For the longest time, I thought Bobby Jenks would always be remembered as the guy who saved the 2005 Chicago White Sox.
Sure, the South Side championship squad's offense was led by the speedy Scott Podsednik and sluggers such as Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye and Joe Crede. And its pitching staff was led by Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jose Contreras and Jon Garland. But it was Jenks' presence at the back end of the bullpen that saved the Pale Hose from having to use Dustin Hermanson or **gasp** Shingo Takatsu -- the guy who started that season in the closer's role before disappearing into the Chicago night -- in a pressure situation.
Fast forward to 2009 and Jenks is a shell of his former self. He's blown six saves this season , which is not a good thing for a team eight games out of a pennant race. Jenks owns a 3.71 earned run average in 2009, which is more than one run higher than his '08 ERA of 2.63.
The biggest decline, as far as Jenks is concerned, is in his power game. He struck out 50 batters in 39.1 innings as he exploded onto the scene in 2005. However, turn the clock forward four years and note Jenks has punched out only 49 batters in 53.1 innings of work. When he was dominant, he posted WHIPs of 0.892 and 1.103 in 2007 and 2008. And while a 1.275 WHIP is respectable, it is clear that the intimidation factor Jenks once held over opposing hitters has dissipated.
Jenks popped his calf muscle and the White Sox announced Tuesday that he would be shut down for the season.
It would not surprise me if the big boy was the subject of a lot of trade talks. Despite his struggles, Jenks could be in line for a raise if it goes to an arbitration hearing. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, Jenks earned $5.6 million in 2009. And after adding Jake Peavy and Alex Rios, who will combine to earn $24.7 million in 2010, the South Side closer might have to be moved to make ends meet.
The problem with trading Jenks is the lack of an adequate replacement. The Sox sent several prospects to San Diego in exchange for Peavy, including Aaron Poreda, whose plus fastball would make him an ideal candidate to close if things didn't work out as a starter.
The gift and the curse for the White Sox is in the upcoming free agent market. Jose Valverde leads the bunch with Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner possibly being more affordable options.
(And yes, I left Kevin Gregg out for a reason. But if the Sox wanted him, I'd pay for his CTA fare and send him on the next Red Line train headed south.)
The good news for the ChiSox is that they can replace Jenks through the free agent market. The bad news is that teams not willing to trade prospects for Jenks could go down that road as well.
In the end, Kenny Williams has quite a task ahead of him this winter as he will attempt to re-tool a team that is one season removed from an AL Central Division championship.