It turns out that Washington Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo wasn’t done in terms of big moves this offseason. After addressing the rotation with the signing of Max Scherzer, Rizzo has signed a veteran piece to help the bullpen. According to FOX Sports’ and MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal, the Nats have signed veteran reliever Casey Janssen to a one-year deal worth $5 million:
Janssen, the 33-year-old, right-handed reliever had spent his entire eight-year career with the Toronto Blue Jays. Last season, he went 3-3 with a 3.94 ERA in 50 games. He was mainly the closer in Toronto, saving 25 games in 30 chances in 2014.
If you put last year aside, Janssen is a reliever that could give the Nationals a good amount of appearances out of the bullpen. From 2010 to 2013, he pitched in 55 or more games for Toronto. Even though Janssen blew five saves last season, he only blew a combined seven saves from 2011-2013.
The question about this signing is whether or not Janssen is coming to the Nation’s Capital to be the closer or as a set-up man for Drew Storen? After being a starter in 2006, Janssen has set-up experience, including when he had 24 holds in 2007, his second year in Major League Baseball. Could he be the guy that will replace Tyler Clippard (now in Oakland) in that role?
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When you dive closer into the numbers, Janssen’s strikeouts per nine innings have drastically dropped in the last few seasons. After posting a 9.5 K’s per nine in 2012, that number dropped all the way to 5.5 in 2014. His FIP went up from 2.74 in 2013 to 4.14 in 2014.
Part of the reasons for his declining strikeout numbers would be the lack of velocity he is getting on his fastball. In 2011, Janssen’s average fastball velocity was 92.1 miles per hour, according to Fangraphs. In 2014, that number decreased to 89.3.
He is a five-pitch pitcher that uses his fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, and changeup. In fact, Janssen used his curveball 16.3% of the time last season, the most he has used his curve since 2009.
For the Nationals, it is a low-risk, high reward contract. If Drew Storen struggles as the closer, Matt Williams now has that eighth inning pitcher with closer experience that can slide right into the role. Plus, it is a lot more cheaper than when they signed Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million contract in January of 2013.
When you consider Janssen has only walked 20 batters in his last 106 appearances, he is a pitcher whose 2014 shouldn’t be taken with much stock due to injuries to his back and abdominal muscle in the first half of the season. Plus, in the second half, his 6.46 ERA could be in part because of a food poisoning issue he had while eating in the Domincan Republic during the All-Star Break.
All in all, Washington seems to be hoping that Janssen can shake off an average 2014 and be a veteran arm to help some of the younger pitchers in the Nationals’ bullpen.