The Nationals officially announced the signing of 33-year-old Casey Janssen Monday, confirming previous reports of a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2016. A person familiar with the situation reports Janssen’s 2015 salary will be $3.5 million with a buyout of $1.5 million should the sides not choose to exercise their mutual 2016 option. That option would pay Janssen $7 million next season, though such options are rarely picked up by player and team. The Nationals designated right-hander Eric Fornataro for assignment to make room for Janssen on the 40-man roster.
Janssen is the right-handed replacement for prolific set-up man Tyler Clippard, gone to Oakland in the trade that brought Yunel Escobar to play second base. He’s a proven late-inning commodity if a non-traditional one: Unlike most closer types, Janssen is less about power than he is about mixing, more about a changeup and breaking balls than about a blow-away fastball. His fastball averages around 90 miles per hour, and he mixes in pitches like a starter might, relying on a sneaky cutter and change of speeds to do the job in high-leverage situations many pitchers navigate with one go-to out pitch.
Janssen saved at least 20 games in each of the past three seasons with Toronto, but struggled with injuries and a particularly destructive bout of food poisoning contracted over the all-star break that cost him eight pounds in a few days’ time and strong performance through the second half of his season: Janssen had a 1.23 ERA and .864 WHIP in 23 games before the break and a 6.46 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 27 games after it.
After dealing Clippard, letting former closer Rafael Soriano walk, and trading Ross Detwiler to Texas, Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said he believed he had the young arms in the system to account for those innings and create a new-look but effective bullpen. But the idea of going into a season as World Series favorites with inexperience at the back end of the bullpen seemed treacherous, and Rizzo opted for veteran help in one of the more expensive options on the late-inning relief market. Janssen’s signing pushes Washington’s opening day payroll to near $160 million, and seems a further indication that the organization is pushing to win this October.
The Nationals designated right-hander Eric Fornataro for assignment to make room for Janssen on the 40-man roster. Washington claimed Fornataro off waivers from the Cardinals in November.