Casey Janssen Rumors

Morosi On The Closer Market

The market for free agent relievers continues to develop slowly, writes Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Three free agents with over 20 saves last season remain available – Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Casey Janssen. Per Morosi, the Blue Jays, Indians, and Brewers are looking to add a late inning reliever. Obviously, other clubs could get involved at the right price.

Each of the three free agents come with performance concerns. Rodriguez, 33, was the best of the group with 44 saves. However, he’s allowed an above average rate of home runs in his last three seasons – all spent at homer friendly Miller Park. He’s a better fit for a pitcher friendly park, which may be why the Brewers have yet to re-engage his services.

Both Soriano and Janssen lost ninth inning privileges last season. Soriano, 35, actually had a solid season based on his peripherals, but a few costly, late season blow-ups led to Drew Storen taking over as closer. As a command and control pitcher, Janssen has always been an atypical closer.

The trio is unlikely to do much better than the two-year, $15MM deal Sergio Romo signed with the Giants. In some ways, Romo was better last year than any of the remaining free agents, and he’s younger too. Like Soriano and Janssen, Romo lost the closer role mid-season.

With Tyler Clippard moving to Oakland (presumably, GM Billy Beane won’t re-trade him before the season), the most obvious trade candidate is Philadelphia’s Jonathan Papelbon. His contract is an additional impediment to a trade – he’s owed $13MM this season with a $13MM vesting option (48 games finished). While Morosi didn’t mention it, some clubs have reportedly expressed concern about Papelbon’s clubhouse presence. He missed the end of last season after an unusual crotch grabbing incident.


Free Agent Faceoff: K-Rod vs. Soriano vs. Janssen

Among the remaining free agents on the open market, only three held down a ninth-inning job for a significant portion of the season: Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano and Casey Janssen. The trio is similar in that each has a history of pitching in the ninth inning, each is in his mid-30s and each succeeds despite lacking an overpowering heater. Let’s take a bit of a closer look at each.

Rodriguez’s relative youth may surprise some; he’ll turn 33 in January. It may feel like he should be in his upper 30s, but that comes with the territory when you cut your teeth as a 20-year-old in the midst of a World Series run. K-Rod’s ERA has been 3.04 or lower in four of the past five seasons (a 4.38 in 2012 being the lone exception), and it has, in fact, been 3.04 or better in all but two of his 13 big league seasons. fWAR was down on K-Rod quite a bit this season, as his FIP of 4.50 was rather pedestrian. However, that number doesn’t account for his eye-popping 23.3 percent homer-to-flyball ratio. Rodriguez’s career mark in that field is 9.9 percent, and even if he’s more homer-prone now (and the past three seasons suggest he might be), it can be reasonably expected for his HR/FB to drop by as much as 10 percentage points. xFIP normalizes HR/FB when projecting a 2.91 ERA for Rodriguez, and even if the true talent level is something a bit higher, Rodriguez would have value. He’s the youngest of the three relievers in question and also had the best ground-ball rate (43.9 percent) in 2014.

Soriano is the elder statesman of this group at the age of 35. He, too, has just one ERA blemish under his belt over the past five seasons — a 4.12 mark in an injury-shortened season with the 2011 Yankees. Over the past three seasons he has a 2.84 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. Soriano throws the hardest of this bunch (91.5 mph average fastball in 2014) and was having far and away the best season of the group as of mid-August. Soriano’s ERA was under 2.00 entering play on Aug. 15, but he limped to the finish line, allowing 12 runs in 14 2/3 innings over his final 16 games. While that offers cause for concern, some clubs may just write it off as poor luck (he did have a .367 BABIP in that stretch).

Janssen, who turned 33 in September, was in the midst of a characteristically strong season when he caught a violent case of food poisoning. He reportedly lost eight pounds within a day’s time and was never fully recovered, which was a contributing factor to his 6.46 second-half ERA. Even when Janssen was healthy, his K/9 rate was down this season, however, and he does throw the slowest of this trio. However, Janssen has also shown the best command of this group in recent seasons, and he’s missed plenty of bats in previous years. Plus, his recent trials have come in the AL East, whereas Soriano and Rodriguez have both worked in the National League in recent years.

