Saturday, January 15, 2005

Rowand Signs Long-Term Pact With Sox

Aaron Rowand, who finished last season as the starting centerfielder for the White Sox, agreed to a 3-year, $8.5 million deal. It’s an interesting contract, but I’ll talk about that later. Right now I want to focus on Rowand.

The 27-year-old outfielder was a first-round pick by the Sox all the way back in 1998 (35th overall). He made his debut in 2001, seeing limited action as a fourth outfielder. Rowand had a so-so year with more playing time in 2002, and missed the beginning of 2003 after an offseason dirt bike accident.

After returning from a broken shoulder, the Sox traded for Carl Everett to patrol center in the second half of 2003, so Rowand didn’t get to play full time until 2004. He responded by knocking 24 home runs and 38 doubles while getting on base at a .361 clip.

Rowand doesn’t have great plate discipline, so he’ll probably regress a little bit at the plate. Of course, he’s never been bad at getting on base, and just now turning 27 could be ready to establish a higher peak.

Defensively, Rowand is terribly underrated. He’s posted very good range factor and zone rating numbers every year, and his Rambo-like play is well suited towards center in that he gets to a lot of balls, and he’s less likely to hurt himself.

It’s easy to see how he fits into the Sox’ short-term and long-term plans. A plus defender that can handle the bat: that’s the kind of production you’d like from every position. Even if he gets displaced by one of the outfielders coming up through the system, he could always slide over to a corner spot. If he doesn’t continue to hit enough to play there, he could become a superior fourth outfielder. Or another team’s centerfielder.

The money isn’t a lot, which is a little surprising given that Rowand had a pretty big season, batting .310 and slugging .544. But Rowand does have a history of getting hurt, so it’s a good way for him to hedge his bets by getting some guaranteed money.

Over the last 14 seasons, only four different players have led the Sox in OPS. They’ve been Frank Thomas (10 times), Magglio Ordonez (twice), Albert Belle (once) and Aaron Rowand last year. That’s pretty good company.

Rowand isn’t in the same class as Thomas and company, but he’s still a damn good player. And he’s a fun player to watch. Congratulations to him for getting a nice payday, and congratulations to the Sox for locking up a good player on the cheap.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Funny Thing About Left-Handed Sox Hurlers

Just a funny thought that occurred to me. Six of the last seven seasons, and nine of the last 15, the Sox have been led in ERA by a left-handed pitcher.


ERA Leader


Mark Buehrle


Esteban Loaiza


Mark Buehrle


Mark Buehrle


Mike Sirotka


Mike Sirotka


Mike Sirotka


James Baldwin


Alex Fernandez


Alex Fernandez


Wilson Alvarez


Wilson Alvarez


Jack McDowell


Jack McDowell


Greg Hibbard

Like I said, just a funny thought. The only team I can think of that has been more left-dominated at the top of the rotation in recent history is Anaheim, which up until this past season, when Kelvim Escobar led the team with a 3.93 ERA, had gone 15 straight seasons with a lefty leading the way.

Of course, nine of those seasons came from Chuck Finley. Jim Abbot (2), Jared Washburn (3) and Scott Schoeneweis (in 2000!) were the others.

Interesting bit of trivia that two of those guys also threw for the Sox.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Re-Evaluating the Lee Trade

The White Sox got Travis Hinton from the Brewers earlier this week to finish the Carlos Lee trade. In total, the Sox picked up Scott Posednik, Jose Viscaino and Hinton for Lee. No cash involved.

Hinton, despite the great numbers last year in the California League (.302 BA, 22 HR, 36 2B, 88 RBI in 136 games), is still 24 years old. He’s good organizational filler, and could even show his face around the big club in a few years, but he’s too old to be a real prospect. Four professional seasons and he has yet to hit above A ball.

But lets look at the ledger sheet for the Lee trade. The Sox saved about $7 million, and actually went out and spent it on players. Here’s how it breaks down: The Sox gave up Carlos Lee, and in return and with the savings received Scott Posednik, Jose Viscaino, Orlando Hernandez, Travis Hinton and A.J. Pierzynski.

The Sox are also still in the running for Japanese second baseman Tadahito Iguchi. The latest reports show them about $600,000 apart on a contract. That is a bridgeable gap.

So if the Sox land Iguchi, they’ll have filled holes in the rotation (Hernandez), behind the plate (Pierzynski), in the bullpen (Viscaino) and at second base. And if Posednik craters and leaves a hole in left field, the Sox have other options already within the organization in Joe Borchard, Carl Everett and Ross Gload.

Even if Posednik tanks, and none of the other options work out, it will still be easier to find a left fielder at the trade deadline than most of the other positions that Sox GM Kenny Williams was able to fill.

That’s not bad a bad haul for a player like Carlos Lee, who played well, but was probably overpaid at $8 million per year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Around the AL Central: Recapping Winter Moves

Here’s a look at some of the things going on around the AL Central. It’s been pretty quite, so here’s just a quick recap.

