There is no doubt that Kenley Jansen has been one of the best closers in his long Major League career.
SF Giants did not lose by missing out on Kenley Jansen
There were many times when it seemed like the right-handed closer made so much sense to play for the San Francisco Giants. Last year, they had a chance to grab the Hall of Fame-bound reliever, only to see him sign with the Braves.
Fast forward to a year later and the Giants were once again a possible landing destination for Jansen. However, it was reported that the Boston Red Sox had inked Jansen to a 2-year, $32 Million deal. Boston will be Jansen’s third stop of his career.
While there is no doubt that the Giants could definitely use help when it comes to pitching, whether it’s in the bullpen or starting rotation, Jansen just didn’t make any sense from the beginning when he was a free agent last year.
The most glaring reason to not get Jansen is his less-than-stellar record when it comes to his health. Jansen has always had heart issues that seem to derail his season on a yearly basis. In 2022, Jansen went on a 15-day Injured List due to a heart issue. If you recall, this was also an issue during his long stint with the Dodgers. Quite frankly, this is scary for Jansen but also for the team that signs him not knowing if he’s in his best health. Hopefully, this issue doesn’t pop up again but it’s the most obvious reason why it was good to steer clear of Jansen.
Another reason fans should be happier the team stayed away is his performance over the last two seasons. While Jansen has still been good, you can just see that his pitches are more hittable and he’s definitely past his prime at this point. Giants fans saw that Jansen struggled to get the last three outs in the ninth inning of games in 2021. In the summer stretch of games, Jansen blew saves for the Dodgers that ended up being the difference in the NL West in 2021.
His average exit velocity has been climbing for the last few years. For example, in 2020 Jansen had an average exit velocity of jumped from 82.7 in 2020 to 84 then up to 87.1 last season. His hard-hit ball percentage also jumped from 26.1% in 2021 to 32.5% in 2022. The amount of time he was barreled has also gone up. He got barreled just 3.5% in 2020 before it jumped up to 4.6% in 2021, and last year he was barrelled at a whopping 7.3% of the time. All of this shows that he’s not the same pitcher that he used to be. In fact, he is now a shell of his former self which was bound to happen at some point. It’s also safe to wonder if a hitter-friendly park like Fenway would do Jansen any favors.
Finally, there are other options the Giants can pivot that will make the back end of their bullpen better so they can be on the good side of one-run games in 2023. The names that stand out are Taylor Rogers and Andrew Chafin who could also come at a fraction of the cost of Jansen. Plus, there would be more left-handers in the bullpen, and we know you can never have enough lefties. David Robertson could also make some sense. He just had a really nice year with the Cubs and Phillies and was the closer for the NL Champions down the stretch.
Giants fans should be happy to have missed out on Jansen. There is no doubt the team has plenty of work to do as the offseason continues. Sometimes the big, flashy name isn’t a great sign as well. Back to the drawing board, we go.