Jansen, Dodgers reach $4.3 million deal
Closer's one-year contract clears Los Angeles' arbitration slate
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers reached a contract agreement with Kenley Jansen, their last arbitration-eligible player, for $4.3 million on Tuesday.
Jansen, the closer on a relief staff filled with them, was a light-hitting Minor League catcher four years ago when the Dodgers asked him to transition to the mound and save his career.
"You just look back, a catcher, struggling hitter, they put me on the mound and in nine months [reached the big leagues]," Jansen said. "It's unbelievable how stuff works that quick. The next thing you know, you sign a million-dollar contract. Pretty awesome. I just have to stay humble. I don't know what to say. I just have to improve myself every year."
Jansen had an arbitration hearing scheduled Feb. 18 in Tampa, Fla. He was seeking $5.05 million with the club offering $3.5 million. Jansen earned $512,000 without the leverage of arbitration last year.
"I tried my best not to let it distract me, but now that it's done, you feel relief and can focus," Jansen said.
Jansen said he wasn't worried about the arbitration process or what negative comments the club was prepared to make as part of its case.
Manager Don Mattingly complimented Jansen earlier in the week, saying the 26-year-old from Curacao had shown "a different strut and confidence" late last season, even though the club had acquired All-Star closer Brian Wilson.
"You like to see that in a guy late in the game," said Mattingly. "Kenley showed last year he's that guy. Obviously, Brian came back and he could have closed somewhere else. He knows the role, that Kenley is the guy."
Jansen took over for Javy Guerra as closer in 2012, but when Jansen was sidelined by an irregular heartbeat that required offseason surgery, the Dodgers gave Brandon League a three-year contract and Jansen came to camp last spring as a setup man again.
"Last year, I knew I could be a closer, but they had me coming in as a setup guy and I respected the decision they made," Jansen said. "I had to earn it back. I knew the heart issue kept me down. They had to get some insurance for the closer role. At the same time, now I know the closer role is mine and I never doubted myself that I can be that guy."
Meanwhile, the Dodgers have added another former closer, Chris Perez, to form what should be one of the more dominating bullpens in recent memory.
Jansen went 4-3 with a 1.88 ERA last year. In 2011, he set a Major League record by averaging more than 16 strikeouts every nine innings. He relies on a cut fastball that has often been compared to that of retired Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.