Whither Bobby Jenks


Bobby Jenks pitching for Arkansas in May 2002.

 

Long-time visitors of the FutureAngels.com web site know that each winter I post recordings of Angels minor leagues to help us through the off-season. My personal Methadone for our baseball addiction.

These go back to 2003, so I’m rummaging through some of the earliest games for “classics” I can post starting this Friday.

Right now I’m listening to an August 14, 2003 game in which Bobby Jenks started for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers against the now-defunct El Paso Diablos. After all the early setbacks in his career — injuries, immaturity, an infamous profile in ESPN: The Magazine — Jenks appeared to be turning a corner in his second stint with the Travs.

But such hopes were optimistic.

Bobby injured his elbow while pitching for the Triple-A Salt Lake Stingers at Fresno on April 19, 2004. (Click here to watch the video; Windows Media Player and a broadband Internet connection required.) Later that year, he would be suspended after getting into a fight with a teammate while on rehab at the Angels’ minor league complex in Mesa, Arizona.

That winter, the Angels tried to pass Jenks through waivers from the major league 40-man roster onto the Triple-A roster so they could sign free agents. They hoped Jenks’ injuries, diminished velocity and immature reputation might discourage other teams from claiming him.

The White Sox took a chance, paid the Angels the waiver fee, and Jenks became their headache.

Chicago sent him down to Double-A to start 2005, and moved him into the bullpen. Perhaps more mature, or simply viewing the waiver deal as a wakeup call, Jenks pitched his way into the White Sox bullpen and was on the mound when they won the World Series over the Houston Astros.

Bobby has been a decent, but not spectacular, reliever. Over six seasons, he’s averaged a little over an inning an appearance, averaging 59 appearances per season over the last five years.

For those into WHIP — (Walks + Hits) / (Innings Pitched) — that number has crept up the last four years:

2007 – 0.892
2008 – 1.103
2009 – 1.275
2010 – 1.367

Those aren’t bad numbers, but as Bobby passes through the prime years of his career (he’ll be 30 in March) they’re trending in the wrong direction.

Bobby’s physical conditioning and periodic injuries remain a concern in Chicago, and an October 3 article on WhiteSox.com suggests he may have worn out his welcome.

As an arbitration-eligible closer, the White Sox have control over Bobby Jenks going into the 2011 season.

General manager Ken Williams’ comments on Sunday, though, made Jenks’ return seem less likely and put the right-hander on the list of possible non-tender candidates.

“That’s something we have to evaluate strongly because I’ve been disappointed on a number of levels,” Williams said. “And there are certain things that I’m not going to talk about right now.”

Which got me to thinking …

When Bobby began his professional career in 2000, he was assigned to the Rookie-A Butte CopperKings. His pitching coach that first summer was Mike Butcher, who himself was starting a new career as an instructor. Butch was the minor league roving pitching instructor during Jenks’ last two seasons with the Angels, so he knows Bobby as well as anyone does. Angels general manager Tony Reagins was the farm director during Bobby’s last three seasons.

If the White Sox let go Jenks, and with the shaky condition of the Angels’ bullpen, would it make sense to bring him home?

Do Tony Reagins, manager Mike Scioscia and Mike Butcher want to introduce an unpredictable element to the bullpen, having rid themselves of headcase Francisco Rodriguez two years ago?

It’s a thought to ponder.

As for that August 14, 2003 Travs game, look for it on FutureAngels.com in a couple weeks.

1 Comment

Interesting question. Jenks made $7.5M this year for the Sox. I believe a player can’t take more than a 20% cut in salary during an arb hearing, so Jenks is going to get $6M minimum next year. That’s reason enough to non-tender him.

If he is non-tendered, I assume the Angels could sign him for whatever price. I’m normally weary of signing free agents to help the bullpen, considering most of the time you can fill those spots from within. Would Jenks take $3M? $5M?

If the Angels are going to sign a bullpen arm, I’d much rather have Jenks than a guy like Downs (who everyone seems to be clamoring for).

It should be a pretty interesting off season either way. Thanks for all your great work.

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