The Padres just announced, via Twitter, that they have officially signed right-handed relief pitcher Casey Janssen to a minor league deal complete with a non-roster invitation to major league camp. Janssen is a nine-year big league veteran; he spent last year with the Nationals after eight years in Toronto.
Janssen hit his peak from 2011 through '13; in the former season he put together a 6-0 record with a 2.26 ERA as a setup man for closers Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch on manager John Farrell's team, earning himself the ninth inning role for the next three years. He saved 22 games with a 2.54 ERA in 2012, recording a career-high 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings over 62 frames. The following year his ERA stayed just about the same, at 2.56, but he put up 34 saves while squandering just two save opportunities, good for a 94.4% success rate. His strikeout rate did dip that year, to 8.5, and fell even more precipitously in 2014, down to a mere 5.5 in 45.2 innings over 50 appearances. He saved 25 out of 30 chances that year, and his ERA ballooned to 3.94.
He signed with the Nationals before last season, and was used as Washington's eighth-inning man setting up closer Drew Storen until the ill-advised trade for Jonathan Papelbon bumped Storen back to the eighth, and Janssen back to the seventh. A quick look at his game logs shows that Janssen was performing well up until the upheaval; like the rest of the club around him he sputtered to the finish line. His ERA was as low as 2.62 as late as August 4, but climbed to 4.95 by season's end. Hence his availability to be picked up on a minor league deal in late February.
Along with his diminished strikeout rate, Janssen's ground ball percentage has also shrunk over the past two seasons, leaving his variety of high-80s pitches lofted. He is yet another in a long line of reclamation projects for pitching coach Darren Balsley, a man renowned for spurring such turnarounds. If Janssen can return to some semblance of his past form, he could be a very valuable asset for this Padres team. As it stands now, he is just yet another of many, many ifs.