If the rumors are true, the Boston Red Sox have their eye on an underrated big fish to bolster their bullpen.
On Saturday evening, reports emerged that the Sox are interested in Kenley Jansen.
It wouldn’t be the first time. The Sox checked in with Jansen’s agents last winter before he ultimately signed with the Atlanta Braves. He was also reportedly a Sox target during the early years of Dave Dombrowski’s tenure but remained with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Red Sox rumored to be interested in Kenley Jansen
The Sox are in dire need of bullpen help, especially if they plan on moving Garrett Whitlock and potentially, Tanner Houck, to the starting rotation in 2023. That leaves them with little closer firepower; John Schreiber pitched well in the closing spots but was also excellent in middle relief and set-up spots, so moving him to the ninth full-time would create another hole. Days before the 2021 All-Star Game, the Sox signed first-time All-Star Matt Barnes to a lucrative two-year extension; over 22 appearances following the midseason break, he posted a 6.48 ERA and 5.75 FIP. He pitched so poorly that fall that he was left off the ALDS and ALCS rosters, only making the cut as a sub for the injured Garrett Richards. And then, of course, the Sox have Ryan Brasier, Josh Taylor, a cadre of newcomers, Zack Kelly, Franklin German, Kaleb Ort, and Joely Rodriguez, whom they just signed to an incentive-laden one-year deal.
It’s not a group that lives up to the ‘relief’ part of their job title, especially if Whitlock and Houck are in the rotation. Meanwhile, Jansen was an All-Star three consecutive seasons from 2016-18, and won two Trevor Hoffman Reliever of the Year awards. He’s a career 2.46 ERA, 2.37 FIP, 0.928 WHIP pitcher and the Dodgers’ all-time saves leader. Even at 34 years old and pitching on a new team for the first time in his big-league career in 2022, he led the National League with 54 games finished and 41 saves.
Jansen checks several boxes on the Red Sox’ offseason to-do list. Their season was derailed by pitching injuries; Jansen has appeared in 50+ games and thrown 52+ innings in each 162-game season since 2011. Most of the 2018 championship core is gone; Jansen has 59 career postseason appearances, having pitched in at least one postseason game each year since 2013. The Sox collectively blew 28 saves in 39 opportunities this year; Jansen had 41 saves.
Of course, the Sox have been nicknamed the ‘Interest Kings’ in recent offseasons for a reason. Rumors and reports circulate connecting them to anyone and everyone, and more often than not, the seeds don’t bear fruit. Jon Morosi also reports that the San Francisco Giants are showing interest in Jansen.
With his postseason experience and lengthy resumé, they won’t be the only ones.