15 December 2005

Javy Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

The Arizona Republic and the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday that the Chicago White Sox have made a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks for Javier Vazquez. The Pale Hose are sending RHP Orlando Hernandez, relief pitcher Luis Vizcaino, and outfield prospect Chris Young to the Snakes in exchange for Vazquez and cash, who has two years of remaining on the 4-year contract he signed with the Yankees in the winter of 2003, but who announced in November that he wanted to be traded to an East Coast team. No word on when Illinois is trading Chicago to a state on the East Coast.

There are quite a few perspectives on this move, most of which make the White Sox look like geniouses. One view says that they got a very good, front-line starter and gave up only a replaceable relief pitcher, a swing man with a cool nickname who might be 57 years old for all we know, and an outfielder with a lot of potential, which is another way of saying that he hasn't done anything important yet. Looks good for the ChiSox.

Another view says that the White Sox added a LAIM pitcher making about $12 million per year to a rotation that already had four, maybe five guys who are better than him. And spending an extra $12 million in salary to

A) only marginally improve the team in a category in which you are already head-and-shoulders above the competition and

2) keep young and talented starter Brandon McCarthy in the bullpen for another two years...

...does not seem wise. Therefore, we can interpret the White Sox actions in one of three ways.

1) Maybe they don't think that their starting pitching really was all that good, or more accurately, would be that good in 2006, without Vazquez. Maybe they think that Jose Contreras' miracle season was a fluke, and he'll go back to serving up gopherballs at the rate of about one every seven innings. Or they think that Garland's miracle season, in which he somehow cut his walk rate nearly in half, will prove to be a fluke, and he'll go back to being LAIM or worse. Maybe they just can't imagine that they'll get 32 starts or more out of all four of those guys again.

B) Maybe they don't think Brandon McCarthy's really all that good. Sure, at the tender age of 22 he's already proven himself at every level of the minors. He struck out 536 batters in 470 innings while walking only 92 while rocketing through six minor league teams in three and a half years. Sure, he looks like the most talented pitcher to come through the White Sox system since, well, teammate Mark Buhrle, probably. But maybe they felt like they needed some insurance on that.

C) They're not done making moves. The White Sox traded away their centerfielder in the Jim Thome deal, and Brian N. Anderson (the "N." stands for "Not the pitcher") is the only true centerfielder on the roster. Somehow I doubt that his 13 major league games, during which he hit .176 last year, were enough to inspire Ozzie Gullen that Anderson's ready for a full-time job. Scott Podsednik has played CF, but isn't very good at it despite his speed, and anyway that leaves left field open for...Joe Borchard??? Talented? Perhaps. Experienced? Not really. He's hit .191 in just over 100 major league games spread out over four seasons, striking out almost once every three at-bats, so I'm not certain he's the answer either.

Anywho, my money's on option #C, which means that the White Sox will probably use their surplus of starting pitching to acquire an outfielder with some pop. So someone, most likely Garland, is probably on his way out the door, though the rumors have it that he'll be traded for pitching prospects, not a major-league outfielder. Chicago was relatively weak offensively last year, only 9th out of 14 AL teams in runs scored, and they'd be wise to do more than add an aging, oft-injured 1B/DH

to the roster if they want to improve in that category and repeat as AL Central champs. Heck, they had one of those last year, and it didn't do them much good.

In any case, this doesn't seem to have been a move designed for success in October so much as it was for the regular season. Historically, teams with five really good starters (few though they may be) haven't necessarily fared better in the playoffs, when one or two of those starters is relegated to the bench and/or long-relief.

Just ask the Braves.

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1 comment:

Yankees Chick said...

that title pun was pretty bad - - not quite as bad as the ones on ESPN's rumor tracker though..