Should the Phillies Trade for 36-Year-Old Closer Kenley Jansen?

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Phillies, Dombrowski
Philadelphia Phillies baseball team President of Baseball Operations David Dombrowski takes questions from the media after signing Aaron Nola to a new seven-year contract, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

With pitchers and catchers reporting to Clearwater in a matter of hours, the Philadelphia Phillies still have yet to address one significant hole in their bullpen: the closer. A much-talked-about point this offseason, the Phillies have not filled the gap left by letting Craig Kimbrel go in free agency.

Should the Phillies be interested in Kenley Jansen?

Having seen most of the potential closer options on the free agent market sign with other competitors, the Phillies have seen the occasional connection to a few potential suitors via the trade market such as the Cleveland Guardians’ Emmanuel Clase. Today, let’s talk about another potential reliever, this time shipped down from Fenway: Kenley Jansen.

Four-Time All Star Kenley Jansen

Kenley Jansen has been a mainstay in the closer’s role for nearly the entirety of his 14-year career in the Big Leagues. The first twelve of those years came with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he notched 350 saves while yielding a strong 2.37 ERA.

In 2022, Jansen moved out to the East Coast where he joined the Atlanta Braves for a one-year, $16 million contract. In what was his age-34 season, Jansen led the National League with 41 saves for the Braves, finishing 54 games for them on the year.

Before the 2023 season, Jansen joined the Red Sox on a two-year, $32 million deal. As the team’s closer in 2023, Jansen pitched well, recording 29 saves over 44.2 IP.

Age is a Factor for Jansen

Jansen’s pedigree is one of success in the closer’s role, but Father Time eventually catches up with us all. In Jansen’s case, he is far from the relief pitcher he was in 2017 when he placed fifth in the National League Cy Young Award race with a 1.32 ERA, 41 saves, and an incredible 15.57 SO/W ratio.

Perhaps one of the best numbers to illustrate this trend is ERA+. Simply put, ERA+ is like OPS+ where a player is put on a 100-point scale in the category. 100 means that you pitched league average in ERA. The higher above 100? The more above average you are in the category. So, despite ERA typically being the lower the better, consider higher ERA+ to be good here.


Don’t get me wrong, Jansen is still an incredible reliever and one that the Phillies should be confident in if they bring him in. But the Phillies’ trend of bringing in late-career closers has been spotty at best in recent memory and caution should be advised.

The Catch: Price Tag

For the Red Sox, moving Jansen is relatively simple. They are a rebuilding team with no need for a $16 million payroll spike for a closer. There is no monetary sense in keeping Jansen for them.

But they aren’t just going to give him away for free either. Despite the heavy price tags for an aging closer, Jansen is still a top closer and the Red Sox have made it clear that they do not want to move him unless they get a good pitcher back. For the Phillies, they would likely want Mick Abel or Griff McGarry.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 19: Philadelphia Phillies batting helmets sit on the wall during the MLB game between the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies on September 19, 2018, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Acquiring a one-year rental of a 36-year-old reliever for a top pitching prospect just does not seem worth it, but the Red Sox are not likely to budge easily on this term. Some have said the Phillies should trade Taijuan Walker to the Red Sox for Jansen, but there would be no tactical sense for the Red Sox to trade an expensive closer for an equally expensive starter.

In fact, Ken Rosenthal recently stated that he does not expect the Red Sox to move Jansen before the start of the season. Closers are always a hot ticket item at the MLB Trade Deadline in July, so the Red Sox would likely be able to get their price there if they wait out the game and pay Jansen in the meantime.

Regardless, the Phillies still have an issue to work out in their bullpen before the start of the MLB season, and the clock continues to tick on.

AP Photo/Chris Szagola