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Bobby Jenks Has a Chance to Become Red Sox Closer ‘After’ Jonathan Papelbon

Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox ownership are on a mission. The objective is simple: surpass the Yankees over the course of the 2010-2011 offseason. We haven’t even gotten to 2011 yet, and it would appear the mission has been accomplished.

After bolstering their lineup by trading for Adrian Gonzalez and signing Carl Crawford, the only glaring hole the Red Sox had remaining was in the bullpen. They addressed that need on Thursday, signing former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks to a two-year, $12 million deal and former Orioles reliever Matt Albers to a one-year deal. The reports about Jenks are particularly interesting, however.

If you go here and read Buster Olney’s report about Jenks on ESPNBoston.com, you’ll see that Olney’s source said Jenks was told “he’ll be a set-up man in 2011 and will have a chance to be the closer if Jonathan Papelbon is replaced.”  That’s almost what the initial report said, but not quite.

LBS reader and friend, Andrew Richard, immediately informed Larry Brown Sports about the deal and quoted directly from Olney’s report in which the last words of the above statement were originally “… chance to be the closer after Jonathan Papelbon is replaced.”  A WEEI.com report confirms that those were the words originally included in the ESPN report, via Olney’s source.

So what happened here?  It’s not really a secret that Jonathan Papelbon is going to hit free agency after 2011 and demand years and dollars Boston is unwilling to shell out.  But did Olney’s source hear that Jenks was told he’d have a chance to be the closer “if” or “when” Papelbon is replaced?  Pap may be a dancing fool, but he’s no dummy.  I’m sure he knows he’s gone after this season.  What we aren’t sure of is if he appreciates the Red Sox making it known that his career in Boston has an expiration date, if that’s indeed what they told Jenks.  We’re going to try to email someone at ESPN to see if we can find out what happened.

Cliff Lee to the Phillies Puts Them Into Greatest Rotation of All Time Conversation

The Philadelphia Phillies have been one of the best teams in baseball over the past three seasons, reaching the NLCS three times, the World Series twice, and putting on one big fat ring.

This past season they were the favorites to emerge from the National League for the third straight year, but ran into a destined Giants team that dominated them from a pitching standpoint. The Giants had a very mediocre offense, but their superb pitching was able to get them over the hump. The Phillies clearly took note.

With the addition of Cliff Lee to a staff that already includes Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, Philadelphia has now constructed a pitching staff that is better than San Francisco. It is crazy good. One NL GM summed it up pretty simply: “Oh … my … God.”

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Cliff Lee Says Phillies Fans ‘Don’t Need Teleprompter’ to Know When to Cheer

The Philadelphia Phillies reintroduced their big free agent acquisition today — one that Phillies fans grew fond of during a World Series run two years ago.  Cliff Lee appeared relieved to be back in Philly after being bounced all across the United States over the past two seasons.  Lee, who will wear No. 33 now that Roy Halladay has taken over his old No. 34, spoke about the opportunity to join a rotation that could be “historic,” as he termed it.  He also praised the fans in Philadelphia and cited them as one of the main reasons he chose to return.

The Yankees needed to get Lee and they couldn’t pull it off, leaving Brian Cashman with a rotation that is full of holes.  Lee will likely be praised for leaving money on the table by signing with Philadelphia, but the lefty said it best when he told reporters that “enough is enough” when you hit a certain point.  He turned out to be the Yankees worst nightmare in free agency — a guy who actually cares that fans spit on his wife when he visited Yankee stadium as the opposition more than he cares about a longer, more lucrative deal.

Fans in Texas and/or Seattle might be a little offended by one of the more humorous moments of Lee’s introductory press conference, when he alluded to the fact that Philly fans “don’t need a teleprompter to tell them to cheer.”  If that’s a shot at Texas, Rangers fans will likely take offense.  If it’s a shot at the Mariners, fans will probably be confused and asking themselves what they could have possibly had to cheer for last season.

As far as the money is concerned, Lee will make more per year for the next five than he would have in New York.  The truth of the matter is he probably knows he isn’t going to pitch until he’s 40 so a contract that’s loaded with dollars in its final years wouldn’t really be beneficial.  However you want to analyze it, the Phillies rotation will be one of the scariest baseball has ever seen.

Free Agent Additions Russell Martin and Mark Prior Will Save the Yankees

In an off-season arms race to load up with the best possible talent, you can’t help but get the feeling the New York Yankees are getting lapped worse than the fat kid in P.E. class. We said they had to respond to the Red Sox’s brilliant moves by signing Cliff Lee but the Phillies stepped in and pulled off the shocker. While the Phils have loaded up with Lee and the Red Sox are stocked with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, the Yankees reportedly have packaged the likes of Russell Martin and Mark Prior under the Christmas trees of Yankees fans. Yay, I guess?

