View Full Version : BP's Joe Sheehan on the deal

07-01-2004, 02:41 PM
Today, though, I want to write about the AL Central, or more specifically, the Chicago White Sox. Last night's 9-6 win over the Minnesota Twins pushed the Sox into sole possession of first place in the Central. The Sox have the best run differential in the division, the best offense in the league, and the most runs scored in MLB. Their pitching staff has been effective, with the fourth-best bullpen in the league supporting a ninth-ranked rotation. Much of the latter ranking is caused by the ineffective revolving door they've used in the No. 5 slot. Settling on Jon Rauch might have solved that problem, but the Sox instead chose to acquire Freddy Garcia from the Mariners.

On the surface, the Sox gave up far too much in the trade. Jeremy Reed was our No. 2 prospect this year, and while that ranking reflected a weak crop and a big 2003 season for him, even a current list would place him comfortably among the game's top 15 or so minor leaguers. Miguel Olivo is a catcher who does a good job both standing next to the plate and squatting behind it, and at 25, can be expected to improve for the next few seasons while not making very much money. The third player, shortstop Michael Morse, is a Double-A shortstop showing good power this year as a 22-year-old.

Garcia was the best pitcher on the market, pending changes in Randy Johnson's status, but that and his return to competence in the first 10 weeks of 2004 had caused him to be overrated. Garcia's ERA outside of Safeco Field this year was just 3.91, and even that was his best road mark since his career year in 2001. While his strikeout rate and command are both much better in '04 than they were last year, his large home/road split makes it likely that the Sox aren't getting an ace, but another innings-muncher in the Esteban Loaiza mode. Expecting Garcia to do for them what, say, Johnson did for the Astros in '98, is vastly overestimating Garcia's abilities.

This trade was a huge win for the Mariners, who cashed in their most attractive--maybe their only--trade chit and added at least two, and perhaps three, quality up-the-middle players who will work cheap through 2007 or so. Bill Bavasi hadn't done a real good job since taking over in Seattle last winter, but this trade is a good sign for frustrated M's fans.

For the Sox though, even giving up what they did, I like the deal. Flags fly forever, and 2004 may be the Chicago White Sox' best crack at running one up the flagpole for a while. This is not a young team, and it's in first place in part because older players nearing the ends of their contracts--or careers--are having huge seasons. Frank Thomas and Jose Valentin might be elsewhere next year; right now, they're among the best players in the AL. You have to leverage that, as well as things like what may be a fluke season from Juan Uribe (.291/.346/.507, following a career line of .258/.298/.407 coming into this season).

With their best player, Magglio Ordonez, a free agent in three months and considered unlikely to re-sign with the club, this is the proverbial hot iron, and Kenny Williams struck. For a franchise that still operates under the shadow of the white-flag trade in 1997 and perpetual doubts about ownership commitment, this trade is an important moment, and it will be interesting to see how Chicago fans react to such a display.

This division race isn't settled, but the White Sox have the best team right now, and, as strange as this will seem, the best management in place. Competing against a team that can't get its best nine players to the major leagues, much less in the lineup, the White Sox only have to sustain their performance to find themselves back on the big stage in October.


The Wimperoo
07-01-2004, 03:38 PM
Thanks for posting. I basically agree with the author on this one