White Sox May Be Looking To Unload Starter
by Trevor Whenham - 07/20/2006
Quick quiz - name a contending team in recent years that has traded away a quality starter at the trade deadline. Give up? I can't think of one either. Yet that strange step may be exactly what the White Sox, currently in control of the AL wild card race and chasing Detroit for the division title, are looking to do. The White Sox, perhaps more than any team in the league, have a surplus of starters. They also have some needs that need to be filled if they want to go deep in the playoffs. The outfield could use a body. More importantly, though, the bullpen has struggled to hand the game off to closing killer Bobby Jenks.
Jose Contreras' record is an example of the bullpen problems. The starter has a 9-1 record, but, largely due to bullpen failings, the team is only 11-6 in his starts. That needs to improve. If you've been betting on the Sox, you've almost certainly been burned by the pen at some point this year. Cliff Politte was a star in the World Series win last year, but this year he and his 8.70 ERA have been pretty terrible. Dustin Hermanson has been out all year, but is rehabbing well and is close to a return. The bullpen needs a boost.
The ChiSox can afford to let a pitcher go, provided they get value back for him. Their five starters, Mark Buehrle (9-7, 4.43), Jose Contreras (9-1, 3.48), Freddy Garcia (10-6, 5.07), Jon Garland (9-3, 5.12) and Javier Vazquez (9-4, 5.07) have stayed healthy all year, and all through their careers, for the most part. On the other hand, only Contreras has a particularly good ERA. To make it easier to say goodbye, the team has lots of pitching talent in the pipeline. Brandon McCarthy is just 23, he's finding his game in the bullpen, and he's ready to start any day. Behind him are a solid handful of minor league arms who are no more than a year away. With the team in good position they could easily lose a starter, likely Garcia or Vazquez, without missing a beat. Here's a look at who they are rumored to be able to get for one of them, and what it would mean:
To the Mets for relievers Aaron Heilman and Duaner Sanchez: This deal makes sense for both sides. So much sense, in fact, that it probably won't happen. Sanchez has been very good and Heilman is solid, so the White Sox bullpen would instantly be better. The Mets, on the other hand, are already the best team in the NL, but they are doing it essentially with just three consistent starters. Tom Glavine has been great, and Pedro Martinez and Steve Trachsel have been pretty good, but no other starter has more than three wins. With a better arm they would be tough to beat. Martinez hasn't been a profitable bet this year, and the revolving door in the fourth and fifth spot have been a headache, so a solid, profitable arm would be a nice touch for betting.
To the Phillies for Tom Gordon and someone else: Sure, Tom Gordon has been around for a thousand years, but he is closing in Philadelphia and looking good doing it. He would be a great transition to Jenks. The irony is that the Sox had Gordon in 2003. The question, though, is whether the Phillies would want to pick up a pitcher, because they have no hope for this season. They may be interested in prospects instead.
To the Braves for Andruw Jones: Don't look now but the Braves have won seven in a row and are back in the incredibly weak wild card race. Jones is on the block, and the Braves could use an arm. It wouldn't help the bullpen, but it would sure upgrade the outfield. The Braves are an incredibly attractive bet these last couple of weeks, and another arm would only help.
Vazquez for McCarthy: If you take GM Kenny Williams at his word, he doesn't intend to trade a starter. If that's the case, the best move he could make is to demote the disappointing Vazquez to the pen and Give McCarthy 10 or so starts the rest of the year. Vazquez is likely going to be a reliever in the playoffs when they go from five to four starters anyway, so this way we would be spared his questionable consistency and the team could see what they have in McCarthy. Vazquez hasn't helped us make much money this year anyway, so we wouldn't be any further behind from a betting perspective with McCarthy.