White Sox Pen Isn't Leaky Because There Is No Ship Yet

The heaviest of Kenny Williams' lifting has been done; resigning AJ Pierzynski/Paul Konerko and inking Adam Dunn. The most glaring of faults from 2010 has been fixed, as Williams has added a left-handed, 40 home run threat to the lineup as a DH. Having seen his brawn, we must now see Kenny’s brain. Hawk is fond of saying that a bullpen makes or breaks a contender and there is no doubt ours needs work. For the first time in 5 years, Bobby Jenks will not be our closer, but his return isn’t impossible.

As I've written elsewhere*, the AL figures to be absolutely stacked in 2011. Relievers are going to be critical for success and the White Sox have a really good foundation in Tony Pena, Sergio Santos and the best reliever on earth not named Mariano. Thornton can’t go after those candy-ass M&M boys up north, the new two-headed monster in Boston and the Yankees by himself. Tony Pena is just a guy and I don’t have any reason to think that Santos will be as effective again.


Below are some of the free agent relievers. There are some interesting names, but I have abandoned my previous ranking system. Bullpens from year to year are the most difficult thing to make in major league baseball (unless you’re Kevin Towers) because sometimes relievers have great years (2005) and sometimes they just suck (2007). I'm not going to think up trade scenarios, but feel free in the comments.


Chris Sale: Kenny says he envisions Sale as a starter, Ozzie says a reliever and Cowley sensationalizes the whole thing into a steel cage match (not really, I just wanted to get in a Cowley shot). Chris Sale was really impressive last season and Joe Mauer was quoted on Joe Cowley’s twitter as saying that Sale made him "uncomfortable" (Cowley’s twitter handle is @cst_sox)**, but I have my concerns about rushing him [Sale was recently weighed and came in at less than an iPhone power cord]. I do not question his talent, determination or ceiling, just his readiness for a full 162 game MLB season.


Tim Byrdak: a local guy from Oak Forest, Byrdak is the definition of a loogy (lefty one-out guy). A career OPS+ of 125 against righties, 71 against lefties for Houston, Detroit, Kansas City and Baltimore, he could be effective. Ozzie has a history of preferring guys who can just get guys out as opposed to just certain guys (no one really wants to remember Mike Myers stint here, do they?) so we’ll see. 2010 pay: $1.6 million.


Scott Downs: he’s been in Canada for a while and was rumored to have elicited interest from the Yankees at the trade deadline and I can’t imagine that interest has decreased given what both we and Boston have added***.  He put up some really good numbers in 2010, given that he was going up against the best of AL East often. $4 million in 2010, probably looking for a Linebrink or Benoit type deal (GMs are almost as down about that deal as Keith Law is) of around 3 years, $15 mill. Outside of our budget, unless we keep backloading, and a type A free agent.


Randy Choate: crude nickname opportunities aside, he’s ‘my guy.’ Spent last year with the Rays and was good for the Rays, but he is another loogy. 35.1 IP against lefties.... only 9.1 IP against righties (along with a difference of over 5 FIP) in the ’10. Made only(heh) $700,000 last year, so he might be a fiscal fit.


Joe Beimel: he only pitched 45 innings in 2010, but was the Nationals set up guy in 2009. Another lefty, he’s less of a loogy than some of the above mentions, but better against lefties (with 6 more IP against them than righties). A lower BABIP, by .018 than his career, and a higher LOB%, by 6.4% would seem to indicate he’s due for some regression, but if you can survive your home games in Coors Field... 2010 pay: $850,000.


Brian Fuentes: came back to earth the past two years in LAA after a storied run with the Rockies. Acquired by the dreaded Twains to be part of their Three Stoogies Closer act, he was good for all of 9 innings. Boston is interested, and his 2010 salary of $10 million probably means we won’t be calling. I’m fine with that, I’m not really interested in a fly-ball reliever at U.S. Cellular.


      Kerry Wood: despite the injury/Cub history, I’m interested. Some here would get more pleasure from a former Cub legend coming to the Sox and being successful than others; I just think the guy is a good reliever. The contract numbers being floated are around 2 years, $9 mill which is great, but doubtful. He made $10.5 million last year and dominated as Rivera’s set-up man. Still lives in Chicago, obviously likes it here, may be tempted to come to either side of town. Or stay in New York, since the Yankees new pitching coach is Larry Rothschild. Talent says, "Yes." Money says, "No."


      Grant Balfour: well, he certainly won the ‘dirt-kicking’ match-up a few years ago. But, I digress. The Aussie right-handed somewhat surprisingly turned down the Rays arbitration offer and seems to think he can get a multi-year deal. (Shrugs). Maybe he can – he certainly had a good enough ’08, ’09 and ’10 to justify a 3 year, $12 mill deal. He's a type A, so you'll lose a draft pick. Part of his increase in success was cutting down on walks, but he did get a bit of a boost from BABIP and LOB. Solid option.


      Rafael Soriano: Oh, the same ol’ song and dance. And he’ll cost you a draft pick, part of the reason the Rays are letting him go. The best "closer" on the market, the Sox will most likely pass.


      Bobby Jenks: We all know the resume. And the frustration. And the success. Obviously, if the money makes sense, you bring him back. Williams hinted that the market might not get Bobby what he wants so if you could get Bobby to drop some weight, you’d be okay. And we’ll always have this, this and this.


[Baseball-related] thoughts, everyone? Kenny is obviously thinking trade market, but they clearly signed AJ, Donkey and Kong to deals that would allow them to have some dollars left.



* = And I wrote that before Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford signed, so adjust accordingly.


** = My work computer blocks twitter, so I am unable to link it directly.


*** = Let’s dispense with the idea that Boston and New York operate in a vacuum. Every AL team keeps close tabs on what every other AL team does. BOS/NYY may hate each other, but their mutual interest in lefties is as much about Carl Crawford/Adrian Gonzalez/Mark Teixeira/Curtis Granderson as it is about Josh Hamilton/Joe Mauer/Justin "My Head Hurts" Morneau/Adam Dunn and Victor Martinez].

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