The Boston Red Sox are reportedly entertaining offers for closer Kenley Jansen, meaning the 36-year-old right-hander’s short time with the franchise could be nearing an end this winter.
According to Alex Speier of The Boston Globe, Jansen and outfielder/DH Masataka Yoshida could potentially be used as trade chips by the Red Sox to land additional starting pitching and a power bat from the right side of the plate – or at least to free up payroll to spend in free agency.
If that’s the case, it would mark the conclusion of a very short stay in Boston for Jansen, who was signed last offseason to a two-year, $34 million deal. Scheduled to make $16 million next season, Jansen posted 29 saves last year while logging a 3.63 ERA/3.66 FIP/1.276 WHIP and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
After spending his first 12 seasons on an MLB mound with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jansen could now be looking at his third team in the last three years after recording a National League-leading 41 saves for the Atlanta Braves in 2022.
So which teams could be interested in making a deal with the Red Sox for Jansen? Here are three possibilities.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Knowing that the Dodgers have already been on a spending frenzy this offseason, adding $16 million to the 2024 payroll with Jansen isn’t that far-fetched (especially with all the deferred money on Shohei Ohtani’s and Teoscar Hernández’s contracts).
Evan Phillips led Los Angeles last season with 24 saves and performed well in L.A.’s short postseason run (2.1 scoreless innings against Arizona over two games). Brusdar Graterol also returns after a solid 2023 campaign (1.20 ERA/3.03 FIP/0.965 WHIP in 67.1 innings over 68 games), so one could argue that the Dodgers are just fine when it comes to the back end of the bullpen.
However, bringing Jansen back for one more World Series run would offer more than just feel-good vibes at Chavez Ravine. It could also strengthen the Dodgers bullpen by adding another reliable arm to the back-end mix.
While there are plenty of places the Cubs can improve this offseason after a near-miss of the postseason in 2023, adding on to the bullpen with a veteran like Jansen is an intriguing possibility.
At his end-of-season press conference, Chicago president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer specifically talked about his bullpen and some of the injuries to key pieces such as Adbert Alzolay, Brad Boxberger, Michael Fulmer and Mark Leiter Jr. at key moments of a campaign that ended with the Cubs one game out of a Wild Card spot.
“That really affected us,” Hoyer said. “Losing three of your four guys you’re counting on towards the end, I think that’s gonna affect anybody.
“But certainly the lesson is learned from the year. When our bullpen was in good shape, we were very effective. We had times during the year that we were unable to hold leads, both in May and at the end of the season. And that’s something we have to address.”
If the Cubs are going to address this problem, making a short-term deal for someone like Jansen while younger relievers develop could certainly make sense.
Like Hoyer in Chicago, Philadelphia’s Dave Dombrowski has tipped his hand on the bullpen and the need to upgrade, saying at the MLB Winter Meetings, “I would anticipate that we’re going to sign a bullpen guy.”
With Craig Kimbrel now in Baltimore, the Phillies will have to figure out who steps into his shoes and takes over the 71 appearances (and 69 innings) Kimbrel logged last season. There are options, including Jeff Hoffman and/or José Alvarado stepping into the spotlight, but neither is a sure bet. Alvarado pitched in just 41 games last season because of injury, and Hoffman’s 2.41 ERA/2.57 FIP were by far career-bests, so it’s no guarantee he can replicate that success in 2024.
Adding in another veteran option like Jansen could take some pressure off the back end of the bullpen.
For what it’s worth, Jansen has racked up 12 saves and posted a 2.50 ERA in 19 career games (18.0 innings) inside Citizens Bank Park. If Philadelphia is looking to add to its bullpen with a veteran and reliable arm who has been through plenty of high-pressure moments, Jansen fits the bill.