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Yankees Potential 2015 Free Agent Target: Casey Janssen

Could the Yankees snatch a division rival's closer away from them this winter to boost their bullpen?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Statistics: 50 G, 45 2/3 IP, 25 saves, 3.94 IP, 4.14 FIP, 1.182 WHIP, 5.5 K/9, 1.4 BB/9

2015 Age: 33 (born 9/17/1981)

Position: Right-handed reliever

Although the Yankees' bullpen found success in 2014, its efforts were mostly powered by the dominant Dellin Betances and closer David Robertson. There were instances where Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley, and others held their own for awhile, but with Robertson potentially departing for a big-money contract to save games somewhere other than the Bronx, the Yankees could use a known commodity in their bullpen. They've shown interest in Jason Grilli, and another under-the-radar reliever they could target is former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen.

Janssen should be a familiar name, and not just because his last name is almost as the same as more well-known Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. The righthander has been pitching against the Yankees north of the border since 2006, when he was a 24-year-old rookie starter trying to find his way. Like many relievers, the Blue Jays felt that focusing on just a couple pitches would turn him into a more useful weapon out of the bullpen than his potential in the rotation offered. He was then brilliant out of the 'pen in 2007, but surgery on his right shoulder labrum knocked him out for almost a year and a half.

After a couple up-and-down seasons, Janssen finally found recaptured his '07 form in 2011, when he pitched to a 2.26 ERA and 2.45 FIP in 55 games as Toronto's setup man. When newly-acquired closer Sergio Santos proved to be ineffective and injured rather quickly in 2012, Janssen ascended into the closer's position, which he has held since then. He was about as reliable as any closer in baseball from 2012-13, saving 56 games in 61 opportunities, a remarkable 92% success rate, and these two years weren't flukes. He notched a 2.55 ERA, 2.93 FIP, and a 0.920 WHIP in 118 games, but this past season was a bit of a step back from those numbers.

Janssen began the 2014 campaign on the DL until mid-May with a lower back strain, and he suffered a "violent case" of food poisoning after the All-Star break that made him lose eight pounds. The 1.23 ERA he carried into the second half evaporated, and an ugly finish season made his numbers worse. However, Janssen was a very effective pitcher for three and a half seasons prior to his poor finish to 2014. He usually strikes out much more than the 5.5 K/9 he recorded in 2014--for the past four seasons, his strikeout rate hovered around 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Janssen's control has always been superb, and he's at his best when opposing hitters are making weak contact against his off-speed pitches:


Janssen cutter


Janssen curve

While Janssen's most common pitch is his fastball, it only averages about 89 miles per hour. Occasionally, he will reach back into his old starter repertoire and mix in a slider or changeup, but he often features the cutter or the curve. Often, that's enough to get the job done, and for the majority of the past few years, that's exactly what Janssen has done.

The Toronto closer is certainly an intriguing buy-low candidate for the Yankees' bullpen, even if they brought back Robertson. Janssen's off-year decreased his potential cost and ensured that there would be no draft pick attached to him. Should the Yankees bring him into the fold, then he offers the potential to either lock down the closer's role, or to provide likely more trustworthy setup innings than Warren or Kelley. It seems like he'll probably be able to get a deal somewhere else where he could definitely close though, so I wouldn't count on Janssen being available for the Yankees. If not though, Janssen is worth some interest.