Thursday, December 16, 2010

An Interesting Bullpen Move

So the Red Sox are finally re-filling the position of "portly, inconsistent relief pitcher" previously held by Rod Beck, Rich Garces, and Jim Corsi, as they signed Bobby Jenks for two years and $12 million Thursday. Of course, those in New York, including Pat, will point out that the Red Sox' 2011 payroll is currently higher than the Yankees'. Maybe this means Larry Lucchino will stay away from a microphone all year. We can at least hope, right?

The real story here, however, is the implications on the Red Sox' bullpen. First of all, are they going to have the budget and the willingness to pay for another free agent reliever? Twelve million for a guy who had a 4.44 ERA in high-leverage innings last year? God bless America. If they end up getting Dan Wheeler and his WHIP of roughly 1.00 over the last three years, I'd be okay with that. Although, did I really say "oh f***, Dan Wheeler's coming in" when that happened at least fifty times in Sox-Rays games? Don't think so.

Back to Jenks though. What is his role going to be? Are the Red Sox on tilt so much that they're paying $6 million for their seventh inning guy? Felger hopes so, but let's be real here. It means for sure that Papelbon will finally get his chance to set the bar for other closers after another presumably underwhelming season, as he will not be re-signed by Boston. It was previously a 2% chance. Now it's a 0% chance. And Jenks will be either the setup guy or the closer in 2012.

The conspiracy theory on the radio this afternoon is that the organization is concerned about Bard's ability to be a closer versus being a really good 8th-inning pitcher his entire career. Jenks becomes the closer in 2012, and that's the only way he signs for two years. That's the theory. I don't believe it; I just think Boston's the only team that would pay this guy so much money for so many years.

Beyond trying to figure out what the team's plan is, it's also a mystery whether this guy is going to produce. He's been on a steady decline, just like Papelbon. Except Papelbon's never hit 4.44 in ERA. If 2008, 2009, and 2010 are put onto a chart compared to 2005, 2006, and 2007, you'd be concerned, too. More hits in fewer innings. Same amount of walks in fewer innings. And, unless you're a sabermetrician (and perhaps even if you are), more runs given up. Is the big guy just like so many other closers, shining really bright for a very brief moment before completely crapping out?

Could be. It's not a terrible move, as 7th inning outs can be recorded by this guy and/or Wheeler just about as well as anyone. But if 2012 comes around and Bard's setting up for Bobby Jenks, you have to be a little bit concerned.

Also, a reminder (and an afterthought): Lenny DiNardo is NOT Deion Branch. Enjoy yo weekend.


TimC said...

...has Theo been outfoxed in negotiations once again? Still, I think it is a bit silly for radio heads to speculate on who will be where in the bullpen hierarchy in TWO years when we don't even know exactly what things will look like in April.

Plus, this implies some form of planning and I do believe that GM Henry has no plan at all, especially for the Red Sox bullpen.

the gm at work said...

Tim C,

The bullpen has always - ALWAYS - been an afterthought for this organization with the exception of perhaps 2004 when they went to get Foulke. Other years they've just tried to throw s*** at the wall to see if it stuck. You think Ramon Ramirez or even Hideki Okajima were in the Red Sox' plans for very long? Doubt it.

How would Theo have been outfoxed? By outbidding everyone by a landslide for a reliever on the decline?

Ross Kaplan said...

I don't know why teams haven't yet learned to not spend more than 4 million a year on relief pitchers. Almost all of these guys are one hit wonders who have 1 maybe 2 good years if they're lucky before they lose their stuff or in Scott Proctor's case throw their arm off. The hope with relievers is always to catch lightning in a bottle and ride it as long as you can and cut ties before he loses too many games for you. Can anyone cite one example when a former dominant closer (Putz, Gagne, Jenks, et al.) was ever successfully converted into at least a decent set up guy? I know I can't.

TimC said...

Kaplan, I also wonder why more teams don't just try to convert stiff starters. Would you rather be a #4 pitcher for a crappy NL Central team or take a chance at being in the Red Sox bullpen? I know what my choice would be.

jason said...

da bears