Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays: Kenley Jansen is a potential offseason option for the bullpen

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 19: Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during the 9th inning of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on October 19, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 19: Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during the 9th inning of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on October 19, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Heading into the 2021/2022 offseason, the Blue Jays had a few areas that the front office needed to address. The club needed to figure out whether they were going to re-sign their players heading to free agency as well as explore free agency/trades to improve areas on the roster like the rotation and at third base.

Another area the Blue Jays needed to improve this winter was the bullpen, as the relief corps struggled on multiple occasions throughout the year and were the main reason the club lost a few games this season. It’s not like the front office didn’t try to improve the bullpen – signing David Phelps and Tyler Chatwood to before the season began while also acquiring Brad Hand, Trevor Richards, and Adam Cimber at the deadline – but not every move was sunshine and rainbows. Chatwood had multiple implosions this season and Hand would be DFA’d after struggling in Toronto, compounded by the fact that Phelps missed a majority of the year on the injured list.

The bullpen is already shaping up to be a lot more put together with Cimber, Richards, Tim Mayza, and newly signed Yimi Garcia as relief options alongside closer Jordan Romano. These are great building blocks for the 2022 season but there are some other options the Blue Jays should look to explore signing when a new CBA is in place and transactions can occur again.

While names like Raisel Iglesias, Aaron Loup, and Kendall Graveman are already off the market, one of the bigger relief pitching names left on the board is right-hander Kenley Jansen.

The Blue Jays head into the offseason with a few areas needing to be addressed, with Kenley Jansen potentially on the radar to improve the bullpen.

Making his debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers back in 2010, Jansen has emerged as one of the top closers this past decade. He amassed nine saves through his first two seasons in the Major Leagues but took on the role in 2012, accumulating 25+ saves every season since becoming the club’s closer except during the shortened 2020 campaign.

Through 701 games, Jansen has finished 519 games and racked up 350 saves through 705.0 innings of work. He currently owns a career 13.0 K/9 and has not pitched below a 10.3 K/9 through his 12 years in the big leagues with 1022 strikeouts. He has also remained relatively healthy during his time with the Dodgers, appearing in 50+ games since 2011 (last season being the outlier). The only stat that is starting to raise some doubt is his BB/9, as he threw 36 walks and earned a 4.7 BB/9, his highest since 2012.

Jansen enters free agency on the heels of a five-year $80 million dollar contract and Spotrac currently has him valued at a $10 million average per season. This isn’t an outrageous evaluation, and one that is arguably a little on the low side, but adding Jansen at roughly $10-12 million a season is a move that could go a long way for the Blue Jays.

He would most likely displace Romano as the club’s closer given his veteran experience and pedigree, which could leave a sour taste in the Jays fanbase that has taken a well-deserved liking to the Canadian right-hander. There also is a chance that Jansen can’t find the same rhythm in a uniform outside of the Dodgers, seeing his BB/9 rate continue to trend in the wrong direction at 34 years old.

Lastly, Jansen will be a hot commodity this offseason considering he is not tied to draft pick compensation and is coming off a great 2021 campaign where he posted a 2.22 ERA and a 1.043 WHIP through 69 games and 38 saves. At first, it looked like he couldn’t be pried away from the Dodgers but it looks like his market is heating up and he could take his talents elsewhere.

On the flip side, Jansen could be the missing puzzle piece the Jays bullpen is needing to complete the relief corps and improve upon the 3.91 ERA they posted last season. While this stat is not the worst in the Majors, the Blue Jays lost 15 one-run games last year and had multiple instances where relievers like Chatwood or Rafael Dolis were overused and this cost the club in the long run. They improved at the trade deadline with the Richards and Cimber acquisitions but this came a bit too late in the season, although most likely the earliest Atkins could have pulled off at the time.

The Blue Jays do not necessarily need a closer type relief pitcher on the roster but adding Jansen would be a significant boost for the current bullpen. Even if he was put into a setup role and Romano continued to close, it’s a bit risky to bank on Cimber and Richards putting up the same stats they did last year, and having another arm like Jansen could go a long way.

Three back-end rotation targets the Blue Jays could explore this offseason. dark. Next

Yimi Garcia was a great starter course to improving the Blue Jays bullpen this offseason but adding a main attraction like Kenley Jansen could help shape up the relief corps to go along with the club’s young core.

The terms may be a bit more than what fans and the front office are used to dishing out when it comes to signing a relief pitcher (not since the B.J. Ryan deal at least) but if he can bring his career 2.37 ERA to Toronto and continue to pitch well, the Jays may have a top-notch bullpen to compete against some of the powerful lineups in the AL East next year.