MLB

MLB free-agency grades — Atlanta Braves boost bullpen with former Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen

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It will certainly look strange the first time Kenley Jansen faces Freddie Freeman in a crucial moment late in a close game, Jansen in an Atlanta Braves uniform, Freeman in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform, symbols of this entire twisted offseason. Jansen debuted for the Dodgers on July 24, 2010 — 38 days before Freeman made his first appearance for the Braves, making them two of the longest-tenured players with one team among active players.

On the day Freeman was officially introduced at Dodgers camp in Arizona, Jansen agreed to a one-year, $16 million contract with the Braves. Not that Jansen was a lock to return to the Dodgers — indeed, with the Dodgers’ payroll approaching $280 million and Blake Treinen more than capable of handling closer duties, there was always the belief he would land with a new team — but going to the Braves, a team with a deep arsenal of bullpen arms and an established closer in Will Smith, certainly seems like a surprise.

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But when you dig deeper, it makes sense on several levels. First off, the universal designated hitter and 26-man roster make it easier than ever for National League teams to carry an additional relief pitcher. Previously, NL teams needed to carry a flexible bench: a couple pinch hitters to hit for the pitchers, a backup catcher who probably wasn’t a pinch hitter and somebody who could play all over the field for double-switches. Now it’s much easier to go with even a three-man bench — like some American League teams often do — and a 14-man pitching staff. No, nine-man bullpens aren’t good for the game, but this is the game as played in 2022.

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