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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Measuring the trades

This column is about one of the most important principles in baseball today, replacement level talent.  Please don't immediately close the window or hit the back button because you don't know what the hell I'm talking about yet, try and make it all the way through the article even when I get a little radical!  Kenny Williams doesn't understand the best way to maximize his resources and because of that he's spending a lot of payroll on spare parts and he's traded a lot of talent for them. 
So far K-Willy has traded Aaron Myette for Royce Clayton, Kip Wells, Sean Lowe and Josh Fogg for Todd Ritchie and Matt Guerrier for Dasamo Marte and Edwin Yan.  Sure none of these deals are going to cripple the franchise but they aren't a strong push towards strengthening it either.  That's a lot of talent gone and a good eight million dollars in payroll added.  Sure almost none of the guys he's given up are major league contributors yet and some like Myette look like they never will be but they had perceived value when they were dealt. 
So what could Kenny have done?  He could have meandered through the bin of replacement level players and found a few guys as good as Clayton, Ritchie and Marte for a lower cost.  Oh yeah there's that replacement level thing again.  Replacement level talent is the best freely available minor league player who can be called upon to fill a major league job.  So not top prospects like a Jon Rauch who would take a lot to acquire, more like the Liu Rodriguezes of the world.
Let's start with last offseason.  Kenny wanted to shore up defense at shortstop, so he got "The Choice" Royce Clayton and had to give up Aaron Myette and pay Clayton 4.5 million.  Alternately he could have traded a PTBNL-type to the Mets for Jorge Velandia an excellent shortstop with the glove by scouting and statistics whose 2000 minor league number put in major league context would give him a 676 OPS, roughly as good as Clayton's 685 OPS in 2000.  The performance difference between Clayton and Velandia in 2000 would be negliable and the money saved is 4 million plus in payroll.  You also keep Myette.
Do the same process with Ritchie.  Trade for and/or sign a few guys to minor league deals, say lefty Rigo Beltran who tore up the AAA International League last year (2-5 2.96 ERA), Steve Woodard who has been a solid starter in the past and Willie Banks who was another great AAA performer (8-5 3.25).  Let them compete for a job in the spring, whoever wins get a rotation spot and could probably put up 200 solid innings at league average quality, at least, the same thing Ritchie will probably do.  The only difference between those guys and Ritchie is one 15 win season two years ago.  Can someone say fluke?  How about we compare Woodard, Banks, Beltran with Ritchie minus his miracle 1999 season:
                          Age       W-L     IP     ERA    K/9     BB/9     K/BB    HR
Todd Ritchie        30    22-26   493   4.67      5.7      2.6       2.2       61
Steve Woodard    27    31-36   632   4.88      6.2       1.9       3.2       83
Willie Banks         33     31-38   571    4.85     6.3       4.5       1.4       60
Rigo Beltran        31       2-3     106     4.34     9.0       3.6      2.5       13
Beltran is tough to compare because his major league innings have been mostly as a reliever but look at the similarity between the three righthanders.  No one would compare Ritchie to Woodard or Banks but if you take out his big season there isn't a big difference.  And who is to say Woodard can't have a big year like Ritchie did?  Woodard is the same age Ritchie was before his big season and has a better track record going in.  I know this sounds a little crazy but Oakland did it with Gil Heredia in 1999 and Cory Lidle last year and they have given the A's a few seasons of good, reliable pitching to go behind their big guns. 
Instead of trading for Damaso Marte, keep Onan Masaoka and give him a chance, Masaoka was even better than Marte when the Dodgers gave him a chance.  Masaoka has a career 4.23 ERA compared to Marte's 5.60.  So this way you save about eight million and you still have Myette, Wells, Lowe, Fogg and Guerrier.  Now you can take that quintet, maybe even add Carlos Lee and trade them for say Brian Giles and maybe underappreciated backup catcher Craig Wilson (Not the former Sox utility infielder, this guy hit .310/.390/.589 with 13 homers in 158 ABs last year) or at least the guy Kenny got in the Guerrier deal, Edwin Yan.  The pure amount of talent given up is too much to pass up on Pittsburgh's part and there is room on the payroll because you've gone with cheap options rather than multi-million dollar ones.  Velandia, Woodard and Masaoka aren't much worse than Clayton, Ritchie and Marte, I think the cheap group could be as good, maybe better.  Even if they aren't as good I think the dropoff is more than worth having a Brian Giles type impact player in the lineup. 
With risk there is reward.  You are more likely to lose your job giving opportunity to Velandias and Woodards and Masaokas but it's cheap enough to let you go out and get a star.  Rightnow I'd say the consensus is K-Willy isn't getting the job done.  I think it's worth risking it with some talented minor leaguers who have potential in exchange for a real upgrade somewhere else.  If Kenny ever figures out holes like "good glove no hit shortstop" can be filled cheaply and money should be spent on players who can dominate the young (for now) White Sox could be a real force to be reckoned with, like the A's.  Until then we'll have to hope for the breaks to come our way.  *sigh* At least Randy Smith isn't our GM.
Editor's Note:  Andrew Ritchie is known by WSI's message board crowd  as Kermitthefrog and writes about the White Sox based on statistical analysis.  Andrew like statistics because it helps cut through the bias when talking baseball.  Andrew pledges to be as objective as possible, but hey--nobody is perfect!  You can email Andrew at

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