A Danny Jansen Extension Should Top Blue Jays’ Priority List

Danny Jansen has turned himself into one of the game's top offensive catchers. An extension for him needs to top the Blue Jays priority list.

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 12: Danny Jansen #9 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a sacrifice fly to drive in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 in the seventh inning of their MLB game against the Minnesota Twins at Rogers Centre on May 12, 2024 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

The Toronto Blue Jays have been struggling to live up to expectations this season, as the club boasts a 27-29 record and sits firmly in fifth place within the AL East. A lack of offensive production and a struggling bullpen corps have been the main sources of frustration, with the fans thinking that drastic measures may be forthcoming should this club not be able to figure things out sooner rather than later.

Across the Major Leagues, teams are securing talented prospects and younger stars for long-term deals – Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres), Julio Rodriguez (Mariners), and Ronald Acuna Jr. (Braves) being some examples in recent memory. The Blue Jays have not jumped on that trend as of yet, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette being free agent eligible after next season as well as Yusei Kikuchi, Yimi Garcia, Jordan Romano, Justin Turner, Kevin Kiermaier, Cavan Biggio, and Chris Bassitt being slated for free agency over the next two seasons.

Joining that group this winter is backstop Danny Jansen, a fan favourite since becoming a regular roster member following his 2018 debut.

The bespectacled Illinois product was one of the first prospects to make the jump to the big leagues before the likes of Guerrero Jr. and Bichette donned a Toronto jersey. The 16th-round draft pick in 2013 grinded his way to the show due to his plus defence behind the plate, his ability to call a game, and because of his ability to put the ball in play with some extra-base power at times.

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Danny Jansen’s Gradual Improvements

Over the years, Jansen has been bitten by the injury bug that has hindered him at times, with the catcher missing time due to various injuries to his oblique, hamstring, groin, and hands, as the right-handed batter was on the unfortunate side of a few inside pitches that clipped him in the wrong spot on few different occasions. Splitting time behind the dish with battery mate Alejandro Kirk, the 29-year-old has appeared in 439 games over seven years, putting forth a .229/.313/.442 slash line to the tune of a .755 OPS. He owns a 106 OPS+ while bringing in 70 home runs and 209 RBI, which has led the backstop to post a 9.5 bWAR over his big league career. Behind the plate, Jansen has amassed a +8 DRS and boasts a .992 fielding percentage while throwing out 22% of base stealers.

From 2018, Jansen ranks tenth in the league for backstops in terms of fWAR with his 7.9 mark and has considerably fewer plate appearances than those ahead of him on the list (due to his injuries). His 120 wRC+ sits fifth among the group while his .475 SLG has him sitting third, behind only Salvador Perez and Will Smith.

This season, in his contract walk year, Jansen is putting on a clinic of what he is capable of at the plate. The West High School grad owns a .287/.371/.535 slash line through 101 at-bats and has been on the Blue Jays most productive hitters, authoring a .905 OPS with five home runs after returning from the injured list (a broken bone in his wrist from being hit by a pitch in spring training).

He has become manager John Schneider’s go-to player behind the plate and the righty bat has found himself higher in the lineup because of his ability to drive the ball and find ways to get on base, compiling 14 walks compared to 18 strikeouts so far this season. On the field, Jansen currently ranks in the 98th percentile in blocks above average as well, with the ability to get behind the ball and give the pitcher confidence that it won’t go to the backstop when he is behind home plate.

A Contract Extension Is Well Deserved

Considering the Jays have not signed any players to long-term extensions other than Jose Berrios, while the likes of Guerrero and Bichette may steal the spotlight on the contract talks, Jansen is one name to consider keeping around for the foreseeable future.

The Jays’ backstop will be one of the top catchers on the free agent market this season and if he continues to produce at the current pace he is at while staying healthy the rest of the way, he is due for a considerable raise from the $5.2 million is he earning this season in arbitration. It is reasonable to think that he could slot into the $10-15 million AAV given his experience and power bat this offseason, especially since he will likely be the top catcher this winter should the Jays not extend one of their longest-tenured players. The Jays and Jansen talked about a contract extension this past winter but both sides decided to let the season play out.

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Looking ahead, extending Jansen is a move that would bode well for a Jays organization that has prioritized defence as of late while trying to find some power amongst a struggling lineup. A homegrown product, “Jano” ticks quite a few boxes for the Blue Jays behind the plate and considering the depth at the position is not at its peak, at least in the higher levels, letting Jansen walk this winter seems like a risky maneuver unless the Jays decide to move him at the trade deadline, which likely screams a full teardown is on the horizon (and more are on the way).