Cleveland adds a much-needed pitcher

The Indians completed a 1-year deal with Kevin Millwood. If the 30-year-old pitcher stays healthy all year, he will make a cool $7 million with maybe another million in incentives. If he hurts his elbow or shoulder, he’ll only get $3 million.

There’s upside here for the Indians, but probably not a lot… especially for the money. Here’s a look at what Millwood has done the last few years:

















How much of the drop-off is due to injuries is the question for the Indians. Millwood’s strikeout rates are still good, so a rebound isn’t out of the question, health permitting. But I think a return to 2002 form is out of the question.

Lets say Millwood pitches like he did in 2003. How much does that help the Indians? Here’s what the Tribe rotation did last year:

Starting Pitcher



Jake Westbrook



C.C. Sabathia



Cliff Lee



Scott Elarton



Jason Davis



Millwood won’t have to do much to be in improvement on the crap the Indians ran out there last year. Don’t forget, too, that Cleveland also gave starts go guys like Chad Durbin (6.25 ERA in 8 starts) and Jeff D’Amico (7.63 in 7 starts). They’ve basically gotten the same production the White Sox have gotten from the fifth-starter spot, but from the last two rotation slots. (The last 3 slots if you consider Cliff Lee’s second-half implosion after a very good first half).

Twins will try revamped infield

The Twins let Corey Koskie sign with the Blue Jays for $17 million over three years, while bringing in Juan Castro for $2.05 million over two years. Cristian Guzman also went to the Washington Nationals (4-years, $16 million).

Guzman was bad. Real bad. A horrible .693 OPS bad in 2004. And that mark beat his career average by eight points. And while Guzman is entering his Age 27 season, he’ll be hard-pressed to replicate his one magical season (2001, when he had an .814 OPS) even once more without better plate discipline (only 30 walks in almost 600 ABs last season).

The Twins have a good in-house replacement waiting in the wings in prospect Jason Bartlett. While Bartlett is too old to have a tremendous upside (he’s 25 right now), his worst probably can’t be much worse than Guzman has been giving the Twins most of his career.

Koskie (.836 career OPS and .837 last season) will likely be replaced at third base by Mike Cuddyer (.779 OPS in 2004). That’s not too big of a drop-off for the Twins considering Cuddyer could hit a little better with more playing time. Cuddyer is also going into his Age-26 season, so still has room for a bit of improvement.

What hurts the Twins worse is that Cuddyer won’t be able to take over the second base job. Right now it looks like Minnesota will run out guys like Luis Rivas (.715 OPS in ’04), Nick Punto (.658) and Augie Ojeda (.598 lifetime OPS).

In other words, while Sox fans continue to bitch about Willie Harris, Twins fans continue to pray for a guy like Willie Harris.

Tigers sit on their paws

The Tigers haven’t done anything since signing Trevor Hoffman to a 2-year, $12 million contract. They overpaid, but apparently felt they had to do something because of incumbent closer Ugeth Urbina’s situation (his mother was kidnapped in Venezuela, and has yet to be recovered).

It’s more of a trade off than an addition, and the Tigers have yet to address their biggest sore spot: the rotation.

We won’t break out a table for this one. Last year no Detroit starter had an ERA lower than Mike Maroth’s 4.31 mark. Maroth (yes, the last 20-game-loser) was also the only Tiger starter to toss more than 200 innings.

Keep in mind that the Tigers play in one of the best pitchers’ parks in baseball.

Detroit seems committed to nominal ace Jason Johnson, and youngsters Jason Bonderman and Maroth (though Maroth will be 27, so isn’t that young anymore). That leaves to spots that could be upgraded.

The Tigers will have to sift through the bargain bin if they want to upgrade those last two spots. That might not be a bad idea, given the crazy money that went to a bunch of non-elite starters this winter. And Detroit could find good value by picking up a guy with some jacktastic tendencies (Esteban Loaiza, Hideo Nomo) and plugging them into spacious Comerica Park. Even if it doesn’t work out, a half-season of a 3.79 ERA from a guy like that could be worth a prospect at the trading deadline.

That’s really the mode the Tigers should be in… thinking a few years down the road instead of next season.

Royals make moves, but still suck

Deciding they didn’t need TWO crappy, soft-tossing lefties in Darrell May and Brian Anderson, the Royals sent one to the Padres for Terrence Long and Dennis Tankersley.

Long isn’t very good, but if platooned properly, would be a vast improvement on the non-production the Royals got from the cast of clowns they ran out to the corner outfield spots last year.

Lima will be a modest improvement, but KC fans expecting him to replicate his great six weeks from 2003 – and yes, there are Royals fans that expect that – will be bitterly disappointed. Tankersley could turn into something useful like a solid middle reliever, but that’s just playing around at the fringes. Those things won’t help this team avoid another 90-loss season.