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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Kenley Jansen

Do the Yankees need a new closer?

Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Pitching help is always useful, and for a bullpen that suffered some injuries last season, there can’t be enough. The Yankees addressed that by adding Tommy Kahnle (welcome back!), and next, they could look at the back end of the bullpen if confidence within the organization is shaken in Clay Holmes.

Kenley Jansen has a proven track record. He’s a three-time All-Star and a World Series champion. One of the primary downsides that fans have every right to bring up is his age, coming in at a ripe 35 years old.

Last season, Clay Holmes was one of the best relievers in MLB, if not the best reliever, for a decent amount of time. His devastating sinker ruined hitters' lives. However, after suffering a back injury and eventually recovering last season, he slumped big time. If the Yankees feel as if they won’t be able to recreate the magic he had last season, or if they believe one of the two can be an effective late reliever and the other can work at closer, they could look at bringing in another short-term relief arm.

Jansen did have a solid 2022 campaign pitching for the Atlanta Braves. He posted a 3.38 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 3.46 xFIP, and 1.1 fWAR in 65 games and 64 innings pitched. He also led the National League in saves with 41. Obviously, those numbers aren’t entirely elite. But they’re still solid, and he could fit nicely in a deep bullpen like the Yankees’ that wouldn’t put too much pressure on him and could generally let him play to his strengths.

Jansen’s Statcast numbers, courtesy of Baseball Savant, are very strong.

Kenley Jansen’s 2022 MLB Percentile Rankings
Baseball Savant

The fastball velocity in the 36th percentile could be slightly concerning to some, but the spin in the 95th percentile hints at how he can still deceive hitters. For the most part, he’s very good in all of these numbers, and his profile fits the kind of relief pitcher the Yankees love. His strikeout rate comes in the 93rd percentile, striking out batters at a rate of 32.7 percent, an excellent number that belies his diminished velocity.

Jansen’s arsenal comes in the form of three pitches. The cutter is far and away his most used pitch at 64.4 percent. But he also has a sinker (22.5%) and slider (13.1%) duo that the Yankees could try and tap into if they find something that suggests he could use them to generate more swings and misses and weak contact. That said, his usage of the two dropped when he went to the Braves in free agency, leaving the Los Angeles Dodgers in the rearview mirror. And it does appear to have helped his peripherals.

The concern with Jansen is age, for obvious reasons. Nearing 36, Jansen will always be a candidate to see a sudden dropoff in performance. But his decline thus far has been gentle, leaving the veteran still comfortably above average. If there’s a cliff coming, Jansen certainly hasn’t shown it.

Jansen does have the pedigree as a closer, so he may want to be paid like one. The Yankees’ potential interest in him may come down to whether he’d be willing to work on a one- or two-year deal at somewhat lesser AAV than the $16 million he got from the Braves last year. Given the Yankees’ ability to churn out great bullpens from within, a union with Jansen isn’t too likely, but he’s got enough left in the tank to warrant a look.


Literally seconds before this post went live, it was immediately rendered invalid. Go figure! Jansen’s signing with Boston, so we’ll be seeing plenty of him in 2023 regardless, I suppose.