By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- On the face of it, the news that Bobby Jenks was placed on the disabled list (for the third time this season) Saturday seemed to increase the odds that the Red Sox will look to add a reliever by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Except for this: the Sox were already looking at the reliever market with an eye toward a bullpen upgrade.
And this: the Sox don't believe that Jenks will necessarily be sidelined for long after a second bout with back spasms.
And finally, this: there are some Red Sox talent evaluators who believe they have better pitching options within the organization than anything they might be able to get in a trade.
It would have been nice for Jenks to remain healthy and prove to the Red Sox that he can contribute over the final third of the season. To date, his inability to stay off the DL and failure to pitch consistently when he has been healthy have marked him as an expensive (6 million) disappointment.
When the Sox signed Jenks to a two-year, 12 million deal last winter, the idea was that he would give them another late-inning power arm to share the set-up load with Daniel Bard, as well an experienced closing options for games in which Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable.
Neither role has been realized because of nagging injuries and poor performance.
The trade market for relievers, of course, is a crowded one, with virtually every contender intent on improving their pen. The few proven relievers available will command inflated prices in what is a seller's market.
The Red Sox, of course, gave up three top prospects to land Adrian Gonzalez last December, a deal they would do again in a heart-beat.
But having traded their best pitching prospect (Casey Kelly), their best position player prospect (Anthony Rizzo) and a former first-round pick (Reymond Fuentes), the team's inventory has been somewhat picked over.
The Sox still have enough top prospects to make a deal, but must ask themselves: is it worth surrendering yet another top young player for two months of a reliever to pitch the seventh inning?
The answer, likely, is no, particularly since the Sox have some internal options. Felix Doubront, who has started most of the year, could help provide a hard-throwing lefty, just as he did in August last year before a neck injury cut short his season in the first week of September.
Matt Albers, as much of a pleasant surprise as Jenks has been a disappointment, has evolved into a late-inning option by virtue of the job he's done to date.
If starter Clay Buchholz doesn't return to the rotation in the next few weeks, that could alter the depth and create additional urgency.
If the reliever market is spotty, the starter market is almost non-existent. Andrew Miller, who has pitched well in four of his first five outings, could go to the bullpen and contribute when Buchholz returns healthy. If Buchholz remains sidelined, Miller remains anchored in the rotation, eliminating one fewer relief option and further limiting what the Red Sox can do.
If Jenks comes back and helps, it must be considered a bonus. If he doesn't, the Red Sox have amassed the best record in the league without him.
It's hard to see, then, that Jenks' continued absence is going make the Red Sox any more aggresssive than they planned to be at the deadline.