The Dodgers’ nation let out a huge sigh of relief as the news spread that Kenley Jansen had agreed to stay a Dodger for the next five years (with an opt out clause after three years) for the nice, round figure of $80 million. What made him turn down more lucrative offers in places where the outfield grass might seem greener? I believe Kenley was influenced – and Dodger fans received the early Christmas gift of an elite closer in their blue stockings – by the good timing of a wedding.
Almost as soon as the Dodgers’ 2016 season came to an end, speculation began over whether the Dodgers would keep Jansen on, and whether he even wanted to remain in Los Angeles. I had written before about the Dodgers previously being unwilling to offer Jansen multi-year contracts and openly trying to acquire another closer (Aroldis Chapman), which seemed to signal they were simply not committed to Jansen.
There was also the matter of the Dodgers needing to keep salary costs down. With Justin Turner emerging as another big dollar free agent, it was even money the team would only pursue one. Turner seemed to be the most valuable (and economical) asset because he could contribute daily, and for probably less money than Jansen would command.
As MLB’s Winter Meetings ran on, the rumor mills heated up, and it was reported that Jansen was being heavily courted by the New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, and even the Miami Marlins.
The Yankees have all the money and baseball history in the world, plus the thrills of the Big Apple to offer. What player wouldn’t love to play under the storied lights of New York? I was starting to wake up in the middle of the night seeing Jansen in Yankee pinstripes.
Washington offers…well…tours of the White House, and lots of money. They were throwing a whole lot of it in Kenley Jansen’s direction, and reportedly, it was more than the Dodgers were laying on the table.
Jansen’s former manager Don Mattingly has been assembling a “Dodgers east” in Miami. They recently signed A.J. Ellis, one of Jansen’s former catchers, so Kenley might have been considering moving someplace with familiar faces. The possibilities for Jansen kept the Twitter feeds running non-stop.
When the Winter Meetings broke a few days ago, many anticipated the next baseball news would be about Jansen’s decision.
Then came “The Wedding”.
Kenley Jansen was married over the weekend in his home country of Curacao, and Dodger teammates Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig and Scott Van Slyke were there for the happy occasion. In my opinion, this was the event that turned the tide.
A couple of summers ago, I was best man at my friend’s wedding, which took place in his bride’s birthplace of Hawaii. There’s nothing like returning home for a wedding to give rise to feelings of nostalgia and the close bond of family and friends.
Throw in a few drinks and the contemplation of life over beautiful island sunsets, and all of those emotions are intensified. Being in that wedding was the experience of a lifetime for me, and I’m willing to bet some of the feelings that arose for us in Hawaii were close to those experienced by those Dodgers in Curacao.
Puig, Tuner, Van Slyke and Jansen must have spent time alone reminiscing about the 2016 season and the ups and downs of playing in Los Angeles, experiences known only to them as teammates. I’m sure the fact they were all together in his birth home to celebrate one of the biggest days on his life reinforced their bonds as friends.
As a big orange sun set over an ocean of dancing diamonds, the pleadings from Washington and others sunk as well.
Sure, the Nationals offered a few more million dollars, but at the end of the day, Jansen figured he would make plenty in the first three years of the Dodgers contract, after which he could opt out if he wanted. In the meantime, he would stay in Los Angeles with the friends who joined him on his wedding day.
The deal for the greatest Dodgers closer ever, was closed on a beach, among close friends.