8:00 PM ET – Boston (2) vs. Detroit (2) – Jon Lester (3.0 rWAR) vs. Anibal Sanchez (6.3 rWAR)
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Casey Janssen, if you look at the overall numbers, had his third straight tremendous year in 2013. An ERA of 2.56, a WHIP below 1.00, 34 saves compared to just two blown (if you’re into that sort of thing), and using FanGraphs’ WPA-based metric, 36 shut downs compared to just six meltdowns.

By every standard, he’s been terrific. Over the last three years, by FanGraphs’ ERA- stat, his mark of 59 in the top ten in all of baseball among pitchers with more than 150 innings. That’s just a shade ahead of Clayton Kershaw– which isn’t a great comparison, granted, given that Kershaw provides boatloads more value by pitching so many more innings, and has a much tougher task by having to turn lineups over multiple times… but still!

Among relievers, he’s comfortably among the elite ones by that metric, behind Kimbrel, Koji, David Robertson, Greg Holland, Sergio Romo and Brad Ziegler, and ahead of Aroldis Chapman, Mike Adams, Joe Smith, Kenley Jansen, and many, many others.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Janssen cementing himself as one of the top relievers in the game: many Jays fans, myself included, started having trouble believing what they were seeing.

Janssen just doesn’t feel quite like a dominant reliever. It doesn’t look like it should come so easy– he doesn’t throw hard, he lives on the corners, and his overlong stride towards the plate makes it look like it takes tremendous effort to get his pitches across.

He also has a history of shoulder problems, missing all of 2008 due to labrum surgery, and having a procedure last off-season as well. Coupled with the fact that he wasn’t particularly impressive in his first couple of years following the surgery, and in watching him you just tend to get the feeling that everything could come undone at a moments notice.

Maybe that’s only natural when it comes to any closer who doesn’t have dominant stuff. Maybe that’s also why we tend to think he looks shakier than he really is. I certainly wouldn’t have though his second half stats were as sparkling as they actually look. They don’t quite match his first half, where he held opponents to a wOBA of .229, but… actually in some (admittedly less telling) ways they do. His second half ERA, for whatever little that’s worth for a reliever (though it’s maybe worth more for a guy coming in to pitch clean innings than a guy having to deal with inherited runners), was 2.31, as opposed to 2.71 during the first half.

In fact, even if he was “just” the guy he was in the second half, you’re talking about a tremendous reliever: he held opponents to a .271 wOBA, striking out 24 and issuing just five unintentional walks over 23.1 innings.

This was the first year in the last three in which Janssen had a reverse platoon split, holding right-handers to a .203 wOBA, while “struggling” against left-handers, who hit him to the tune of a .275 wOBA. Of course, being a reliever, we’re not talking about particularly compelling single-season samples when you’re talking about splits. Janssen’s 22.1 innings against right-handers, for example, represent less than a tenth of the innings pitched this season by R.A. Dickey. So… what is there to read into that, really?

Mostly, like I said, it’s that Janssen is a tremendous, tremendous reliever. Or at least he has been over the last three seasons, and with an option for 2014 priced at just $4-million, it’s an absolute no-brainer that the Jays will pick it up.

The question, of course, is will he remain with the Jays through the winter, as his price, his talent, the length of his contract, and the fact that the Jays have a number of quality relievers who’ll be cheaper for longer already under contract, make him a very obvious trade candidate, who should be able to net the club close to as much in return as you’d think a reliever possibly could. That’s not necessarily a tonne, given that he’s only going to give a club 50 or 60 innings, but a team with a dearth of bullpen arms and a surplus in an area of need for the Jays could certainly see a lot of value there.

Is it time to sell high on Janssen? I would have said that two winters ago. I would have said that last year, too. But he keeps going out and proving that what he’s been doing is no fluke. Still, though… I’d probably do it. I might end up regretting it, but I’d probably do it. Just a reliever, after all. Right???

Comments (109)

  1. Does anyone know the biggest return through trade that a reliever has brought? Is a #3 starter or league-average second baseman possible for just Casey?

    • Heatcliff Slocumb for Jason Veritek and Derek Lowe is the gold standard

    • I can think of a couple other good trades where a reliever was involved. In 1997 the Dodgers traded Paul Konerko to the Reds for reliever Jeff Shaw. Shaw went on to save 194 games in the next 5 seasons. Cincinnati sent Konerko to the White Sox for Mike Cameron.

