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.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.