Earlier on twitter, I compared Thursday’s non-tender deadline (last day to tender an offer for 2011 to an arbitration eligible player; not the actual contract offer, but intent to offer one) to Black Friday shopping for Andrew Friedman. There will be a lot of options with most coming at a reduced price tag. Some will be similar to returned items that have their prices slashed due to wear and tear while others are simply put on clearance because nobody wants to pay the original sticker price. Bobby Jenks falls into the latter category.
As the closer for the Chicago White Sox, Jenks made $7.5 million in 2010. Even though he finished the season with a career-worst 4.44 ERA, he was likely due for a raise in arbitration that would bring his 2011 salary closer to $9 million. You can’t fault the White Sox for not offering him a contract because there are very few relievers who are worth that kind of annual salary.
Although he is not worth $9 million, and despite his higher-than-average ERA, Jenks is still a very good pitcher. When you get past the 4.44 ERA, he had arguably his best season in 2010. A lot like Kevin Gregg in the 2009 offseason, Jenks is a prime candidate for positive regression.
When looking at the defensive independent metric components, Jenks struck out 10.42 batters per nine innings – the second highest K/9 of his career. His walk (3.08 BB/9) and home run rate (0.51 HR/9) where within close proximity to his career rates (2.90 BB/9, 0.66 HR/9). His 2.62 xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) was the lowest of his career, and tied for second lowest among American League relievers. In fact, he trailed only former Rays’ super set-up man Joaquin Benoit and finished tied his Chicago teammate (and possibly successor) Matt Thornton.
Meanwhile, Jenks took his lumps on batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and strand rate (LOB%). Despite a phenomenal 58% groundball rate, his BABIP was a ridiculous .368. The league average was .302 and his career average is .306.
He also allowed more baserunners to score. This could be a byproduct of more balls falling in play, but his LOB% of just over 65% is well below his career mark of around 73%.
Jenks does have some concerns in terms of his weight and some past injuries, but those are things for the Rays’ medical staff to analyze.
Not to sound like a broken record, but it all comes down to cost. Obviously, the Rays are not going to pay Jenks close to the $9 million he may have made through arbitration, but if we cut that in half to the $4.5-$5 million range we could have a fit. With a flooded relief market including several former closers, Jenks could be facing a market that does not see him exclusively as a closer. Like Gregg, this is where the Rays may be able to leverage their ninth inning role in negotiations.
Again, this is mere speculation; however, the Rays have a need for Jenks-type pitcher. And in turn – like Benoit and Soriano did in 2010 – he could use the back end of the Rays’ bullpen as a spring board for next year’s free agency.
Win, win, right?