- Gordon Edes, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein made a bold move to upgrade his bullpen while managing to avoid giving out a three-year deal to a reliever, a notion he detested.
While setup men continued to receive three-year contracts, including two right-handers on the Red Sox's radar screen, Matt Guerrier (Dodgers) and Jesse Crain (White Sox), Epstein swooped in and reportedly agreed to a contract with Bobby Jenks, who had served as White Sox closer since bursting onto the scene as a rookie sensation in 2005 but was nontendered earlier this month by Chicago.
The deal for Jenks, as first reported by ESPN's Buster Olney, is for two years and $12 million, pending a physical, and gives the Red Sox a power arm to go along with Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard. Jenks, according to Olney, will also be given a chance to compete to be Red Sox closer after next season, when Papelbon is eligible for free agency, though Bard still figures as the odds-on favorite for the job if Papelbon moves on.
The Red Sox also made other moves to add to their bullpen depth. They came to terms with left-hander Andrew Miller on a minor league deal after nontendering him just weeks after acquiring him by trade from Florida for lefty Dustin Richardson. The move to nontender him was a financial one, as Miller was arbitration-eligible, and while terms were not disclosed, they are favorable to the former No. 1 draft choice from North Carolina if he makes the big league club.
The Red Sox also announced the signing of right-hander Matt Albers to a one-year deal. Albers made 62 appearances out of the bullpen for Baltimore last season and posted a 4.52 ERA in 62 appearances. And according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, Boston is about to re-sign former Red Sox lefty Lenny DiNardo to a minor league deal, pending the results of an MRI. DiNardo, 31, had surgery to remove spurs from his left elbow last summer and has not pitched with any regularity in the majors since 2007 with Oakland, where he came under the tutelage of new Red Sox pitching coach Curt Young.
Jenks became available when the White Sox, expressing disenchantment with his performance last season, decided they had little interest in giving him a raise on the $7.5 million he was paid last season. Jenks was arbitration-eligible and coming off a season in which he posted career lows in saves (27) and innings (52 2/3) and a career-worst 4.44 ERA. He had back problems in midseason and forearm stiffness in the season's last month.
White Sox GM Kenny Williams said before the season's last game he was "disappointed on a number of levels" with Jenks, whose conditioning has periodically been an issue. At the same time, perhaps foreshadowing his departure, Williams saluted Jenks, saying, "Bobby Jenks has been good for a long time here ... two years after winning the division in '08, I'm not going to criticize one of the guys that helped us get there.''
Jenks posted back-to-back 40-save seasons for the White Sox in 2006 and 2007 after collecting four saves in the 2005 postseason, when the White Sox won the World Series. It remains to be seen how he adapts in Boston to not being the closer, and the adrenaline rush that entails. The other question is how Papelbon will react to having two pitchers behind him who could close if he struggles the way he did in 2010, when he had a career-high eight blown saves.
While Jenks experienced an even bigger falloff than Papelbon, he still showed he hasn't lost his ability to strike out hitters, a big part of his appeal to the Red Sox. He averaged 10.4 strikeouts per 9 innings in 2010, his highest ratio since the 11.4 whiffs he averaged in 32 appearances his rookie season. At 6-foot-4 and listed at 275 pounds, with a whisk-brush beard attached to his chin, he is a formidable physical presence.
The Red Sox would appear to have all but finished their bullpen reconstruction. Albers will be given the chance to compete with Scott Atchison and Tim Wakefield for the long-man role, and Jenks and Bard will set up. Rookie Felix Doubront figures to be another contender for the lefty role, and Papelbon will close.
The Red Sox conceivably could bring in another catcher for depth, but never offered more than a minor league deal to Russell Martin because of health concerns. Martin instead signed with the Yankees. The Red Sox also announced that utiltyman Eric Patterson is going to the Padres as the player to be named later in the Adrian Gonzalez deal.
Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.