All three of these relievers could help a bullpen, but it doesn’t seem that all three will end up with a closer’s job. Clearly, this post is just a mere glimpse into each reliever’s profile, so feel free to do a bit more of your own research before answering…



NL East Notes: Nationals Bullpen, Fister, Crow, Marlins

Here’s the latest out of the National League East:

  • The Nationals are interested in adding a veteran right-handed arm to the pen, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post, who adds that the team is presently focused on other matters and has not fully engaged the free agent market. Wagner lists many of the better free agent arms as at least theoretical possibilities, and says that Washington has at least “shown some interest” already in both Casey Janssen and Jason Motte.
  • Doug Fister and the Nationals have not re-engaged on extension talks since they first took place last spring, reports Wagner. Fister has been mentioned as a hypothetical trade candidate as well, though presumably the club would only seriously consider dealing one of he and Jordan Zimmermann.
  • Just-added Marlins hurler Aaron Crow has worked from the bullpen for the last four seasons but could get a chance to return to a starting role in Miami, reports Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel. “It’s still early in the offseason and we’re not sure how the rest of the offseason will unfold in terms of what else we add to our pitching staff, but we love the flexibility,” said president of baseball operations Michael Hill. We love the thought he could possibly be a starting option for us, but at a minimum we know he’ll be a valuable bullpen piece and just add to the overall depth of our staff.”
  • The Marlins‘ front office is focused on achieving “sustainable success,” writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Miami hopes to step its payroll up over the next few years, more or less in line with the raises in Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract, by adding targeted pieces to supplement its young core.


Casey Janssen Joins ACES Agency

Former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen has switched agents and will now be represented by ACES as he heads into free agency for the first time, reports MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes (on Twitter).

The 33-year-old Janssen didn’t pick a great time to have his worst season since 2009, and his new agents will be tasked with convincing interested parties that this year was an aberration as opposed to a genuine cause for concern. The former Jim McDowell client opened the year on the disabled list with a back strain that sidelined him through mid-May. Janssen’s struggles began after the All-Star break — during which he caught a violent case of food poisoning and lost eight pounds as a result. As John Lott wrote in the National Post in late August, Janssen himself would not use his illness as an excuse, but he did make five appearances in an eight-game stretch just starting on July 20, when he’d spent the previous two days attached to an IV to get fluids back into his body.

The end result of Janssen’s season was a 3.94 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9, but the first- and second-half splits are eye-catching. He allowed three runs in 22 innings with a 14-to-1 K/BB ratio prior to the All-Star break (1.23 ERA) before posting a 6.46 ERA in 23 2/3 second-half innings. While there’s certainly a correlation with the food poisoning, detractors can note that Janssen’s strikeouts and ground-ball rate were down significantly, even in the first half.

As shown in MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker, ACES has negotiated multiple contracts for free agent relievers over the past couple of offseasons, including Brandon League, Randy Choate, Santiago Casilla, Joaquin Benoit and Grant Balfour, and they also negotiated Jonathan Papelbon‘s record contract with the Phillies.

Janssen’s switch is now reflected in MLBTR’s Agency Database, which contains agent information on more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players. If you see any errors or notable omissions within the database, please let us know via email: mlbtrdatabase@gmail.com.


AL Notes: Peralta, Janssen, Lowrie

The Rays will wait until tomorrow to make their option decision on reliever Joel Peralta, the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin tweets. They’ll also soon be making other 40-man decisions, since they need to reinstate Matt Moore and Jerry Sands from the 60-day disabled list, and their roster is currently full. Peralta’s option comes at $2.5MM, and if the Rays exercise it, they’ll have options at the same price for 2016 and 2017 as well. Peralta is 38 and is coming off a season in which he posted a 4.41 ERA, and the Rays could decide to let him go to save a bit of money and clear a roster spot for a younger player. In general, though, $2.5MM would seem to be a reasonable price for a reliever who had 10.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 last season. Here’s more from the American League.

  • Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen is excited for free agency, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star writes. After a poor second half (perhaps due in part to coming down with food poisoning at the All-Star Break), Janssen isn’t sure how he’ll be valued, but he points to the Royals’ excellent bullpen and the Tigers’ playoff struggles as evidence that good relievers are valuable. “It just shortens the game when you can confidently hand the keys to the ’pen in the sixth or seventh inning,” he says.
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Athletics do not plan to extend a qualifying offer to Jed Lowrie, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Lowrie has said that he’s unlikely to give the A’s a significant hometown discount to return, and the team isn’t likely to want to make a longer commitment. They also don’t have an obvious internal replacement (particularly after sending Addison Russell to the Cubs), so they could be on the hunt for a shortstop this offseason. Slusser notes that someone like Stephen Drew, who they might be able to sign to a shorter deal, might be a candidate. The A’s could also trade to acquire a shortstop from a team like the Cubs or Diamondbacks. Slusser writes that the Athletics will likely lose their other six free agents as well — Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, Luke Gregerson, Jonny Gomes, Alberto Callaspo and Geovany Soto.

Blue Jays Notes: Lind, Cabrera, McGowan, Sanchez

When the Blue Jays brass met to discuss the offseason, Adam Lind was at the top of the list, writes John Lott of the National Post. The first baseman’s presence on the roster impeded flexibility, which is why the club dealt him for pitcher Marco Estrada earlier today. GM Alex Anthopoulos expressed hope that the trade would be the first domino in a series of moves. Here’s more from north of the border.

  • FOXSports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets that the White Sox were also interested in Lind but did not make a substantial offer. I’m not surprised the Sox did not match the Brewers’ offer. With the possible exception of Dayan Viciedo, the White Sox don’t possess a player like Estrada, i.e. an established major leaguer coming off a disappointing season.
  • The Jays and free agent Melky Cabrera are far apart in contract negotiations, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Anthopoulos was forthcoming about the talks, comparing the situation to some arbitration cases. “Sometimes you need to have that third party, which is the market…so they truly know what they are worth.” Based on those comments, it appears likely that Cabrera will test the market. We at MLBTR pegged Cabrera for a five-year, $70MM contract, but he’s obviously among the hardest players to gauge due to his history with performance enhancing drugs and a lost season in 2013 from a back injury. For what it’s worth, I consider the $70MM estimate to be conservative in today’s offensively anemic game.
  • Toronto declined Dustin McGowan‘s $4MM option because the contract was too rich for his projected role, says Davidi (Twitter link). Anthopoulos did not rule out a reunion with McGowan at a lesser rate, per Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star (via Twitter).
  • Anthopoulos confirmed that the club views prospect Aaron Sanchez as a starter long term, tweets Kennedy. However, there may not be a spot in the rotation. My observation from strolling around the internet is that many fans hope to see Sanchez installed as the closer. No plans have been made at this time.
  • The Blue Jays will not make a qualifying offer to Colby Rasmus or Casey Janssen, tweets Davidi. He referred to the news as “confirming the obvious,” since neither player was viewed as a candidate for an offer.

East Notes: Olivera, Stanton, Red Sox, Janssen, Lind

Here’s the latest from the game’s eastern divisions:

  • The Marlins are interested in Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Olivera recently defected with hopes of becoming an MLB free agent, and Miami is certainly one of several clubs that looks in need of an acquisition up the middle.
  • Giancarlo Stanton‘s season-ending injury does not change the Marlins‘ plans to make a push at extending him this winter, the Associated Press reports (via the New York Times). “There’s no hesitancy, no reservation or doubt he’ll return and be even better,” said Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill. “We’re going to do everything in our power to keep him a fixture in our lineup for many years to come.”
  • The Red Sox are not giving up on Will Middlebrooks in spite of building frustration, but president Larry Lucchino did make clear that the team is “looking for a left-handed hitting third baseman,” as he told WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan (via WEEI.com’s Andrew Battifarano). Though Lucchino said that prospect Garin Cecchini could be that player, he also emphasized that the team will not “make the same mistake that [we] made this year, which is to assume that so many of our young players are ready for prime time.”
  • Two long-time Blue Jays — reliever Casey Janssen and DH Adam Lind — are approaching the possibility of finding new homes, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca writes. Janssen, a free agent, says he does not yet know whether Toronto will make him a competitive offer. If not, he says, he will “embrace a new city and try to bring a championship to wherever that next stop is.” Lind, on the other hand, is subject to a $7.5MM club option. Though expectations are that it will be exercised, Lind says he hopes the front office will give him a clear sense of its intentions before the season ends.

