Williams not looking to deal Jenks
Sox GM hasn't initiated trade discussions for closer
CHICAGO -- Bobby Jenks already has aired his offseason disappointment toward his current employer through the media, starting with his comments concerning unfair personal criticism from the White Sox, originally made in early October.
Manager Ozzie Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper have answered Jenks' complaints about conditioning being used as a convenient excuse for the right-hander's nagging injuries and statistical slippage in 2009. And as for Ken Williams?
But just days before the start of Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, Williams cautioned not to jump to the conclusion that Jenks' departure is imminent.
"He's my closer, and I haven't had one trade discussion about him," said Williams.
Williams quickly moved back into the aggressive general manager mode that has led to the most trades in baseball executed under his watch over the past decade.
"That's not to say I wouldn't entertain anything, but I'm not going out there actively having talks," Williams said. "He's one of the game's better closers and people need closers, but so do we."
These 2009 Winter Meetings officially begin Monday, and Williams pointed out that Jenks instantly could become a main topic of conversation. The White Sox find themselves in a "holding pattern" where spending on free agents is concerned, by Williams' own admission, meaning any immediate moves they make figure to come through trades.
Jenks, 28, holds as much trade value as anyone on the White Sox roster. Although his ERA rose from 2.63 in 2008 to 3.71 in 52 games last year, and his 29 saves were the fewest recorded by Jenks in his four full seasons as closer, Jenks simply knows how to get outs in the ninth and sometimes eighth innings.
His 146 career saves, including 40-save efforts in 2006 and 2007, place him third on the franchise's all-time list in this category and just 56 behind Bobby Thigpen for the top spot. He also features an 87 percent success rate over 168 save opportunities.
Increased bullpen strength has been a topic of concern for White Sox fans during the present offseason, but this relief crew might be in better shape than imagined. Assuming Jenks stays in Chicago, getting an increase from his $5.6 million salary earned in 2009 as an arbitration-eligible hurler, the South Siders add Matt Thornton, D.J. Carrasco, Tony Pena and Scott Linebrink to form a fairly solid back five.
Linebrink will be working in the third season of a four-year, $19 million deal and is coming off of a miserable finish to last season. during which he had an 8.49 ERA after the All-Star break and yielded 38 baserunners over 18 2/3 innings in August and September alone. But Williams believes the tipping of pitches might have caused some of Linebrink's second-half struggles.
"We've got to find answers because he's too good to have struggled like that," said Williams of Linebrink, who had a 1.93 ERA prior to the All-Star Game. "His stuff is too good."
Possessing one of the game's best starting rotations means this White Sox bullpen won't get overtaxed. Williams also divulged how the remaining one or two relievers will be "sixth-inning type guys," giving the team an opportunity to take a chance on its young arms, instead of paying a premium relief price on the open market.
As for Jenks burning any South Side bridges with his outspoken and frank nature, Williams reiterated as to how honesty is not a punishable offense on the White Sox. He pointed to the past cases of Brian Anderson and Damaso Marte, who took issue with the team or even Guillen at separate points, but weren't immediately shipped out of town.
"Listen, we speak our minds and we don't stop the players from speaking their minds," Williams said. "We are all grown men here. Nothing that has been said to you guys, whether through Ozzie or me or Bobby, nothing that has been said hasn't already been said behind closed doors.
"There's really nothing shocking that has been said there. The only time I think about what has been said is when you guys bring it up."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.