Kenley Jansen

Getty Kenley Jansen pitches against the Oakland Athletics on April 3.

Despite a surprising start to the 2024 season, the Boston Red Sox can’t escape their position at the center of MLB trade talk. They’ve won five of seven to start the season after a disappointing 2023.

In an April 2 column for Bleacher Report, Zachary D. Rymer speculated on right-handed pitcher Kenley Jansen’s future with the club.

He ranked the 36-year-old as the ninth-best trade chip in the MLB.

“Jansen has never had a truly bad year in 14 seasons as a major leaguer. There have been ups and downs, to be sure, but at no point has he posted a below-average ERA+,” Rymer wrote.

Jensen, a four-time All-Star, has had a shaky start to 2024, but still managed two saves in two outings. For a Red Sox team that’s projected to win 78 games, a pitcher who can still close games may be better off elsewhere.

This raises the question of where Boston could send Jensen in a potential deal. Some preseason Red Sox rumors should shed some light, as well as further speculation from Rymer.

Trade Talk Isn’t New for Jansen

It’s only Jansen’s second season with Boston, but trade talk has been the most consistent nature of his tenure with the club.

Dating back to last season’s trade deadline, up to Spring Training this year, he’s been consistently mentioned as a name to watch.

Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported on February 8 that two West Coast teams were keeping tabs on Jansen.

“The Padres and Dodgers are among candidates for Jansen,” Heyman wrote.

MLB Network’s Jon Morosi added the Philadelphia Phillies into the reported mix on February 8.

Rymer, too, mentioned the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, in addition to the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers, as teams that would be “potential fits” in his April 2 column.

Would the Red Sox trade a quality pitcher to a division rival? Baltimore has lapped Boston as an club in the AL East, on the rise as one of the best teams in the MLB.

They can always use pitching help and are home tothe best farm system in the league. But no one ever feels good about doing business with a team that benefits two-fold.

Because not only would the Orioles benefit from adding another quality arm, but they’d also deploy Jansen against the Red Sox multiple times a year, potentially in the postseason.

Then there’s the question of Jansen’s true market. Why is he still in Boston?

Why Haven’t the Red Sox Traded Jansen?

With all of the speculation surrounding Jansen’s future, it’s hard to think a tempting offer hasn’t come across team president Sam Kennedy’s desk at some point.

There likely were multiple, but the Red Sox have one stipulation to a potential deal that’s probably turned teams away. On an episode of his podcast, “The Fenway Rundown,” MassLive columnist Sean McAdam revealed it.

“The Red Sox have let other teams know that while they’ll listen on Kenley Jansen, and that’s obviously been the case for much of the offseason, they are not interested, at least for now, in taking back any of the $16 million he’s due,” McAdam reported. “They would prefer to have some team take that money off their hands and be able to give them a decent prospect or two.”

That coincides with a thought Rymer published in his column for Bleacher Report.

“Why a trade for Jansen never happened is something I can only guess about,” wrote Rymer. “But if I was running a team, looking at his page and seeing 36 years of age and a $16 million salary would give me pause.”

Spotrac has Jansen as the fourth-highest paid relief arm in baseball. If teams feel he’s not the fourth-best reliever, then it’s not shocking that they would hesitate to pay him that way.

For now, the rumors will continue to circle Jansen. And teams like Baltimore, who could use another arm, will continue measuring the reliever up to his $16-million salary.

Quoth an old cliche, “Where there is smoke, there is fire.” It’s impressive Kenley Jansen can pitch with all the smoke surrounding him. The only question is whether or not the Boston Red Sox will make him wait out the fire.

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