      Lee Smith was traded twice, once for starter Al Nipper from the Red Sox, and then the Sox sent him to St. Louis for Tom Brunansky. Back in 1973 the Yankees sent washed up reliever Lindy McDaniel to the Royals for some guy named Lou Piniella.

  2. Koji was traded for Chris Davis… but… uh… that was before either of them was what they are now.

    How about Brandon League for Brandon Morrow?

    Usually it’s prospects that come back (Santos for Molina, for example), or they get dealt in a bigger package. Not a lot of straight-up deals, especially not over the winter.

    It can happen, though, just won’t be easy.

    Red Sox gave up Jed Lowrie for Mark Melancon, so it’s not completely out of the question. Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos is another one that might give you hope. Napoli for Francisco, too.

  3. Keep him. And keep Santos and if possible Delabar. I don’t see a reliever getting enough of a return and he has been excellent. Especially since it’s my perception that he’s not overly vulnerable to the long ball. Given he pitches in the RC that’s something to cherish.

    • Nobody is saying to trade him no matter what. If they DO get a better offer than you see, and it’s good enough, obviously you trade him.

      His HR/FB rates have been below average two of the last three years, but a little high (12.8%) in another– as well as in the years before that. Not necessarily a guy who’ll avoid the HR, especially since the sample on those are limited. You can look this stuff up– no need to rely on perception.

    • @isabella.


      Keep Casey. He’s one of my favourite Jays. If the Jays are serious about winning next year, they need a shutdown bullpen. The Jays finaly have stability at closer position. The position was a mess since BJ Ryan imploded in 2009. Rauch, Francisco & the other guy with glasses who blew up at Cito were a mess.

    • Agreed. If we’re trying to win now (and we are) it doesn’t make any sense to trade our closer. It’s always easy to replace relievers until you can’t. I think AA learned that lesson with Coco.

      • I think they’ll sign him then listen for offers. They absolutely cannot ignore their glaring holes at 2B and C though so AA will probably be leaning towards any kind of trade. (1 for 1, package deal, 3 way etc)

      • Talking about Howie Kendrick might be like beating a dead horse at this point, but I feel like there’s a chance that Janssen could be the centrepiece of that trade, with a B prospect like Jimenez also going to Anaheim. I can’t think of any teams looking to trade MLB-ready pitching, or a starting catcher for one year of a reliever, so unless the team flips Janssen for prospects to use as trade bait in a separate deal, I don’t think there will be many other opportunities to move Janssen in order to improve next year’s team.

      • I can’t believe how many people actually think this way, to be honest. Thought the closer myth didn’t have that kind of pull still. They have plenty of good bullpen pieces, and few others who’d bring back more in trade (on talent/results alone, at least– though the contract makes him less attractive). The fact that people get a gooey feeling when he comes out doesn’t make dealing him not make a tonne of sense. He’s way more replaceable than you think. I mean, Kevin Gregg saved 33 and blew 5 for the Cubs this year, if you’re into those sorts of stats (woefully imperfect as they are).

  4. Nice video of Aaron Sanchez from the AFL league today.


  5. Santos or Delabar?

  6. I’d sell on Janssen. He’s been great but the arm injuries worry me. Looks like Delabar and Santos will do fine as the 8 – 9 inning guys.

    We have a history of shipping relievers to St. Louis that helps both clubs. Kolten Wong is blocked by Carpenter. Maybe a Janssen for Kolten swap could work. It would let Goins take Kawasakis spot as the super-sub. Goins has played a lot of SS.

    • I like dealing for Wong, but I think you have legitimate injury concerns for Santos and Delabar. I wonder if any of the 3 could get the deal done.

      • Maybe you’d need to add a b-prospect. I’d probably still do it, Wong looks like a good one.

    • wong isn’t blocked by anyone..

      Kozma’s bat will be moved to the bench

      • Freese plays third, Adams and Craig first, with Carpenter at second. Wong doesn’t play ss nor does Carpenter. They may well move Kozma but they’d need another SS, so yes, Wong is blocked.

        Carpenter just hit 318/392/481. Huge numbers for a middle infielder. He’s versatile and can play third but they have control of Freese for next year. So, a lot of things need to happen before theres any room for Wong.

    • Just imagine if his defense and athleticism were more highly regarded.

      On the other hand, he is a 1st baseman, after all is said and done.

  7. Man, this Red Sox team is ugly. Just physically unattractive. Wispy beards and bald heads, unbuttoned jerseys…

    Can’t recall the last time I saw such a collection of ugly rich men.

