Dodgers News & Notes: Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen Press Conference

Today, the Los Angeles Dodgers held a press conference for the (re)signings of third baseman Justin Turner and reliever Kenley Jansen.

The conference featured the two players, along with manager Dave Roberts and President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. Friedman opened the presser by stating that the Dodgers not only had championship caliber talent, but also had "a clubhouse dynamic and environment that was really conducive to winning". He acknowledged that after Turner and Jansen become free agents, the two most acute needs were at third base and closer. 

Friedman went on to compliment Turner not only on the field, but off the field as well. 

Jansen praised the Dodgers for giving him the opportunity to transition from catcher to pitcher. He stated that he has a lot of respect for the organization, but the things that the organization has for him was in his best interest.

Turner stated that "getting to the point of hitting free agency isn't an easy thing for a lot of guys... as much as you want to go out and explore and test the waters, I had this conversation with Kenley, it's not always greener on the other side." 

"When you go to another organization, no matter how good they make it seem like it's going to be for you, you don't necessarily know what you're getting yourself into. With the Dodgers, I knew exactly what was here, I love the staff, Dave Roberts, what he's done and the guys he's put in place and what they mean and what they stand for, I love being a Dodger, I love being in the community... We have some unfinished business too."

Jansen's wedding became a talking point during the press conference. Before either player had signed, Jansen got married in Curacao. Days after the wedding, the news broke that both Jansen and Turner would return to Los Angeles. Turner attended the wedding, as did fellow Dodgers Scott Van Slyke and Yasiel Puig.

Turner stated that the first couple days when they were in Curacao, there was no talk about baseball, "Kourt and I went to dinner with Scott and his wife and we sat down and had some conversations about it, and he asked some tough questions." 

"I imagine he probably had some of the same questions for Kenley too. There was never trying to push anything on anyone, it was great."

 Friedman was asked about Jansen's postseason. The Dodgers were eliminated in Game 6 of the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs, but that was at no fault of the closer. Jansen appeared in six postseason games. In Game 3 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals, he had a rough outing, allowing four earned runs while only recording one out, turning a 4-3 deficit into an 8-3 hole. Other than that, Jansen didn't allow a single run throughout the postseason. He only had two outings of an inning or less, as he was asked to get through multiple innings at times. The main event came in NLDS Game 5, as Jansen threw 51 pitches to get seven outs before running out of gas and putting runners on with an out in the ninth, but Clayton Kershaw came out of the bullpen and bailed him out. In Game 6 against the Cubs, Jansen needed only 30 pitches to get nine outs, but the Dodgers' offense was shut down for the loss.

Of the performance, Friedman stated, "What he did in the playoffs was incredible."

"The selflessness, the way he competed, I wouldn't say it was surprising, but too see it happen, it's hard to expect that out of someone. He is all about winning. When we came to an agreement, I texted him, and the first thing out of his mouth was 'It's my dream to win a World Series title with the Dodgers'. We saw that play out in the playoffs in terms of how selfless he was, he wanted to do everything he could to help us win".

The two players complimented each other. Turner called Jansen the leader of the bullpen, which was the "backbone of the team" last season. Jansen commended Turner's positivity, claiming even through his struggles early on last season, he stayed positive.

A few days ago, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that Turner had been so intent on staying in LA, he hadn't even cleared out his locker. When asked about it, Turner laughed and said it wasn't the case, that he and Kenley had actually cleaned out their lockers on the same day. 

"It's nice to be courted, it's nice to be desired by other teams, and at the end of the day I'm happy I'm right here and I get to put on the Dodger uniform," Turner said.

Friedman went on to say that he had been with really good teams that felt like there was overhaul needed. After assessing last year, he felt like they have a championship caliber team, and they wanted to do as much as they could to keep it intact.

Turner said he did watch the World Series: "As much as it hurt to see them [the Cubs] playing in that game, felt like it should have been us, could have been us, it just adds the fuel and desire, the work he's been putting in all offseason, to try to be better next year." He went on to compliment the moves that Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi have made, giving the Dodgers enough depth to withstand the injuries of last season. 

Jansen claimed that he and new Giants closer Mark Melancon had some back-and-forth conversations, but he didn't really look at what the other closers were doing in the offseason. Melancon signed a then-record-breaking deal for relievers at four years, $62 million. Aroldis Chapman quickly broke that record, signing a five-year contract with the Yankees worth $86 million.

The focus shifted to the remaining offseason. With reports that the Brian Dozier trade is at an impasse, the Dodgers still need to fill a hole at second. Friedman said there are still conversations ongoing, and that he has a feel for what is more likely. 

"In an ideal world, you're looking at a situation where we can add a right-handed bat, but not just because a guy happens to hit right-handed. Where that is on the field will vary some, but our guys returning are going to be much better against left-handed pitching. We had a number of outlier-ish type of seasons for a lot of talented guys against left-handed pitching, we feel like just naturally we could be better," Friedman stated.

Turner went on to say that he, Chase Utley, Adrian Gonzalez and Howie Kendrick sat down with Puig and had a conversation about trying to do the right things. The third baseman also claimed that Puig looked to be in astounding shape at Kenley's wedding, and that Puig would be here in the next couple days ready to work out.

Finally, Turner said he's much farther along this offseason than he was last offseason. He underwent knee surgery in October 2015, which pushed him behind in his training. 

That ended the press conference, but Friedman stuck around in a media scrum afterwards. He stated that Turner could theoretically be an option at second base this season, but with his excellence at third, it would be hard-pressed to move him. He claimed it could be discussed, but he would bet heavily against it.

Friedman went on to state that it is tricky to balance a win-now attitude while improving the farm system: "We're putting more emphasis on the 2017 team than we are on our 2018 team. That being said, we can't just turn both eyes to the 2017 team exclusively."

He clarified his earlier claim that improvements against left-handed pitching could come from within: "Having a healthy [Scott Van] Slyke is going to help a lot. Kiké [Hernandez], we bet that he'll be significantly better against lefties. JT has hit lefties really well for his career and struggled to an unusual extent last year. That's just to name a few. You go around, it was like the imperfect storm that played out last year, we feel like even as-is, we're not going to be anywhere near where we were last year. It's not a strength, but we have a lot of other team strengths and if that's an area that's not as strong as others, so it goes."

When asked about Trayce Thompson, Friedman stated that he's been slowly progressing and "working towards being more aggressive with baseball activities". 

All in all, it was a very positive day for the Dodgers.