UPDATE: mixed word now on Bobby Jenks and the Rays

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UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal tweets that there is “heavy action” on Jenks, including the Rays, but that the Yankees and others have interest too. He says Jenks is not close to a decision yet, however.  In other news, I suppose all action on Bobby Jenks would be “heavy.”

10:12 PM: Marc Topkin says that the Rays and Jenks aren’t close to anything.  I’m assuming he got a denial from the team. My source stands by what he’s telling me. So I guess we wait this one out and see what happens, eh?

8: 58 PM: Bobby Jenks and the Tampa Bay Rays are talking as we speak, and a deal between the two of them could be done as early as tonight, a major league source tells me.  No word on the terms yet. No word on the meal per diem.

Jenks made $7.5 million in 2010 and was non-tendered by the White Sox because the guy is not deserving of a raise right now. His save total has dropped each of the last four seasons, he’s becoming more hittable than he used to be and his walk rate is up.  Over the past two seasons he has an ERA of 4.08. He’s good, but not great anymore. But with the Rays losing Rafael Soriano to free agency, someone has to close.

Absent a big bounce back year, the back end of the pen is yet another area in which the Rays will be worse in 2010 than 2011. But that go for anyone trying to fill the shoes of Soriano.  Jenks is a good signing for them if the money is reasonable. Which it probably is.

UPDATE:  Hadn’t seen this before but Tommy Rancel — who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Winter Meetings last week — had a post a couple of weeks ago over at Process Report talking about how nice a fit Jenks would be with the Rays.  I’m going to assume that the wise Rays front office read it because it would make me happy to think that they had.

Imagining Theo Epstein in politics

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“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Or: “When Theo Epstein won World Series championships with the two most championship-starved franchises in baseball history, he got bored, and decided to run for the Senate or something.”

That latter bit is the premise of a Politico piece speculating that the Cubs president could go into politics one day. The story features an interview with former Obama chief strategist David Axlerod, who thinks Theo has what it takes. Mostly what he has is fame, popularity, good looks and money. No idea what his positions on issue are, but that other stuff goes a long way in politics these days.

Bonus: given what we just elected last fall, a guy who once had a little temper tantrum and dressed up in a gorilla suit is just as viable a candidate as anyone.

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.