  8. Holy fuck! Iglesias!

  9. I say keep Janssen, we can use him as a closer and Santos for set up or reverse the order. I can’t see a huge return but I can see a huge loss with him gone from the bullpen.
    That dynamic duo are my Henke/Ward of the future and I just don’t have that warm fuzzy feeling putting Delabar in to close.
    Thank God the Tigers are on the board.

  10. If a team out there offered something that made it a no-brainer that would be one thing. Maybe they could swing a deal with a package including Janssen and fill a roll at C, 2nd or SP. Short of that and I’ll take the bird in the hand.

  11. One of my faves, for sure.

  12. Anyone had a look at the video posted on jays journal of stroman pitching in tonight’s AFL game? Guy has some serious break on his slider.

  13. The Tigers are a bunch of fucking idiots. What the hell was that shit at 3rd base? Tag to your left not try to do a fucking spinning 270 degree tag.

  14. seems like Farrell doesn’t trust many of the guys in his pen. he keeps bringing out Tawaza and Uehara every game and Uehara is trying to close >1 inning again.

  15. I think we’re all gonna have to get ready to watch Farrell lifting that WS trophy

  16. Why not just convert Janssen back to a starter?

    I know I know .. he doesn’t have the “stuff”, maybe his shoulder will blow up again, yada yada yada ..

    He was a starter but didn’t have the command or repertoire he has now .. he has 3-4 pitches, can put it where he wants, and can get it into low 90′s ..

    Give him a chance to do it in the spring .. see what happens .. what’s worse case except for blown up arm? he pitches 50 innings now .. they can replace that if his arm dies ..

    JANSSEN for STARTER …. Stoets?

    • I doubt he has the endurance to go 7+ innings per game.

    • Why do that? I mean, I get that he could potentially add more value to the team, and at $5MM/year would be a cheap starting pitcher. But he’s a GOOD relief pitcher. Moving him to the starting rotation has the worst-case scenario of him having his career ended by another arm injury (and, at the same time having a weaker bullpen), while a bad case scenario is that he finds himself in a depth role in the rotation, like as the 7th starter. This would add to the Jays’ depth, true, but that’s not where they’re weak presently. They don’t need to improve their 7th starter spot, and especially not at the expense of the bullpen, which is made weaker by losing him.

      The only true good scenario in moving him is that he shows himself to be among the top three in the rotation, and that AA is able fill the hole he leaves behind in the bullpen. It strikes me as very unlikely that he will be more valuable or durable than Dickey, Morrow, or Buerhle (not to mention Johnson, who is likely to bounce back), and replacing him in the bullpen seems like quite a task.

      I’d say renew him, put him on the block, and see what you can get for him. If you can package him with any other trade bait to improve some area of the team that is already weak (2B, C, SP), then do it. Otherwise, keep him as a bullpen arm for another year, and hope he can keep the magic going.

  17. Here’s your more than likely AL Manager of the Year’s Bullpen strategy:

    Get starter to go as deep into game as possible (Note: If starter struggles in the 2nd inning of an important game, make sure to have no backup plan ready)
    When starter gets into trouble (later in the game) bring in Breslow to face both righties and lefties
    When Breslow gets into trouble, bring in Tazawa
    When Tazawa gets into trouble, bring in Uehara for as long as necessary.
    And remember to stare at your lineup card through out the game to make it seem like you know what you’re doing.

    Even with all their injuries, how did the Red Sox still manage to Farrell-proof their bullpen?

    • Valentine made Farrell look like the best manager that ever existed to the Boston players. That, plus the fact that he brought Butterfield with him.

  18. Janssen is great but if you can trade him (or as part of a package) somewhere to pick up an every day player (C or 2B) you have to do it. AA has already talked about his bull pen as a source of strength and a place where the organization has enough surplus to be able to subtract there to help in other areas. I’d be totally fine with Janssen back – but if there is a deal to be made which can save some prospects or dollars for a Free Agent / International signing – do it.

  19. Hmmm

    RT @Royals_Report: Not so fast on Kevin Seitzer to Toronto as hitting coach. Hear the White Sox are also showing interest.

  20. http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/10/tim-lincecum-to-test-open-market.html

    If you can get Johnson and Lincecum for roughly the same AAV combined as you would have spent for just Johnson last year, do you do it? Not sure what old Timmy’s looking for, but he’s not going to get anything super longterm. The Morrow-LIncecum-Johnson trio is pretty ugly in a worst case scenario, but pretty fucking awesome in a best case scenario.
    And if there’s no longterm commitment, why not?

