YGY Free Agent Profile: Casey Janssen


With the New York Yankees making a qualifying offer to David Robertson and up to six teams potentially being interested in Robertson’s services, the Yankees are likely in the process of trying to come up with alternate plans if the closer from this past season leaves. Now, it is natural that fans would want Dellin Betances to close after his electrifying 2014.

However, you have to think New York would look to bring in a reliever that has some closer experience that could also fill a role as either the eighth or seventh inning guy. There are relievers on the free agent market that fit that description. In fact, one of them is a player that the Yankees have seen about 18 times a season over the past eight years.

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Casey Janssen, the Blue Jays’ closer of the past two seasons, is a player on the market that New York should look at. Since 2012, Janssen has saved 81 games in 91 chances. Ten blown saves over the course of three years isn’t a statistic that should be taken lightly since it is known how tough the final three outs of a baseball game are to get. There will be no qualifying offer attached to him, so no compensation is needed from New York in terms of draft picks.

To get the perspective on Janssen from the Blue Jays’ perspective, I asked Kyle Franzoni, the editor of Jays’ Journal to give his thoughts on the Toronto closer as well as how he thinks he Janssen would do in pinstripes:

"“Janssen is an enigma of sorts. He doesn’t have the typical closer repertoire in that he doesn’t have a strong fastball. However, he makes up for that with a four-pitch arsenal (fastball, curve, slider, cutter) and he hits his spots well.That said, it’s hard to imagine where he would fit in the Yankees pen. Janssen is going to want to close, and someone will sign him to do so. If he went to NY (and Robertson accepts the qualifying offer as expected), he would be the third option in that pen. He’s also shown a bigger tendency in recent seasons, which hurts in Rogers Centre but will play much worse at Yankee Stadium.”"

The problem with Janssen’s pitch arsenal is it is not one that produces a ton of swings and misses. Since 2012, his K/9 innings has gone down from 9.5 in 2012 all the way to 5.5 in 2014. Janssen’s 2014 will be under the microscope this winter, particularly the second half of the season. In 11 games, the 33-year-old went 0-3 with a 6.46 ERA in 11 appearances with hitters batting .299 against him (.217 in the first half).

The reason for the lack of strikeouts is the lack of velocity on the fastball. According to FanGraphs, Janssen throws his heater about 45% of the time with an average velocity of 89 miles-per-hour, three miles-per-hour less than his high average of 92 in 2011. He does bring an arsenal of pitches like Kyle mentioned earlier, but again, not a lot of swings and misses compared to even an Adam Warren for that role (8.70 K/9).

While he has been a closer, Janssen has set-up man experience. In 2007, Janssen’s second year in the league, he had 24 holds. That number was tied for fourth most in the American League behind Hideki Okajima, Scott Downs, and Rafael Betancourt.

Janssen’s appearances have gone down each of the past three seasons, culminating in just 50 games played in 2014. He was on the disabled list to start last season due to injuries to his back and abdominal muscle. Some of his second half issues have also been related to food poisoning he may have got after an All-Star Break meal in the Dominican Republic.

Janssen does bring one element to the fold for any team and that is, the lack of walks. He has walked 20 batters over his last 106 games, dating back to 2013. MLB Trade Rumors’ Tim Dierkes predicted a couple of days ago that Janssen would sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that showed their need for bullpen help in the NLDS against the Cardinals.

Janssen should only be an option for the Yankees if David Robertson is not donning the pinstripes next season. If Robertson is not in New York, Janssen would be a player that the Yankees could probably get at a bargain price that brings a high amount of upside. He knows the division and could fill two roles as a closer or setup man. Despite the lack of velocity for a reliever of those roles, he does bring command and the ability to not allow many free passes. Keep Janssen in mind as potential Yankees’ bullpen piece should New York have to revamp that part of the team.