Braves players react to the team signing closer Kenley Jansen

Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen (74) stands on the mound during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, July 4, 2021, in Washington. The Dodgers won 5-1. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen (74) stands on the mound during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, July 4, 2021, in Washington. The Dodgers won 5-1. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Credit: AP

NORTH PORT, Fla. - On a slow Saturday morning at CoolToday Park, the thought in the Braves’ clubhouse was clear.

“We just got better,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said with excitement. “We just got way better.”

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Late Friday night, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos made more waves when he signed Kenley Jansen, an elite closer for the Dodgers, to a one-year, $16 million deal. The move sent a familiar message: The Braves are looking to repeat as World Series champions and are willing to pay for the roster to do that.

In the clubhouse Saturday, Braves players expressed excitement. Some mentioned the deeper bullpen, others were happy they would no longer have to face Jansen in the batter’s box. All agreed the Braves made a great signing.

“There’s nobody really like that,” first baseman Matt Olson said. “He’s just an uncomfy at-bat. He’s a big dude. That fastball he throws cuts like hell, but it’s kind of different every time. Good ride, and hides the ball well.”

Added left-handed reliever Tyler Matzek: “Kenley, he’s a stud, he’s good. There’s a reason why he’s got all the accolades he has.”

ExploreBraves sign former Dodger Kenley Jansen to be their new closer

Jansen, known for his disgusting cutter, has struck out 36.8% of batters he’s faced in his career, which ranks fifth among active relievers. He is 13th all-time with 350 career saves.

He has twice been named the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year. He has been an All-Star three times. He won a World Series in 2020.

The Braves’ new closer has a lot of credibility around baseball – especially with hitters he’s set down. Just look at these numbers.

Austin Riley versus Jansen: 0-for-6, three strikeouts.

Ozzie Albies versus Jansen: 0-for-5, two strikeouts.

Olson versus Jansen: 0-for-2, two strikeouts.

“His nasty cutter he has, the pitch is nasty to hit,” Albies said. “Anything moving is even harder to hit, so that’s what makes him great as a closing pitcher in the game.”

“There’s a reason why he’s one of the better relievers in the game,” Matzek said. “He’s got a pretty unhittable cutter, and the ball gets on you fast, from what the hitters have told me. He’s got really good stuff, and he’s been doing it for so long, and I think he’s got the mindset for it, too.”

Jansen has a 2.37 ERA over 12 big-league seasons. In 63 1/3 postseason innings, he’s posted a 2.13 ERA.

From a strategic standpoint, signing Jansen provides the Braves with more flexibility in their bullpen. The increased depth will give manager Brian Snitker the ability to rest certain arms, create more favorable matchups and control the game in the most optimal way for his club.

A deep bullpen shortens the game, which d’Arnaud found out during the 2015 World Series. His Mets played the Royals, who had a stellar bullpen. It affected the Mets’ hitters mentally.

“It put a lot of stress on the other team’s offense knowing like, ‘OK, we got to get this starter, otherwise we’re screwed,’” he said. “I think that’s very big, very important and very intimidating to our opponents as well.”

And then there’s this advantage, mentioned by Snitker: “What it does is it allows you to use some of your better guys if you’re two runs down or three runs down in the sixth inning,” Snitker said. “That’s as big as anything, to me, with the depth, is it allows you to maybe win some games you wouldn’t if you didn’t have to use your big guys. It allows you to give your offense a chance to come back.”

In the bigger picture, signing Jansen signifies the Braves’ desire to continue winning now. They just won the World Series and have tons of talent, but they haven’t stopped at that. They continue to add. They acquired Olson, then signed Collin McHugh, Eddie Rosario and now Jansen.

The Braves’ estimated 2022 payroll, per RosterResource, is $185 million, which would be a franchise record. General manager Alex Anthopoulos has not rested since the lockout ended.

There may be no one who notices and appreciates all of this more than Olson, who formerly played for an organization (Oakland) that’s seen as cheap. Olson left a team trying to cut costs and is now on one that has positioned itself to try to repeat as champions.

“You can’t second-guess that, trying to win games, which is very refreshing,” Olson said. “It’s nice to see a front office recognize the players and the team that’s here and the window that’s here to win, and continue to go for it. Obviously an elite relief arm in the game, so it’s a big pickup.

“There weren’t any holes at all on this squad, and it just keeps improving.”

Braves add Phil Gosselin

The Braves on Saturday signed infielder Phil Gosselin to a minor-league deal. The 33-year-old can play second and third base.

Over his career, he’s hit .261 with a .675 on-base plus slugging percentage. He spent last year with the Angels.

He provides the Braves with infield depth.

Notes from a 4-4 tie against Tampa Bay

The Braves and Rays tied, 4-4, on Saturday in Port Charlotte. A few notes:

  • Shortstop Vaughn Grissom went 2-for-2. He drove in one run and scored another. He’s listed as the Braves’ No. 10 prospect on MLB Pipeline.
  • Outfielder Michael Harris II, the organization’s top prospect, went 1-for-3 and drove in a run.
  • Outfielder Drew Waters went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored.
  • Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley, the two biggest names in the lineup, both went 0-for-2 in their first Grapefruit League action.