Russell Martin is a 27-year-old catcher who can also serve as a utility man in the infield. He’s a two-time All-Star who was a dynamo his first three years with the Dodgers making fans forget about Paul Lo something or other, but he dropped off significantly after that. Demanding to catch more games than is typical for a catcher, Martin burnt himself out in the second half of every single season. It finally caught up to him the past two years as he posted a pedestrian .680 OPS.

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Without Cliff Lee, What Do the Yankees Do With Their Rotation?

The sky is falling in New York right now, but when the dust settles the baseball world will get back to the realization that the Yankees are still one of the best teams in baseball.  No one expected Cliff Lee to turn down years and money to sign with the Phillies, but that’s what happened.  Now, Brian Cashman needs to deal with it.  So the question remains: what do they do now?

The Yankees won the wild card last year and retained every single starter this offseason, so that’s a start.  While a lot of their core players are getting up there in age, there aren’t many people who are concerned about this team being able to score runs — especially playing in the friendly confines of Yankees stadium.  New York’s starting rotation is a different story.  Cashman need not panic just yet, but he should be very, very concerned about his starting pitching depth.

With Andy Pettitte still a free agent, Yankees.com has C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and … wait for it … Ivan Nova listed as the team’s top four starters for 2011.  Who?  Exactly.  To make matters worse, the only one of the four who can be counted on is Sabathia.  Burnett had a terrible year last year and finished with a record of 10-15 and an ERA of 5.26.  Hughes began the year looking like a Cy Young contender, but the league caught up to him a bit before he was eventually shelled in the ALCS against the Rangers.

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Cliff Lee Reportedly Signing Five-Year Deal with Philadelphia Phillies

Cliff Lee has pulled off a shocker and turned down the Yankees and Rangers in favor of the Philadelphia Phillies, according to reports. Both Texas and New York reportedly were informed Monday evening that stud free agent pitcher Cliff Lee would not be signing with their teams. The Yankees reportedly had offered a 7-year deal worth around $150 million for Lee while Texas reportedly offered a variety of options. Instead of an extremely long-term deal, Lee reportedly is taking a five-year deal from the Phillies.

The move is shocking to say the least. Though we don’t know how much money the Phillies have offered, it’s a surprise that Lee is turning down the big bucks from the Yankees. Lee, who is from Arkansas, did not come across as a player who wanted the spotlight and pressure of pitching for the most popular team in the country. Instead, he is going back to the Phillies, the team to whom he was traded in 2009 and helped send to the World Series.

The Phillies will now have Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels in their rotation. Between them, that’s 3 Cy Awards, 13 All-Star games, 2 NLCS MVPs, and one World Series MVP. The Giants proved you can’t give any team a World Series trophy and that you don’t have to have the top free agents to win it all, but it’s hard to say the Phillies and Red Sox aren’t favored to reach the World Series at this point. What a stunner, and what a coup by the Phillies.

Carlos Quentin, Matt Garza Reportedly on the Trade Block

The Winter Meetings in Orlando have ended but that doesn’t mean the trades and signings have been finalized. Cliff Lee still has to sign a deal, Zack Greinke may be traded, and guys like Adrian Beltre, Derrek Lee, and Adam LaRoche are still out there. There are two other names that reportedly are available in trades and both to me can be difference-makers: Carlos Quentin and Matt Garza.

CARLOS QUENTIN, OF, WHITE SOX, 2nd YEAR ARBITRATION

Is he available? The Chicago Sun-Times says he is, Kenny Williams says not really.

Why would the White Sox trade him? They signed Adam Dunn and re-signed Paul Konerko so they have power in the lineup. They need bullpen help and can’t afford to spend more money on free agents, so moving Quentin to get help is an option. He’s also set for a raise entering his second year of arbitration.

Why should my team go after him? Though he’s a career .251 hitter, he has plenty of true power and was an MVP candidate in 2008. You can’t find his pop too many places so he’s worth a gamble that the batting average will improve.

MATT GARZA, SP, RAYS, 2nd YEAR ARBITRATION

Is He Available? Multiple reports said he was being shopped by the Rays at the Winter Meetings and that he still is being shopped.

Why would the Rays trade him? They’ve lost Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena and their only truly reliable bat is Evan Longoria, so they could use some offensive help. On the other hand, they have a surplus of pitching including David Price, Jeff Neimann, Wade Davis, James Shields, and Jeremy Hellickson, so they can afford to deal from a position of strength to fix a weakness.

Why should my team go after him? He’s thrown back-to-back 200+ inning seasons and you know what you can expect from him. He’s reliable, a good strikeout pitcher, and he’s proven he can pitch in the playoffs. Most other teams would want to lock him up, not deal him, so he’ll be a nice addition for a team. He’s also under club control through the 2013 season.