Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein will be lauded from here to kingdom come for adding Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford in the span of a few days last week. And when the New York Yankees lost out on Cliff Lee earlier this week, it seemed to represent a massive shift in the balance of power between the two rivals.
But those moves and non-moves addressed the two teams’ differing needs. Boston may have spoken with Lee’s agent, but they were never seriously in the mix. We may never know if New York really wanted Crawford, given their cheap and productive outfield. And the Yanks were never in on Gonzalez.
The one arena that pits the Sox verses the Yankees this winter is the pursuit of quality relievers, and until Wednesday both teams remained on the outside looking in at a market that was playing into the hands of the players. However, with the news that Boston had signed Bobby Jenks to a two-year deal, the Red Sox have now officially defeated the Yankees in a head-to-head situation, making Epstein’s offseason that much more golden.
Other big-name relievers remain on the market, but their number dwindles by the day. Both Boston and New York saw Scott Downs, Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier disappear in a span of a few days, and Kerry Wood will head to the Cubs. The biggest fish in the pool, Rafael Soriano, is likely looking for a place he can be a closer, and for over $10 million a year. It remains to be seen if either the Sox or Yanks even have any interest in exploring that option.
Jenks, though, was a definitive target for both teams, and the Sox can put his acquisition into the win column. Not only will Jenks, a longtime closer, help solidify the back end of Boston’s once-beleaguered bullpen, he robs the Yanks of a great setup option, of which they continue to lack.
The Red Sox, of course, already have Daniel Bard and can now mix and match Bard, Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon depending on situations and how much use they may be getting. New York, meanwhile, has a gaping hole in front of Mariano Rivera, unless the inconsistent Joba Chamberlain can rediscover his dominance in that role.
That gives Boston two good options where New York has none. That, my friends, is sticking it to the Yankees. Gonzalez, Crawford and Lee — those were just appetizers.
There are some who will forecast a trade of Papelbon now that Jenks is in the fold. Could happen, but not likely given Papelbon’s hefty price tag. It is also a given that the Yankees will import in one or more proven arms, perhaps some on par with Jenks. So, in essence, the situations in both bullpens remain fluid.
In signing Jenks, maybe even more so than with the acquisitions of Gonzalez and Crawford and the exodus of Lee to the National League, the Red Sox have gained a leg up on the Yankees.