Former Mariners closer J.J. Putz will be playing for his third team in as many years, signing a 1-year contract with the Chicago White Sox.
According to Joe Cowley's story in the Sun Times, former Mariners reliever and Putz's good friend Matt Thornton helped recruit him to the White Sox. The Detroit Tigers also looked at possibly signing Putz, who is a Michigan native and even had discussions with him. ESPN's Bruce Levine writes that the White Sox might have gotten Putz for a lower price than $3 million if not for a leak a the winter meetings that alerted other teams to the possibility.
Putz became a free agent after the Mets refused to pick up the option on his contract after an awful, injury-plagued year. He appeared in 29 games, posting a 1-4 record with a 5.49 ERA with two saves. However, his season was cut short by elbow problems, eventually leading to surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow.
Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune writes that White Sox management isn't worried about Putz's elbow. They've seen enough in his rehab to be confident he will be healthy and ready to go this season.
It was really just one year ago that Putz was traded by GM Jack Zduriencik in the whopper 10-player trade that brought Franklin Gutierrez, Mike Carp, Endy Chavez and others to the Mariners.
In hindsight it seems like a no-brainer, but I recall a few readers - at the time it happened - wondering if it was a huge risk.
Looking back on the 2008 season though, we caught glimpses of Putz breaking down physically and his performance and velocity regressing. There was the pulled rib cage muscle in the first game of the season, followed by elbow problems in June. He was never the same pitcher. His fastball velocity stayed in the low to mid 90s and he lost command with the pitch.
He won't be expected to close in Chicago, though Bobby Jenks hasn't exactly endeared himself to White Sox management and fans with his erratic outings and ever-increasing waist line. Putz will be the set-up man. But who knows, if Putz can somehow find the velocity, the command and the swagger he had in 2007 when he was the AL's Rolaids Reliever of the Year with 40 saves and Jenks falters, he might move into that role.
At this point, it's fair to assume that Putz is just looking to have one full, healthy season.