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Roche: It’s Not Papelbon vs. Jenks

A Sports Blog By WBZ-TV's Dan Roche

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk on 98.5 The Sports Hub about the Red Sox signing of closer Bobby Jenks and I don’t get some of it.

Boston inked the free agent reliever to a 2-year deal worth $12-million. One of the main reasons they signed Jenks is that he wasn’t asking for three years. Just two.

Jenks has been one of the better closers in the game since coming up in 2005. In fact, he closed 4 games in Chicago’s postseason run in that season that saw the White Sox capture the World Series.

His save numbers have declined in each of his full seasons since in the big leagues with 41 in 2006 to 40 in 2007 to 30 in 2008 to 29 in 2009 and 27 last season.

However, after his strikeout numbers went down in both 2008 and 2009, they were up considerably last season. His strikeout/9 inning ratio was 10.3 compared to 5.5 in 2008 and 8.3 in 2009. The 10.3 number was the second best of his career (10.4 in 2005).

What this means is the Sox have added another quality arm to their bullpen.  Hopefully, an upgrade over Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, Hideki Okajima, etc. 

Remember, you win games with these quality arms in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings. The Sox are set with Daniel Bard in the 8th and they hope Felix Doubront (or another free agent) from the left side.  And that’s to get to Jonathan Papelbon.

Now, there’s no question the signing of a closer like Jenks helps for a couple of reasons:

1) It’s insurance for 2011 if Papelbon gets hurt or indeed does struggle badly.

2) It helps if Pap leaves as a free agent after 2011.

I don’t see there being a huge market for Pap right now simply because he’s going to make $10-11 million next season. And, why would the Red Sox pay any of his salary? Why not just keep him?

And again, Pap is primed to have a bounce-back season. The problem he’s had is that he’s just been so good compared to other closers over his first five years in the bigs.

Jonathan Papelbon will be the Sox closer in 2011. Daniel Bard will be the key 8th inning guy and Bobby Jenks will be that second 8th inning guy or 7th inning reliever. And as we’ve seen Bard can’t pitch every day. So there’s plenty of room for everyone.

So, please stop with the “now we can trade Papelbon” talk.

He’s not going anywhere.

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