Casey Janssen Rumors

Blue Jays Notes: Navarro, Duke, Janssen, Santana

The Blue Jays announced today that Dioner Navarro has been activated from the disabled list, with Josh Thole being optioned to Triple-A to make room on the 25-man roster. Navarro, an oft-mentioned trade candidate this winter (due largely to his own admission that he would prefer a trade that will allow him every day) struggled to a .267/.294/.333 batting line in his first 34 plate appearances before landing on the DL. As a free agent at season’s end, he’ll hope to bring that line closer to the .283/.333/.427 he posted between the Cubs and Jays in 2013-14.

A few notes on some the Blue Jays…

  • Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi spoke with White Sox reliever Zach Duke about the Blue Jays’ interest in him this offseason. Duke, who signed on with the South Siders for three years and a total of $15MM, said the interest between him and Toronto was mutual. “I talked with [Blue Jays GM] Alex [Anthopoulos] quite a bit,” Duke told Davidi. “I talked to a few guys on the Blue Jays, too, and I was pretty interested. Toronto was definitely a huge consideration for me.” Davidi notes that the Jays also contemplated topping Chicago’s offer to David Robertson (four years, $46MM) but weren’t comfortable with how much they’d have to backload the deal to make it work.
  • Davidi also caught up with former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen, who is now with the Nationals after signing a one-year, $5MM contract this winter. As Davidi writes, failed extension talks during the 2014 season likely played a role in Janssen’s departure from the organization that he had spent the past 10 years with. Janssen said that he left talks up to his agent for the most part, but he never got the sense that the Blue Jays had serious interest.
  • It’s been three years since Johan Santana tossed a 134-pitch no-hitter for the Mets — the first no-hitter in their franchise’s history. Santana, however, pitched in just three games following that milestone, as shoulder injuries and a ruptured Achilles tendon have kept him off the field. Now with the Blue Jays on a minor league deal, Santana tells Sports Illustrated’s Phil Taylor that he wouldn’t change anything about that night if he had the chance. “It’s easy to criticize things after they happened,” says Santana. “You don’t have a crystal ball to say what’s going to happen. I told [Mets manager] Terry [Collins] I felt fine, and I did. Even if an army had come to get me, I wouldn’t have come out of the game. I love this game too much.” Santana says he’s not certain if his comeback attempt with the Blue Jays will result in him returning to a Major League mound, but he’s hopeful of being able to do so in any capacity. “Starting, relieving, just to pitch again,” the two-time Cy Young winner tells Taylor. “Coming back is a challenge and I love challenges. Is it going to happen? I don’t know. But I’m taking my chances and I’m giving it everything I have.”

Injury Notes: Medlen, Mesoraco, Bailey, Fernandez, Rendon, Janssen, Verlander, Nathan

Injuries remain perhaps the largest driver of needs in the early part of the season — a topic that MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes and I explored in today’s podcast with respect to starting pitching. Let’s have a look at some key injury situations around the game:

  • Rehabbing Royals starter Kris Medlen is headed to extended Spring Training to begin throwing against live batters, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports. That leaves him on track for a rehab assignment in May. Kansas City has $8.5MM riding on the righty’s ability to return to form after his second Tommy John surgery.
  • The Reds are missing two key cogs in backstop Devin Mesoraco and righty Homer Bailey. As Michael Hunt reports for MLB.com, manager Bryan Price says that Mesoraco — still not on the DL despite a 17-game absence from his usual catching duties — is still not ready “to try it out just yet,” adding that Mesoraco is “coming along slowly.” There are longer-term concerns with regard to Bailey, of course, and surgery is said to be on the table. “We’re probably going to know in the next one-to-two days what our plans are with Homer,” Price said. “You spend a lot of time when you make a diagnosis, fact-finding and making sure everything you see is as it appears. That’s been the time consumer, making sure it is what we think it is and finding the best way to treat it.”
  • Marlins starter Jose Fernandez is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, of course, and recently faced hitters in a live BP session for the first time. You can check out the video of his outing, courtesy of FOX Sports Florida.
  • After a pause in his rehab, Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon is preparing for another Double-A appearance in the coming days, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. The issue has not been with his knee, which caused him to hit the DL to start the year, but with tightness in his side. That’s good news for the club, obviously, as is the fact that reliever Casey Janssen appeared in an extended spring game. He is set to begin his own run up through the minors in short order, per Ladson.
  • Injured Tigers starter Justin Verlander is set for a third MRI on his right triceps area early next week, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports (Twitter links). Meanwhile, reliever Joe Nathan underwent his Tommy John procedure yesterday, Fenech tweets, with Nathan saying that it went well. It figures to be a long road back for the 40-year-old, but indications are that he’ll try to return to the big leagues.

NL East Notes: Phillies, Mets, Gilmartin, Johnson, Janssen

The Phillies may be preparing to add their fifth starter from outside the organization, according to a tweet from Jayson Stark of ESPN. Stark spoke with an executive who asked the Phillies who their fifth starter was expected to be and received a reply of, “He’s not here yet.” A number of rotation options have been released over the past few days, including Jhoulys Chacin, Scott Baker and Felix Doubront. More releases figure to come soon, and other rotation options will be placed on waivers as we get late into camp. I’d be surprised if the Phillies made any form of significant move, but adding someone with a bit of upside, such as Chacin, could prove beneficial if they can get him back on track. The Phillies will go with Cole Hamels, Aaron Harang, David Buchanan and Jerome Williams in their first four rotation spots.

