Sox Sign 8 Free Agents, Fill Out Bullpen Options
By Brian Phair
After a relatively quiet few days in Red Sox land, the Sox picked-up their hunt for middle-relief by signing 8, yes I said 8, free agent pitchers. Of the 8, 6 were for minor league deals, allowing the Sox to check the pitchers out in the Spring before making any decisions. The 6 minor league contracts included a few familiar names, LHPs Lenny DiNardo, Rich Hill and Andrew Miller, as well as a few new names for Sox fans, LHP Randy Williams, RHPs Clevelan Santeliz and Ryan Harvey. The other 2 signings were RHPs Bobby Jenks and Matt Albers, Jenks likely filling a much-needed set-up role for the Sox. With several options for middle-relievers now on the team, Theo and Tito will have the ability to make intelligent decisions in the Spring and will have a few players waiting in Pawtucket to fill in at any moment.
For Rich Hill and Andrew Miller, they are making a return to the Sox after short stints in Boston within the last few months. Hill threw 4 scoreless inning for the Sox at the end of last season and Miller came to Boston on November 12th from the Florida Marlins, only to be non-tendered on December 2nd. They will both have the opportunity to play a vital role in the bullpen, being lefty match-up guys for Tito, if either can make the club. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Miller see some significant playing time in the majors, because the Sox feel he could be a really strong pitcher if given the right opportunity and the ability to work with the right staff. Hill has an advantage of showing the Sox what he can do in his brief stint with the Sox at the end of last season, but it may not be enough.
Bobby Jenks is a hefty righty who has spent all 6 seasons of his career pitching for the Chicago White Sox. The 6’4″, 275 pound has been the White Sox closer for several years, but has struggled a bit over the last few seasons with an increasing era and decreasing save numbers. The Sox are hopeful that if Jenks can lose a bit of weight and sit in the set-up role instead of the closer role, he can return to an elite reliever in baseball. The Sox gave him a relatively small 2 year, $12 million deal and if he can return to closer form, could compete for the job in 2012 when Jonathan Papelbon‘s tenure likely ends in Boston. Along with Daniel Bard, the Sox now have a solid late inning relief core, helping to ease the pressure on the starting pitching.
Lenny DiNardo is a familiar name in Boston as well, because he spent the 1st 3 years of his career in Boston, pitching in 43 games over 3 seasons. DiNardo was never able to have the type of success the Sox had hoped in his 1st stint in Boston, but now has the opportunity to prove his value in the Spring and try and earn a relief spot. With heavy left-handed relief competition, he will likely end up in Pawtucket to begin the year unless he can show signs of promise early. DiNardo strikes me as a strong long reliever, but with that role likely going to lefty Felix Doubront, there will not be room for another long-man, especially a lefty. In that same vein, Matt Albers is likely just a long-reliever, making him less likely to receive a roster spot coming out of the Spring.
The remaining signings are relative unknowns. LHP Randy Williams is the elder statesman of the group at age 35 and also has the only major league experience of the 3. He had a 5.40 era in 2010 with the White Sox, allowing 15 earned runs in just 25 innings. RHP Clevelan Santeliz is another White Sox product who is just 24 and spent last season pitching in AAA. The last arm is RHP Ryan Harvey and is a longer-term project for the Sox. He is a 26-year old outfielder who will be playing his 1st professional season as a pitcher next year. He struggled to hit in AA with the Colorado Rockies organization last season, so the Sox are hoping he can develop into a solid pitcher in a year or 2.
Overall, the Sox added many more arms, but with the exception of Jenks, didn’t spend much money at all. They refused to sign a reliever to a 3-year deal, so it left them with more limited options at the major league level. As they did last season, the Sox have many options to choose from for the opening day roster and assuming everyone stays healthy, they should have a solid bullpen in 2011.