Former Blue Jays’ Closer Casey Janssen Moves On


Another member of the Blue Jays’ old guard has officially moved on. Casey Janssen will head to the Nationals on a one year deal with a mutual option for a second year. Janssen will be guaranteed 5m. The contract lines up closely with our estimate from December.  Casey will make 3.5m in 2015 with an unlikely 7m option for 2016 (There is a 1.5m buyout on that option which brings his guaranteed money up to 5m).

Casey was a draft success story for the Jays—he was taken in the 4th round in 2004. He began as a starter but after his rookie season in 2006, it became obvious that he would be more useful from the bullpen. From 2007-2011 he was primarily used in middle relief or setting up (with a season long injury in 2008 and some spot starts in 2009), but from 2012-2014 he was entrusted with the team’s highest leverage situations. During that span he had a save percentage of 89%, a FIP of 3.27, a WHIP of 0.994, and a strikeout to walk ratio of 4.68.

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Janssen is an atypical closer who relies on pinpoint accuracy for success. With a fastball that reaches 91-92 mph at best, he can’t blow away hitters but he still gets a good amount of strikeouts with a nasty curve and well-placed fastballs. Mainly though, he leans heavily on his defence to convert the ground balls he frequently induces into outs.

Janssen had some well documented struggles in the second half 2014. He had a vacation from hell that left him violently ill. He never got back on track after that. His WHIP and ERA ballooned to 1.479 and 6.46 respectively and his SO/W ratio dipped to 2.33. Janssen’s 2014 may not be entirely attributable to his rough second half—his strikeout rates were down from his norm all season. Janssen also appeared to run afoul of the organization’s good graces as—evidenced by comments made on both sides.

Considering the bloated sums that have been handed out to set up men and closers so far this offseason, this appears to be a good deal for the Nationals. Janssen will likely serve as a set up man or a capable back up closing option behind Drew Storen. Janssen will undoubtedly be excited to play on a team with the number one rotation in baseball.

From a financial standpoint, this would have been about the best deal the Jays’ could have gotten for a closing option but the rift between him and the Jays made a reunion a foregone conclusion. Janssen has the capability to dominate and if the second half of 2014 was an aberration, the Blue Jays may rue their unwillingness to reconcile with him.

Best of luck Casey.