Blue Jays Exercise Janssen, Lind, DeRosa Options

6:50pm: The Jays have exercised their options on Lind and DeRosa, while declining their option on Kawasaki, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi writes. Lind hit .288/.357/.497 while splitting his time between first base and DH in 2013. DeRosa hit .235/.326/.407 while playing first, second, third and DH. Kawasaki provided a feel-good moment or two for the Jays in a season in which they had very few, but he split his time between Toronto and Triple-A Buffalo and only hit .229/.326/.308 in the Majors. Davidi notes that the Jays could re-sign him to a minor-league deal.

5:04pm: The Blue Jays have exercised their $4MM option on closer Casey Janssen, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets. Janssen pitched 52 2/3 innings in 2013, posting a 2.56 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9, so the decision was likely a relatively straightforward one. The option came as part of a two-year, $5.9MM deal signed prior to the 2012 season. Janssen made $3.9MM in 2013. He is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.

The Jays have yet to announce decisions on options for first baseman / designated hitter Adam Lind ($7MM with a $2MM buyout), infielder Munenori Kawasaki ($1MM) and utilityman Mark DeRosa ($750K with a $25K buyout).


AL East Notes: Girardi, Lester, Rays, Price, Janssen

The Yankees have made a substantial offer to keep manager Joe Girardi, Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York reports. A source tells Marchand that Girardi could think about the offer through the weekend. "We are going to give him a real good reason to stay," says GM Brian Cashman. Rumors have connected Girardi to the Cubs' managerial job, which might be a possibility if he chooses to leave. The Nationals and Reds also have managerial openings that Girardi might find attractive. Girardi is currently under contract with the Yankees through the end of October. Here are more notes from the AL East.

  • Last offseason, the Red Sox and Royals discussed a possible trade involving Jon Lester and Wil Myers, Lester tells WEEI.com's Alex Speier. "[Royals manager Ned Yost] is actually a pretty good friend of mine. I flat-out called him one day and was like, 'Hey, what do you got on this?' He said, ‘Yeah, we’re trying to make it work,'" Lester says. One reason the trade ultimately didn't happen is that the Royals finally traded Myers and three other players to the Rays, the Red Sox's current ALDS opponent, for a package headlined by James Shields.
  • One assistant GM proposes that the Rays could trade David Price to the Dodgers for Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Julio Urias and Chris Withrow, Peter Gammons writes. That would give the Rays two very good hitting prospects in Seager and Pederson, a very young arm in Urias, and a big-league reliever in Withrow. MLB.com ranks Pederson and Seager the top two prospects in the Dodgers system, with Urias at No. 4.
  • The Blue Jays are "sure" to pick up their $4MM option on closer Casey Janssen, writes Shi Davidi of SportsNet.ca. Janssen is coming off a strong season, so the decision would seem to be an easy one. Davidi notes that Janssen would likely make twice as much on the open market, and win a multi-year deal to boot.

Blue Jays Likely To Keep Lind, DeRosa, Janssen

Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters that there's a "good chance" they'll exercise Adam Lind's option for 2014, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (on Twitter).  Veteran Mark DeRosa is also in good position with his option and Casey Janssen is a lock to have his club option triggered.

It now looks like Lind will get $7MM to stay in Toronto next season rather than getting a $2MM buyout to ply his craft elsewhere.  The Jays also have options on Lind's services for 2015 ($7.5MM) and 2016 ($8MM). In 2013, Lind has hit .287/.356/.497, his best slash line since 2009. 

DeRosa's $750K option was expected to be triggered, but he could opt to retire rather than return.  The 38-year-old, who has a .229/.322/.398 slash line on the year, has earned nearly $30MM over the course of his career.  Meanwhile, Janssen's $4MM option is a slam dunk after turning in a 2.56 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 56 relief appearances.

Anthopoulos also expressed confidence that the Blue Jays' rotation can turn things around with "a starter or two" added this offseason, Davidi tweets.