley Jansen and third baseman Justin Turner represent $144 million of that outlay (Rich Hill got the other $48 million). At Wednesday's
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers fans are starved for a World Series, and management gets it, having spent more money on free agents this offseason than any other club.
Closer Kenley Jansen and third baseman Justin Turner represent $144 million of that outlay (Rich Hill got the other $48 million). At Wednesday's news conference with Jansen and Turner, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said bringing back the pair to a club he felt already had "championship talent" and "a clubhouse dynamic conducive to winning" was on the to-do short list.
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"[Ownership was] extremely supportive of bringing these guys back," said Friedman. "I think heading into an offseason where they're at the top of the list, in terms of players, coupled with who they are and how well we know them, I think gave everyone more confidence to stretch and be creative.
"Kenley, in our minds, is the best reliever in baseball. Justin represents so much of what we value in a player."
In different ways, Jansen and Turner are team leaders. Jansen, a converted catcher, underscored his importance with a workhorse postseason effort that Friedman said showed his "selflessness." Turner, non-tendered by the Mets and signed by Ned Colletti three years ago, has emerged as a gritty, middle-of-the-order slugger with underrated defense.
Jansen said Turner has helped "keep me in line," and Turner's dugout confrontation with Yasmani Grandal last season coincided with the club's turnaround.
The Dodgers haven't reached the World Series since winning it in 1988, but being eliminated by the Cubs last season two wins shy of the Fall Classic left what Turner described as "unfinished business." Clayton Kershaw can opt out of his contract after the 2018 season, suggesting a sense of urgency with the window for this group closing.
Interest in Turner by other clubs was never clear during his free agency, but Jansen confirmed he turned down more money from the Nationals. It's already folk legend that over the weekend of Jansen's wedding in Curacao, Turner and teammates Scott Van Slyke and Yasiel Puig spoke to Jansen, and he soon agreed to return.
The 32-year-old Turner said he told the 29-year-old Jansen that "the grass isn't always greener on the other side." On Wednesday, Jansen filled in some important blanks on his decision making. He said he was "50-50" between the Dodgers and Nationals when his wedding weekend began, but the Dodgers made a well-timed offer the day before his wedding, adding a fifth year for an $80 million package with an opt-out after three seasons.
Jansen, however, insisted there was more to his decision.
"Like I said, it ain't about the money," Jansen said. "I want to be out here, winning a championship in L.A., the fans have been waiting for what, 29 years? From the bottom of my heart, I want to win a championship out here. Feel like it's the best decision for me. Sometimes, it's not about the money. I just didn't want another name in front of my chest. The next day, Kershaw texted me, and that was awesome. With the group of guys we have, I just didn't want to leave."
Likewise for Turner.
"I love our team," he said. "I'm excited to see what ends up happening this offseason. Our front office has done a great job. We had all those injuries and didn't skip a beat, because of the moves they made. And like Kenley said, this city deserves a championship. It's been waiting for a long time, and we'd love to be the guys to bring it home."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.