Casey Janssen: Could Be Red Sox Bullpen Answer?


Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told Gord Edes of, “We like the direction the team is headed in … I think it’s more likely if we add anywhere, it’s the bullpen, between now and spring training.” That is a long time for any free agent. There are many relief pitchers sitting in free-agency hell, wondering if a team will take a chance on them or if their careers are over.

One such relief pitcher, who knows the Red Sox well, is Casey Janssen.

First off, before anyone starts claiming that this statement is unfounded, nobody is saying that it has been discussed by Janssen, the Red Sox, or the Blue Jays, in any way. There is no substantial rumor that Janssen would go anywhere other than back to Toronto, playing for the Blue Jays like he has done for the last eight years. The 33-year-old, right-handed, California-native loved Toronto so much, he moved his family to the area. Since 2012, Janssen was the Jays’ closer, recording 81 saves at an 88.5% success rate. Janssen’s career strikeout-to-walks ratio is 3.04 and gave up only a 1.011 WHIP (walk or hit per inning pitched) in three years, making him tough on hitters who see his stuff for the first time in the ninth inning. He was lights out in 2013, with a save percentage of 94.4, but lost faith from the Toronto brass when he blew five saves last season.

However, the Red Sox may see this as the perfect time to grab a new, proven relief pitcher, who has years of experience saving ballgames.

Considering his age and missed opportunities, the Jays were rumored to have said goodbye to Janssen, but he has yet to sign with another team. Janssen told The Toronto Star’s Richard Griffin that he may have done the damage to himself off of the field before his troubles started, making the presumption of his declining talents premature. He had a bout of food poisoning on his trip to the Dominican Republic, during the 2014 All-Star break, severe enough to drop nine pounds. Janssen stated:

"“In hindsight, maybe I would have gone on the (disabled list),” Janssen said. “When you’re not 100 per cent you’ve got to get creative. Being a competitive person, you don’t want to discredit batters. Having said that, I was putting the ball where I wanted to and the results turned to worse. It snowballs. You lose a little bit of confidence and you try harder. The hitters sense it and it gets worse.” (Griffin, Toronto Star)"

The second half of the season saw Janssen’s role diminish, as manager John Gibbons began using his bullpen as a talent show. Journeymen and rookies, like rising star Aaron Sanchez, were called up to the big club and got their chance to audition for the relief roles, including closer. The writing was on the wall to the Toronto media that Janssen’s time could be up in the Great White North.

Putting the physical ailments and emotional scarring to his confidence aside, Janssen could be just what the Red Sox are looking for. Janssen, when confident, works quickly through batters. He does not like spending a lot of time between pitches, making the hitters have less time to pick up on his delivery or speed. He likes to get the ball in play low for groundouts, with an assortment of pitches to strike out opposing teams. The traditional fastball or cutter never goes much above 90 mph, but his nasty slider is near the same speed. Janssen mixes it up with a changeup, but prefers the curveball, which he can throw exactly where he wants (

Sep 19, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Koji Uehara (19) during batting practice prior to a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Janssen’s age should not be as big an issue, considering the Red Sox’ present closer Koji Uehara is going to be 40 in April. Janssen’s market value may also have been hampered by the Jays’ actions, making the $4 million he made last season seem generous. The Blue Jays will want to offer, if anything, close to that figure, so the Red Sox could come in a bit higher to scoop Janssen up. He knows the American League East well, making him an asset to any bullpen that is trying to make a run for the division title. With all of the other acquisitions, Janssen may find that Boston is more attractive to play for, in terms of a possible championship, than Toronto, who thought they had a winning team two seasons ago only to fall heavily short. If the Blue Jays do not get into a bidding war that is too high a price, the Red Sox should definitely consider that their bullpen needs another stud, like Janssen. A new team could breed new confidence in him, as well as give a new threat to a weakened relief staff.

That is, unless the pull of Canada is too much for Janssen and his family. They already have lived there for eight years, and may feel second-place money at ‘home’ is better than first-place money on a possible, but unproven contender. Only time will tell.