Kenley Jansen

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 16:  Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch in the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs during game two of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Dodgers formally announce Kenley Jansen signing, designate Micah Johnson for assignment

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After nearly a month, the Dodgers made the signing of closer Kenley Jansen official on Tuesday. To create roster space on the 40-man roster, the club designated second baseman Micah Johnson for assignment, per Eric Stephen of SB Nation’s True Blue LA.

Jansen, 29, agreed to a five-year, $80 million contract with the Dodgers on December 12. The right-hander was coming off of the most dominating season of his career in which he finished with a 1.83 ERA, 47 saves, and a 104/11 K/BB ratio in 68 2/3 innings.

Johnson, 26, hasn’t yet found his footing and is very likely looking at having to find major league success with his third team. The White Sox selected him in the ninth round of the 2012 draft, then traded him to the Dodgers as part of a three-team trade also involving the Reds in December 2015.

Report: Dodgers are considering Neftali Feliz

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 29: Neftali Feliz #30 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch during the eighth inning of a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 29, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Pirates won the game 8-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Despite tying up a significant portion of their payroll in Kenley Jansen last month, the Dodgers are still looking for bullpen help. According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the club is reportedly considering free agent right-hander Neftali Feliz among other late-inning candidates.

Feliz, 28, signed a one-year, $3.9 million deal with the Pirates prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to a 3.52 ERA over 53 2/3 innings with Pittsburgh, nearly halving his 2015 ERA and recording a career-best 10.2 SO/9 to boot. Although he was shut down for the last month of the season due to arm discomfort, no structural damage was found and the right-hander appears to have a clean bill of health as he approaches a 2017 run.

The Nationals were connected to Feliz in early December, but no serious contract talks have been reported as of yet. While the 28-year-old has a lengthy history of arm/elbow injuries and less-than-stellar command, his improved velocity, recent success off the mound and relatively young age should give the Dodgers some peace of mind should they choose to pursue him.

Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #8: The Year of the Reliever

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Andrew Miller #24 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Everyone was shocked when Buck Showalter neglected to use Zach Britton in the AL Wild Card game, choosing to allow Ubaldo Jimenez of all people to face Edwin Encarnacion and watch the latter walk the Blue Jays off and into the ALDS. That shock would’ve been present in any year — who doesn’t use their best available pitcher when the season is on the line? — but it was particularly shocking in 2016. Which may well come to be known as the year of the reliever.

Managers went to their bullpen early and often in 2016. As Jordan Bastian of MLB.com noted in a recent article, relievers set an MLB record with 15,893.2 innings pitched this season. The number of relief outings and specialized relief outings — appearances of one inning or less — have been on the uptick. The number of teams who, at times, have carried eight relievers is on the rise. Innings per start have gone down and strikeouts per nine innings have spiked. Fresher and harder-throwing arms are facing more batters and the batters are fanning at near-record rates.

Heavy reliance on relief pitchers was particularly noticeable in the playoffs, as both World Series managers — Terry Francona and Joe Maddon — relied on their relief aces far more than any managers had in living memory. Francona called on Andrew Miller in the fifth inning of Game 1 of the ALDS and averaged nearly two innings per outing in his ten playoff appearances. Aroldis Chapman, who has averaged less than an inning pitched per outing in his seven year career, pitched 15.2 innings in thirteen outings during the playoffs, and found himself gassed by the time Game 7 rolled around.

This offseason the value teams place on relief pitchers has been abundantly clear. Three closers — Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon – each surpassed the old mark for highest-paid reliever in the game, with Chapman signing a five-year $86 million contract. The previous high: Jonathan Papelbon‘s four-year, $50 million deal.

All of this has been fantastic for the relievers and the teams which employ the good ones. It’s not all been great news, however.

Despite Major League Baseball’s efforts to reduce the length of games, game times went up in 2016, no doubt due to there being more pitching changes than ever. Pace-of-play is slow as well, as max-effort relievers take their sweet time gearing up for every pitch. Strikeouts, of which there are more than ever, take more time than at bats which end with contact and, of course, with more strikeouts likewise come more walks. During the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, there was a proposal to add a roster spot to each team. It was ultimately shelved amidst criticism that most teams would simply give the job to yet another relief pitcher.

In the meantime, though, look for the pattern to continue and teams’ reliance on relievers to be even more pronounced. Success breeds imitators, and between the 2015 World Series champ Kansas City Royals and both pennant winning teams this past year sporting dominant bullpens, others will try to copy what they do.