Will the Red Sox Trade Kenley Jansen at the Deadline?

It remains to be seen if the Red Sox will sell at the deadline, but if they do, Kenley Jansen is a key trade chip. Where could he end up?

Kenley Jansen of the Boston Red Sox reacts during the ninth inning of a game against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park.
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 18: Kenley Jansen #74 of the Boston Red Sox reacts during the ninth inning of a game against the Minnesota Twins on April 18, 2023 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Just over a week into June, we are now closer to the July 30 trade deadline than we are to the beginning of the regular season, and teams are starting to show their true colors.

The Boston Red Sox are one such team, as they continue to struggle offensively (outside of a few stand-outs like Rafael Devers and Jarren Duran) and much of their pitching has come back down to earth after a torrid start. With each passing game, it is looking more and more like the Red Sox will be sellers at this year’s trade deadline, with the hope of adding a couple more pieces to their young, developing core.

Should the Red Sox sell at the deadline, one player contenders will certainly have interest in is Kenley Jansen.

Kenley Jansen Is a Valuable Trade Chip

Jansen, who signed a two-year contract with the Red Sox before the 2023 season, is one of (if not the most) accomplished relief pitchers in the game today. He leads all active relievers in fWAR and sits just one save behind Craig Kimbrel for most among active players.

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Further, Jansen would bring any buyers the added benefit of extensive postseason experience and success. The veteran closer has appeared in 59 career postseason games to the tune of a 2.20 playoff ERA, accumulating 94 strikeouts along the way.

If he is on the market and is traded to a contender, that team will not have to worry about the stage being too big or the lights being too bright for Jansen.

Despite being essentially a one-pitch pitcher, featuring his cutter more than 90% of the time, Jansen has continued to be effective in his age-36 season. His fastball run value (per Baseball Savant) is in the top quarter of the league, and his overall pitching run value is in the top 30%. He has continued to strike out hitters at an impressive clip, punching out over 30% of the batters he faces, which puts him in the top 12% of pitchers. 

Significantly for Jansen, he is boasting his lowest launch angle since 2017. This is critical because, in late-game situations, it is imperative to keep the ball on the ground and limit the extra-base hit. Especially in the postseason, when every at-bat is magnified and so often games are won and lost with a single swing of the bat, the fact that Jansen has not allowed a ball to leave the yard yet this year adds significantly to his value.

Does Jansen Want Out of Boston?

A trade would not only benefit potential suitors but Jansen as well. He expressed frustration this past offseason about the lack of activity from Boston’s front office and implied that part of the reason he had signed with the Red Sox was the promise that the team would look to compete in 2024.

Jansen is used to postseason baseball; he and former Dodger/Red Sox teammate Justin Turner were tied for the longest active streak with nine consecutive playoff appearances until both lost their streaks last year in Boston. It is clear that Jansen wants to play meaningful games down the stretch and into October, and his best chance to do so is if he is traded.

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 06: Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts at the end of the top of the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during the National League Wild Card Game at Dodger Stadium on October 06, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The Red Sox, too, can afford to part with their closer, as offseason acquisition Liam Hendriks, a dominant back-end arm in his own right, is making strides in his recovery from the Tommy John surgery he underwent last summer. His eventual return, and the fact that the team likely will not be pushing for a deep October run, make Jansen expendable in Boston.

Potential Suitors for Kenley Jansen

Thinking about potential suitors for Jansen, the Orioles and Braves both come to mind. Each team entered the season with realistic World Series aspirations, yet both have struggled with the back ends of their bullpens. The O’s have blown 12 saves, while the Braves have blown 11.

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles’ back-end bullpen arms helped them make a significant leap and win the AL East last season. In particular, Félix Bautista and Yennier Cano anchored the back of the ‘pen.

However, Bautista is out this year with injury, and Cano has struggled with the long ball, allowing 1.3 HR/9. The team has enough talent both in the rotation and in the lineup to win a World Series, and the addition of Jansen might be the move that stabilizes the back end of the ‘pen and pushes them over the edge.

The O’s have more than enough organizational depth to make a move like this, as they boast a consensus top-three farm system in baseball, and their entire roster is already filled with young talent. With the Red Sox farm desperate for pitching, a prospect like Trace Bright, Luis De Leon, or Jackson Baumeister would likely get the deal done, especially if the Red Sox are willing to take on some of Jansen’s remaining salary.

Atlanta Braves

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – OCTOBER 12: Kenley Jansen #74 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after a strikeout to end the game against the Philadelphia Phillies in game two of the National League Division Series at Truist Park on October 12, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Braves have dealt with a slew of injuries, losing arguably their best pitcher, Spencer Strider, and their best position player, reigning MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. Despite this, the team still finds itself well-positioned to make the postseason.

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A reunion with Jansen might be exactly what the Braves need for their playoff push. If you turned most of Atlanta’s blown saves into wins, they would be back on top of the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East.

While Atlanta’s farm system is not nearly as deep as Baltimore’s, it is absolutely laden with pitching talent, as all of the Braves’ top five prospects, and seven of their top 10, are pitchers (per MLB Pipeline). The Braves have shown a willingness to make trades, and someone like Drue Hackenberg or Cade Kuehler would, in all likelihood, send Jansen back to Atlanta.

While there are close to two months left to play before the trade deadline, the Red Sox’s season seems to hang in the balance with each and every series, as the team floats around .500. The longer they stay in that range, the more likely it is that Kenley Jansen gets moves. If they are able to flip him for a young arm to join the “core four” position player prospects (Kyle Teel, Roman Anthony, Nick Yorke, and Marcelo Mayer) it would be a win for all parties involved.

Stats, records, and rankings updated prior to games on June 7.