Here’s more from the NL East…

  • The Mets are confident that they can land a left-handed reliever before Opening Day, but even if they do bring in someone from the outside, Rule 5 lefty Sean Gilmartin has a good chance of making the club, per ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. Gilmartin, 25 in May, was the Braves’ first-round pick in 2011 but was traded to the Twins for Ryan Doumit last offseason. Gilmartin posted a combined 3.71 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 145 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A for the Twins last season, but they made the at least somewhat curious decision to leave him unprotected in this year’s Rule 5 Draft. With the Mets this spring, Gilmartin has allowed five runs in 8 2/3 innings with an 11-to-5 K/BB ratio. Last year in the Minors, Gilmartin held lefties to a miserable .201/.219/.235 batting line.
  • Marlins manager Mike Redmond tells Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post that he “lost a few nights of sleep” over the decision to cut Reed Johnson, who was released earlier this morning. Redmond spoke highly of Johnson’s influence on the team’s young hitters last season and voiced an opinion that while he expects Johnson to get picked up by another club, he also can see him transitioning to a coaching or even managerial role in the future. Redmond called the 38-year-old Johnson “a guy who has truly earned everything he’s been given in this game.” D’Angelo notes that Jordany Valdespin, Don Kelly, Donovan Solano and Reid Brignac are competing for the final two bench spots in Miami. The Marlins are prioritizing taking someone who can play shortstop for one of the two spots.
  • Tom Schad of the Washington Times spoke to Nationals right-hander Casey Janssen and was told that the setup man isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Opening Day. Janssen underwent an MRI on his right shoulder yesterday and while the results haven’t been released yet, Janssen said he doesn’t believe the test indicated a significant injury.


Nationals Notes: Uggla, Janssen, Injuries, Strasburg, Zimmermann

Second baseman Dan Uggla has done enough to make the Opening Day roster, but it’s unclear how he’ll be used, writes Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider. After a couple dismal seasons, Uggla is in camp as a NRI. He’s hit a solid .278/.422/.500 after undergoing a new vision treatment over the offseason.

His lack of defensive versatility makes him difficult to roster. The club intends to use Yunel Escobar  at second base with Danny Espinosa as a utility infielder. Uggla has an opt out, so he’s unlikely to remain with the organization if he’s assigned to the minors. Per Uggla, he wouldn’t feel comfortable in a reserve role. Once Anthony Rendon returns from injury, it’s hard to imagine the Nationals finding a place to keep Uggla.

  • Reliever Casey Janssen will undergo a MRI on his sore pitching shoulder, reports James Wagner of the Washington Post. Manager Matt Williams described the injury as “generally it’s in his lat…it’s not something that’s normal soreness for him.” That’s worrisome because he missed time with a lat injury late last season. He’s also dealt with other shoulder injuries in the past. Janssen signed a one-year, $3.5MM over the winter and is expected to serve as the eighth inning reliever for the Nationals.
  • GM Mike Rizzo won’t be tinkering with the roster much in the coming days. When asked if he could add players before the opener, he told reporters, including Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider (on Twitter), “We’re satisfied.  We like the team we have.” The injury bug has bitten multiple Nats player, including Denard Span and Rendon.
  • The Nationals may allow star pitchers Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg to walk via free agency, writes Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. The reason has nothing to do with their performance. Both pitchers received Tommy John surgery in the past. Per Boswell, the “life expectancy” for the reconstructed elbow is eight years. Jeff Zimmerman of FanGraphs estimates that risk of re-injury increases sharply after just 400 to 600 innings. In either event, the injury history may partially explain the club’s willingness to add Max Scherzer over the offseason.

Nationals Sign Casey Janssen

The Nationals look to have found a replacement for recently traded setup man Tyler Clippard, as the team announced on Monday the signing of right-hander Casey Janssen to a one-year contract with a mutual option. The ACES client will reportedly receive a $5MM guarantee in the form of a $3.5MM 2015 salary and a $1.5MM buyout on his $7MM mutual option. He can also reportedly earn up to $500K via performance bonuses.

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The 33-year-old Janssen was one of the best remaining options on the relief market and has spent the bulk of the past three seasons serving as Toronto’s closer. His stats took a tumble in 2014, though some of that decline may have been attributable to a violent case of food poisoning. Janssen reportedly lost eight pounds in a single day as a result of that episode, and he likely rushed back to the mound too soon; Janssen spent two days on an IV to rehydrate his body and the next day began a stretch of five appearances in eight days.

Overall, he posted a 6.26 ERA in the second half that caused his overall mark on the season to balloon to 3.94. Janssen showed his typically excellent command in 2014, walking just 1.4 hitters per nine innings, but his strikeout rate curiously dipped, even during his healthy first half. Janssen averaged just 5.5 K/9 in 2014 — a decline of three strikeouts per nine when compared to his previous four seasons of work.

A rocky 2014 notwithstanding, Janssen’s work dating back to the 2011 season is nothing short of outstanding when judged as a whole. In that time, he’s worked to a 2.77 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and a 43 percent ground-ball rate. He saved 83 games for Toronto in that stretch and should give Nationals manager Matt Williams an experienced safety net for closer Drew Storen. However, Storen posted a sensational 1.12 ERA in 2014 and took over the ninth inning late in the season after Rafael Soriano struggled. His ERA and the fact that he closed out the year with a stretch of 20 innings without allowing an earned run likely still makes Storen the favorite for saves in 2015.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the deal (on Twitter). The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga broke down the financial terms (Twitter links). Rosenthal later tweeted the details about Janssen’s incentives.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


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.