Hayhurst: Blue Jays should trade Janssen now

July 9, 2013, 10:21 AM

The Toronto Blue Jays should trade Casey Janssen immediately.

Why? Because closers are overrated. Their impact is limited, they pitch only in specific situations, they come out of the ‘pen at their accorded time even if there is a better statistical match up available, and they are defined by one very misleading stat: the Save.

Let’s talk about the Save for a second.

Since 1969, when the Save stat was officially added, the winning percentage of teams taking leads after the eighth inning hasn’t seen any perceptible change. There was no closer role before then, and no Save for late inning arms to collect.

And, after it was decreed there should be a stat and a man to collect it, there was no change to the results … other than whoever got that stat went on to make millions for getting it.

In fact, since 1944, when a team has a one-run lead after the eighth, it goes on to win the game 85 per cent of the time. Two runs equals 94 per cent. Three runs makes for 96 per cent. From 1944 to today, it hasn’t changed, closer or no closer. Save or no save.

The numbers seem to imply that Saves are a bubble market. You could easily forsake the role of closer in favour of deftly handling a stable of quality relievers. In fact, if you stripped away all the late inning, closer entrance pageantry out of it, we all might once again see the mathematical truth at play.

But there are a lot of folks out there (and you may be one of these people) who think the closer is the capstone to a good ‘pen. To you, trading Janssen is heresy and I’m the voice of unrepentant evil.

But facts are stubborn things. Janssen’s value has never been higher and he’s never been more easily replaced in the Jays bullpen than he is right now.

There are several plausible teams hungry to find back-end bullpen help at the moment and they could all pay the Jays valuable prospects to get Janssen—the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Arizona Diamondbacks, to name a few.

While the save stat doesn’t mean much to me, it sure as heck means something to those looking for confidence in late/close innings. And, with the July 31 trade deadline on the horizon, when the perceived value bubble is at its height, the Jays stand to cash in on a man with a bubble stat of his own.

Oh, and did I mention Janssen is in the last guaranteed year of his contract? The team holds a $4 million option for Janssen’s services in 2014, and he is eligible for free agency after the ’14 season.

That’s right, the Jays are going to have to pay Janssen for his saves total eventually. He’s earned it, for certain, but it’s money the Jays don’t have to spend. Instead, why not let another team pay the Jays for Janssen’s saves total?

Bear in mind the Jays have two solid replacement candidates ready to step in: Steve Delabar and Brett Cecil. They’ve both pitched more often than Janssen and to better results.

Cecil owns a 1.81 ERA and 52 strikeouts over 44.2 innings. Delabar has punched out 57 in 40 innings and owns a 1.58 ERA.

They can more than handle the role, and, even better, the Blue Jays have control over them for the next few years. (Did I mention Sergio Santos is coming back soon, too?).

But just because there is a market for Janssen isn’t enough. The Jays have a need: their second base production is black hole and Janssen has worked himself into a premier reliever who commands a premier trade value. Move Janssen and the Jays may save themselves from losing less sexy — but more pertinent —  stat totals over multiple players and prospects in other locations.

This is no disrespect to Janssen and what he’s done for the Jays. He’s been phenomenal in his limited closer role samples. But if you’re the Jays, and you know there is a market overvaluing a limited impact arm, you’d be foolish not to milk it for all it’s worth, especially when you have capable replacements.

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