Braves closer Kenley Jansen agrees to deal with Boston Red Sox

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

SAN DIEGO — As the flurry of moves continued at the winter meetings, one finally involved the Braves.

Well, sort of.

Kenley Jansen, the Braves’ closer in 2022, agreed to a two-year, $32 million contract with the Boston Red Sox, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed. Other than Dansby Swanson, Jansen was the highest-profile Braves free agent this winter.

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“He was incredible for us – especially in big moments,” Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos said. “Every reliever has bumps in the road over the course of six months, but he had a really, really good season.”

Anthopoulos didn’t speak in specifics about Jansen’s free-agent situation because the Red Sox haven’t announced the deal. But he talked generally about the 35-year-old righty, whom Anthopoulos signed to a one-year, $16 million deal in the spring.

Now Jansen is gone, and Raisel Iglesias, barring an unforeseen splash, will be the Braves closer going forward.

Jansen led the National League with 41 saves, which put him one behind the MLB lead. He posted a 3.38 ERA over 64 innings, striking out 85 batters.

Jansen provided the Braves with stability in the closer role, which teams covet. He briefly went on the injured list because of a heart issue – which he had experienced before – but pitched when needed otherwise. There were some stressful outings, but that might be expected with relievers.

The Braves thought the one-year deal worked out.

“He was, from our standpoint, a tremendous acquisition in our minds,” Anthopoulos said, “and a critical part of the 2022 team.”

But bringing him back?

Well, that remained to be seen.

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At this summer’s trade deadline – minutes before it, to be exact – the Braves traded for Iglesias, a proven closer. Iglesias surrendered only one run over 26 ⅓ innings (you read that correctly) after the Braves acquired him. Iglesias will make $16 million per year over the next three seasons, so he could be the Braves’ closer now and in the future.

One potential concern with Jansen: He works slowly, which might require an adjustment with the implementation of the pitch clock in 2023.

Starting next season, a pitcher must begin his motion before the expiration of the timer. Pitchers will have 15 seconds between pitches when the bases are empty, and 20 when at least one runner is on base.

The website Baseball Savant measures a pitcher’s tempo, which measures the time between pitch releases. This isn’t exactly the same as how pitchers will be timed with the pitch clock, but Jansen was the third-slowest pitcher in baseball in tempo in 2022.

Along with Iglesias, A.J. Minter is one of the Braves’ late-inning relievers. They also have Collin McHugh. They believe that, at his best, Dennis Santana has the stuff to be a late-inning option. The Braves have explored adding to their bullpen, just as they’ve looked at improving in other areas.

But Jansen is receiving a multiyear deal with the same average annual value ($16 million) as Iglesias will make per year throughout the rest of his contract. It might not have made sense for the Braves to re-sign Jansen at a price around that because they still must figure out their shortstop situation while potentially adding elsewhere.

As it stands, the Braves’ payroll commitments are an estimated $196 million, according to FanGraphs. Their luxury tax number, the outlet estimates, is about $5 million short of the first luxury-tax threshold of $233 million for the 2023 season.

“We’re aware of everything, but that’s not something that has prevented us from exploring things and having discussions about things,” Anthopoulos said of the luxury tax threshold. “So, in the right context, in the right deal, we will go past it. But, again, it needs to be what we feel is the right context and the right deal.”

The Braves have Iglesias. They value bullpen depth and as many late-inning options as possible, but the deal Jansen received from Boston might not have made much sense for the Braves.