It is being reported that the Sox have added a major piece to their bullpen puzzle today, former White Sox closer.
Bobby Jenks. Jenks will not only change the color of his socks for 2011, but his role as well.
The deal is being reported at two-years and $12M, which is a fair price given the current market.
Back in November, I suggested that the Sox look into buying low on Jenks via the trade route. However, the White Sox ended up non-tendering Jenks, making him a free agent. Obviously, I still encouraged that the Sox go after him. In that first article, I listed the reasons that Jenks could be in for a bounce-back season in 2011…
Jenks had a 3.39 K/BB rate last season, which included a very good 10.42 K/9 and good 3.08 BB/9. However, it seems that Jenks ran into a ton of bad luck. His BABIP against was a monstrous .368 and he managed to strand only 64.4 percent of his baserunners. His career averages for both categories are much better (.306 BABIP against and 73.5 percent strand rate). It’s not as if Jenks got hammered by the line drive, though is line drive rate against was a career high and slightly above the league average. In fact, Jenks did a great job of inducing ground balls (58.3 percent ground ball rate) and keeping the ball in the ballpark (only 3 home runs allowed in 52.2 innings). The White Sox had the fifth worst defensive rating according to UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), which helps explain some of Jenks’ bad luck.
The difference between Jenks’ ERA and FIP was the second largest gap among major league relievers with at least 40 innings pitched in 2010.
K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP Difference
10.42 3.08 4.44 2.59 -1.85
This two-year deal not only gives the Sox more depth for 2011, but more options for 2012.
Most Sox fans are probably assuming that Daniel Bard will take over the closers role in 2012, and that could very well be the case. It is highly unlikely that Jonathan Papelbon will be back as he heads into his first offseason as a free agent. However, should Bard regress in 2011, Jenks could essentially hold the throne for a little bit longer. That scenario will play itself out, but it is nice to have an established option like Jenks available should things not go according to plan.
The bottom line is that this is a great pick-up by the Sox. While other relievers were awarded similar deals for three-years, the Sox snagged a great bounce-back candidate on a two-year deal that will pay him roughly the same amount of money (~$2M more per year) as the Jesse Crain’s and Matt Guerrier’s of the baseball world. Jenks made $7.5M last season and was arbitration eligible going into 2011.
The Sox may still make another bullpen move — Brian Fuentes, please — which would only further propel the discussion about this team being the best in baseball heading into the 2011 season.