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Putz In For the Pen

by Mike DePilla
Friday, December 11, 2009

After a public courting in Indianapolis, much to the dismay of Ken Williams, the Sox finally signed relief pitcher JJ Putz to a one-year, $3 million contract this afternoon to, for the moment, replace Octavio Dotel in the bullpen.

Not since the acqusition of David Riske have we been given a gift of such a great name for a Sox reliever.

Would you say this putz the wheels in motion on a Bobby Jenks trade, or that Trader Kenny finally stopped putz-ing around and solidified his bullpen?

I could go on....

But the important thing, for the moment, is to consider Putz as a replacement for the departed Dotel and nothing more.

This Sox bullpen didn't exactly set the world on fire in the second half of last season, yet many fans seem eager to weaken it by losing Dotel, trading Jenks and dumping Linebrink (although it could be argued that losing Linebrink would be addition by subtraction). Add to that rumors of non-tendering the reliable DJ Carrasco, and you don't have much of a core.

Bringing in Putz, who's just as much of a health risk as anyone, doesn't guarantee a worry-free bullpen, but it might bring stability to the late innings.

There is still a chance Linebrink or Jenks could be dealt, but until that moment Putz has to be viewed as just a set up guy, an even trade for Dotel. Despite his lack of affection by the fans, Dotel put up solid numbers in his two years here and will be missed: in 2009 he posted a 3.32 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 10.8 K/9 and 16 holds while often flashing electric stuff.

I might ask how a straight swap of Putz for Dotel really changes the bullpen at all- but I think Putz has a higher upside.

Putz's career averges are a 3.24 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 9.1 K/9, though he didn't come close to matching those numbers during an injury-plagued 2009 with the Mets. He has closer experience, and an All-Star selection, from his days with the Mariners. He racked up 101 saves in Seattle before he was traded, ironically, one year ago today.

Assuming nothing else is done to weaken the bullpen, I am happy with this move and feel safe with Jenks in the 9th, Thorton in the 8th, Putz in the 7th, and a miss-mash of Linebrink, Carrasco, Hudson and one random other lefty (Randy Williams?) for middle and long relief.

However, if the Sox want to make any other splashes, the writing is on the wall that they will need to move a salary, no matter how painful. Unless there is suddenly an attractive offer for Paulie (at which point I would dance in the street), Jenks and his $7 or 8 million one-year deal is the most likely guy to go.

Trading Jenks (and/or non-tendering Carrasco, to a much lesser extent) could open the door to a Hideki Matsui and Coco Crisp signing, but would bring the team back to square one in the bullpen.

Let's see how Kenny plays it. For now, this move putz me in a good mood.

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