Linebrink near deal with White Sox
Righty reliever reportedly agrees to four-year contract
CHICAGO -- One of baseball's shakiest bullpens from 2007 appears close to adding a major stabilizing force for the '08 campaign.
According to a report on Wednesday night from ESPN 1000 in Chicago, the White Sox and Scott Linebrink have agreed to a four-year, $19 million deal. General manager Ken Williams issued a no comment when asked about the possible signing via e-mail, but a source close to the situation said the deal was pending a physical and might not become official until early next week.
The right-handed setup man posted a 3.71 ERA over 71 games in total for the Padres and Brewers in 2007. During an eight-year career covering 384 games, Linebrink has a 30-16 record with a 3.21 ERA and 378 strikeouts in 442 2/3 innings.
Linebrink, 31, drew attention last season when his trade from San Diego to Milwaukee was greeted with a less than rousing round of support from the Padres players, with a veteran hurler on a playoff contender traded for a group of three basically unproven pitchers. Heath Bell's emergence as the setup man to closer Trevor Hoffman made Linebrink a bit more expendable.
After coming up with the best effort of his career in San Diego during the 2005 season with a 1.83 ERA in 73 2/3 innings, Linebrink's ERA has risen to 3.57 and 3.71 over the past two seasons. He allowed 12 home runs in 2007, after yielding just 13 long balls in total during the previous two campaigns.
If Linebrink passes his physical, he will pitch for his fifth team in his career, but his first in the American League.
Adding Linebrink would mark the second major move of the offseason for Williams, following the Jon Garland-Orlando Cabrera trade on Monday. Williams expressed in no uncertain terms during a recent conference call how he was bound and determined not to have a repeat performance of last season's 72-90 showing.
Pitching coach Don Cooper expressed a desire for one or two veteran arms as far back as September, after watching the White Sox relievers finish with a 5.47 ERA -- its 2007 collective mark signaling the team's worst since at least '57.
"We are going to continue searching for support in the bullpen," said Williams during Monday's conference call to announce the Cabrera acquisition. "This move gives us few extra dollars to add to the pursuit."
With the reported $1.5 million dollars the White Sox received from the Angels in the Cabrera-for-Garland exchange, along with the salary differential between the two players, the trade almost would work out as a Garland for Cabrera and Linebrink deal. Linebrink joins a returning group of relievers, including Matt Thornton, Ehren Wasserman, Boone Logan, Mike MacDougal and other possible young contributors in Nick Masset and Adam Russell in setting up closer Bobby Jenks.
MacDougal, who struggled mightily with a 6.80 ERA in 2007, is signed through '09 with a club option for '10. Thornton's deal also runs through 2009, with club options for both '10 and '11.
Jenks, who posted 40 saves for a second straight year and tied a Major League record by retiring 41 straight opposing hitters, stood as a staunch supporter of his struggling teammates. But Jenks recently acknowledged that a veteran infusion could help the bullpen.
"Going with a lot of live, young arms didn't work for us," Jenks said. "It did in the beginning, and they have the stuff to have a future.
"But that's what hurt us. The experience level wasn't there. Going out and pitching every day is how you learn, but it was hard at the time, because everyone was learning at the same time and it made things look a lot worse."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.