What has been seemingly forever now, the Toronto Blue Jays have been looking for that surefire closer.
From the B.J. Ryan debacle to the three-headed failure that was Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel, let’s just say that the ninth inning hasn’t been the smoothest of rides — that is, until Casey Janssen came along and emerged as the guy that Alex Anthopoulos had been looking for all this time.
Now that he’s been found, however, the best decision for the Blue Jays may be to trade him.
It’s going to sound a little silly, I know, but ideal trades scenarios are often about selling high, and the fact is that Janssen’s value on the trade market will never be higher. After all, he’s practically the ideal candidate for a team looking for a late-inning reliever: he has the track record (three straight seasons with sub-2.60 ERA), the cheap price tag without further financial commitment ($4 million team option 2014), and he’s a Proven Closer (56 saves from 2012-2013 with a handful of games to go).
So why would the Jays move him, given that they would then become one of those teams looking for a closer?
The thing is, while a solid bullpen anchored by a reliable ninth-inning man is necessary to the success of any given team looking to contend, relievers themselves are simply not that valuable individually in the big picture. This is especially true for the Blue Jays, who sent two relievers to the 2013 All-Star game in Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar, not to mention the fact that Sergio Santos has been lights out since his return (1.57/0.57 ERA/WHIP, .117 BAA over 23 IP).
… which is to say that as far as an heir apparent goes, Toronto has plenty of options.
Sure, they’re all question marks health-wise, but to be fair, it’s not as though Janssen has a totally clean bill of health either. He hasn’t missed significant time this season, but it’s well known that his shoulder wasn’t 100 percent all year, and his declining fastball velocity (92.1 mph in 2011, 91.7 in 2012, 90.2 this season) isn’t exactly a vote of confidence as he heads into his age-32 season in 2014.
Okay, so let’s say they do decide to sell high — what would the Blue Jays be able to get back in a trade?
Being that a number of teams have probably learned their lesson about overvaluing closers (or at least learned it from the Boston Red Sox with Andrew Bailey, Joel Hanrahan, etc.), the best-case scenario could be for the Blue Jays to deal Janssen to a team with a second baseman who is on the outs.
One such dance partner might be the the Washington Nationals, whose former second baseman of the future Danny Espinosa hit rock bottom so hard this season that he wasn’t even considered to be a September call-up. With former closer Drew Storen also having a down year, could the Blue Jays entice the Nats to sell low on the 26-year-old infielder who posted 6.6 fWAR between 2011-2012?
It’s a stretch, and the Blue Jays may have to give up a bit more than just their closer. That said, there are definitely bigger holes on the team than the one that would be left in the bullpen with Janssen’s departure, and since one of their young outfielder aren’t necessarily to yield the desired return to fill those needs, Janssen may be the piece needed to get it done.