  21. Also, now that it looks like the White Sox signed Abreu, would Konerko have any interest coming to Toronto? Overall he had an off year, but he still mashed lefties pretty well.
    It’s probably a White Sox or retire kinda thing, but I always kinda liked him.

  22. Obvious caveats about obtaining value aside, I’d trade Casey. I’d like to see the Jays sell high for a change, instead of losing players at the very bottom of their value (Aaron Hill anyone, or JJ if he goes this winter). Best case for Casey is he stays roughly the same for a few years, and while that is a pretty awesome pitcher, you have to deal something to get something and younger, cheaper options are on the roster. Add in the good chance of more arm troubles and/or natural decline, and I think cash in while he’s hot

  23. Yeah, it’s got to be in play, but if someone wants to give you more value for a middle reliever I think you go that route instead.

  24. Rumblings that the Reds could look to trade Brandon Phillips this winter. http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/10/18/the-reds-could-trade-brandon-phillips-this-year/

    There’s absolutely better ways the Jays could spend that money, but he’s reportedly been another one of those guys – like Reyes – that AA has always loved.

    • Yeah, he’s kind of intriguing. Been trending the wrong way offensively but is apparently quite strong with the glove. Not sure what it’d take to complete a trade.

      • I wonder if something around Buehrle for Phillips would work? Buehrle is owed about 2Y / $38M or so, Phillips 4Y / $50M.

        It’d be hard to give up Buehrle and make another hole in the rotation, but the Jays would save $7M in 2014 that can right away help them sign someone like Carlos Ruiz or take a flyer on a Josh Johnson.

    • I always worry about GMs and the layers they always loved. That’s how we got Brad Wilkerson isn’t it?

    • Well the Reds are about to lose their centre fielder so maybe they’d sell low on him, he’s not owed a ton of money (in baseball terms) either.

    • I like Philips a lot. The money he’s owed isn’t terrible, looks a lot worse when the Jays have several similarly heavy contracts on the books. However, his defense is still premium AND he’s offering a fairly decent, if declining, offensive package that few 2b’s would have. His contract and age play well into the Jay’s “window” as well

      Plus he can give JP tips on how to use social media :P

  25. Trade relievers and lind for victor martinez.

  26. It will be difficult to get a premium talent for Casey.
    Nathan, Balfour, Rodney, Veras and Benoit are all free agents this off season,
    as are bigger gambles in Hanrahan and Madson.

    If a team is looking for a closer, they should be able to find one
    at several different price points without having to give up a significant player.

    Casey’s best value for 2014 likely will be pitching the 9th for Toronto.

  27. Haven’t heard a thing about Izturis. Anyone heard any hints as to whether they’ll eat the remainder of his contract?

    • Well, hee was 60 day dl’d in late august,
      nothing since then as he will come off the 60 day before the 40 man deadline looming in 3 weeks or so

  28. NEWS—————
    in 2012 and 2013 has been fired


  29. Long weekend?

  30. Stoeten. Shave your beard, you look too much like a Red Sox player.

    Or else Saltalamachia is going to want to grope your face.

  31. @jaysfan22

    From Sportsnet:

    The Blue Jays sent players to the disabled list 27 times and lost 1,380 games to injury during the 2013 season, after suffering through 18 disabled list stints and 1,278 man-games lost in 2012.

    From 2002-11, the Blue Jays ranked 20th in the majors with 142 DL stints and 22nd in games lost with 6,403, according to Stats Inc.

  32. Well, I’m glad to see a shake up of the guys taking care of player health. However, the White Sox obviously know something other teams don’t, so the team should have been poaching them.

  33. Donnie Baseball & his dodgy team are stinking up the joint big time.

  34. Cardinals in WS again. Borrrrrrring.

  35. It seems amazing to me having watched Benoit that the Tigers didn’t offer something for Janssen. They’d definitely have another win against the Red Sox at this point.

  36. So… The scouting reports on Aaron Sanchez from the AFL are…. Not good. Its not just results in a SSS (lack of control), but multiple people seem to think his delivery has been altered for the worse – more upright and shorter stride.

    2013, Everybody.

  37. HEADS UP

    SO NO CONTENT until monday

  38. the Jays are horrible at drafting and developing players. until that improves we’ll never have a good team.

  39. Team drafted player results:

    For overall WAR produced you get…
    Red Sox: 273.5 – yikes, brains plus cash = wow
    Rays: 237.3 – remove the first round picks and you still get 155.8, cut top DNS and you get 91.1
    Yankees: 130.8
    Orioles: 103.1
    Jays: 92.7

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