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White Sox Non-Tender Jenks

Earlier today, the Chicago White Sox announced they would not tender a contract to closer Bobby Jenks. The decision marks the end of the hard-throwing righty’s career on the Southside while adding another worthwhile relief pitcher to a free agent market already full with them.

The White Sox’s chief motive might be finances. Jenks’ salary had the potential to shoot over $8 million for the upcoming season. With numerous alternatives in place (Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos, and Chris Sale come to mind) and the aforementioned relief market, Kenny Williams must’ve decided he could find a suitable replacement while using the money on another player (or two) to enhance his roster more than he could with Jenks’ salary present.

Unfortunately for Williams, the same details that made Jenks an expendable part of the White Sox roster also made him an unattractive addition to the rest of the league; capsizing whatever trade value a pitcher of Jenks’ talent level would usually hold. One has to imagine Williams investigated potential trades wherein he would throw in some cash as well, but ultimately found them unappealing.

As for Jenks, he now becomes one of the most interesting free agents available. With no free agent compensation required, teams will only part with money in order to sign him. The disagreement between Jenks’ earned run average (4.44) and peripheral-based run average metrics (2.59 FIP) might lead to a discount rate as well. This is a guy coming off a season with a career-low xFIP (2.62) who also had the worst strand rate (65.4%) and batting average on balls in play against (.368) of his six-year career.

Those last two are vital to his inflated ERA. It’s common baseball sense: the fewer runners you strand, the more runners you allow to score and the larger your ERA grows. How BABIP plays into an increased ERA is no philosophical issue either, as more hits have a tendency to mean more baserunners and more run-scoring opportunities. Given how the rest of Jenks’ career has played out, it seems safe – if not concrete – to say 2010’s hit and strand rates will become apparitions rather than telltale embodiment of Jenks’ abilities.

How Jenks fares on the open market will be worth watching. Jenks has everything going for him; saves, the proven closer tag, no Type A compensation required, and even transcendent facial hair; everything but an above average ERA. Yet, interest is likely to be high on the 29-year-old, meaning a team cannot hold that against Jenks too greatly in their offerings without running the risk of losing him.

Williams’ hands being tied could ultimately result in a sweet deal for a pretty good closer. The question is which team becomes the benefactor.