Red Sox closer Jansen arrives in Boston to cold reception

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Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — The news conference with new Red Sox closer Kenley Jansen was just about finished when, off to the side, 4-year-old Kyrian Jansen spoke up: “I have a question.”

He was handed a microphone.

He hesitated.

Finally, he said: “Go Boston.”

Jansen’s son is one of the few Red Sox fans excited about the team this winter following a last-place finish in 2022 and then the departure of shortstop Xander Bogaerts as a free agent last week. The elder Jansen, a three-time All-Star, is Boston’s biggest acquisition so far this offseason.

“It’s all about winning here,” said Jansen, who led the NL with 41 saves for Atlanta last year after spending his first 12 seasons with the Dodgers. “It’s a beautiful place to pitch. The atmosphere, you see how intense the fans are, how much they get it, how hard they root for their team.”

But Jansen arrives in Boston at a time of near-revolt among the fandom, which watched Bogaerts depart just three years after former AL MVP Mookie Betts was traded away in the interest of financial flexibility.

Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom said the reaction from fans was no surprise.

“Fully expected it. Fully expected it,” he said on a frigid Tuesday in a function room overlooking the field, which was laid out for Saturday’s Fenway Bowl football game. “That has not been a surprise. Honestly, I would have been surprised if that had not been the case.”

Bloom stressed that there are different ways to build a ballclub, and with Bogaerts gone the team has necessarily turned its attention to its other weaknesses. The bullpen gave up the most earned runs in the AL last season, and manager Alex Cora struggled to find a dependable closer.

Jansen could be the solution.

The 35-year-old right-hander from Curacao – just a short hop from Bogaerts’ native Aruba — went 5-2 with a 3.38 ERA in 64 innings while helping the Braves with the NL East. In his career, he has a 2.46 career ERA with 391 career saves – second-most among active players behind Craig Kimbrel‘s 394, and eighth all time.

The Red Sox have also signed right-hander Chris Martin and lefty Joely Rodriguez, who could take some of the pressure off holdovers like Matt Barnes and John Schreiber.

“(Jansen) has done his job for about as long as anybody has done in the biggest stages,” Bloom said. “And that’s something that I think will help everybody throughout our staff.”

Although the Red Sox still need a shortstop – or a second baseman, if Trevor Story moves over to the right side of the infield – Bloom said hearing Jansen talk shows that other people around baseball are more optimistic about the team’s chances than the Boston fans.

“When he thinks about the Boston Red Sox, he thinks about an organization that’s here to win,” Bloom said. “There are seasons where we demonstrated it really well; there’s seasons where we haven’t. But, you know, every winter, every spring, this organization is gearing up to try to win, and that’s really meaningful.”

The Red Sox do have a pretty good response to their restless fans: Despite their five fifth-place finishes in the last 11 years, they also won two World Series in that span and four since 2004 – more than any other team in baseball.

“I would put our organization and our track record up against anybody else’s in Major League Baseball, period,” Red Sox President Sam Kennedy said. “We’re going to continue to field a team, a complete roster that is going to be competitive in the American League East. That’s our job. We have to do that. And I know our fans will support us if we do that.”

Rays’ Díaz gets $24 million, three-year deal, avoids arbitration

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Tampa Bay Rays infielder Yandy Díaz agreed to a $24 million, three-year contract on Tuesday that avoided a salary arbitration hearing.

Díaz’s agreement could be worth $36 million over four seasons.

The 31-year old will receive $6 million this season, $8 million in 2024 and $10 million for 2025. The 2026 club is $12 million with no buyout. There is a $1 million assignment bonus that would be payable by receiving team.

Díaz has spent parts of six seasons in the majors with Cleveland (2017-18) and Tampa Bay (2019-22). He has a career average of .278 with 39 home runs and 198 RBIs.

Acquired by the Rays in a three-team trade on Dec. 13, 2018, Díaz hit .296 with nine homers and 57 RBIs in 137 games last season, He career highs with 71 runs, 140 hits, 33 doubles, and 78 walks.

Díaz was the third Rays’ arbitration-eligible player to reach a deal.

Reliever Pete Fairbanks agreed Friday to a $12 million, three-year contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons. The 29-year-old right-hander was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Left-hander Jeffrey Springs also agreed last week to a $31 million, four-year contract that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

The 30-year-old began last season in the bullpen and transitioned to the starting rotation in May and finished 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 33 appearances, including 25 starts.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, and outfielder Harold Ramírez.