Please let me know if you also think this would be a great title for a children's book. Regarding baseball, apparently while I slept the White Sox made two rather huge additions (and possibly some significant subtractions) in trading Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, and a third, unknown player for Jeff Samardzija from Oakland and signing David Robertson from the Yankees. Here are my initial reactions:
- Fills a huge need. As has been discussed at length, heading into the season the White Sox starting rotation was Sale-Quintana-Danks (because we have to)-Noesi- Mystery Pitcher (maybe Carlos Rodon at some point). It was an area of weakness last year and figured to be one again. Samardzija profiles as something like a #2-3 starter who throws right-handed. The White Sox haven't had a pitcher who fits that description in quite some time.
- It might buy Rodon some time. For all that I'm really excited about Rodon, I would hate for the White Sox to mess with his development in an attempt to push for the playoffs. With Samardzija on board, Danks and Noesi are pushed into the much more palatable roles of #4 and #5 starters (and there is still room to replace one or both of them if need be). It takes away a lot of the temptation to push Rodon to the rotation before he's ready. I mean, he might be ready out of Spring Training, but if he isn't, I'd like him to be able to take his time and work on what he needs to work on to maximize his potential.
- If 2015 doesn't work out, you can always trade Samardzija or collect a draft pick. If the White Sox aren't as good as they clearly hope they will be, they can always trade Samardzija at the deadline. The value they'd be swapping wouldn't be as high as last year's return at the deadline or even what the White Sox gave up for him, as it would be for a month or two rather than a season-plus, but it would be a way to mitigate losses. People have been criticizing Billy Beane saying, "He turned Addison Russell into Marcus Semien!" And yes, in a vacuum that would be a poor decision. But he didn't JUST trade for Samardzija and Hammel - he traded to increase their probability of winning in the playoffs in 2014. It didn't work out, but there are no sure things in baseball.
- If they don't trade Samardzija, they should get a compensatory pick out of it. As seen below, the White Sox will surrender their second round pick in this year's draft to add David Robertson. I have read that this year will be a weaker draft, so maybe that's not the worst thing in the world. They can also start to make up for it with the addition of Samardzija. Presumably, after 2015 when he becomes a free agent, Samardzija will be looking for his big free agent payday. The White Sox can tender him a qualifying offer - probably something like $16 million next year - and receive compensation in the form of a pick following the 1st round, which is higher than the pick they will be surrendering for Robertson, and will potentially come in a stronger draft class in 2016. Or, maybe there's a scenario where he accepts, but presumably the White Sox wouldn't offer it if they thought him accepting would be a bad thing.
- Samardzija is no sure thing. He's a pitcher, so there's always risk there. And although scouts have loved his build, athleticism, and velocity for a long time, he has generally been more Above Average than Front Line Starter for the bulk of his career. He misses bats, doesn't walk too many guys, but is a bit homer prone. It's a little nitpicky, but setting appropriate expectations for a player is a big step toward happiness.
- Semien and Bassitt are probably gone, as is another prospect. We still don't know for sure, although those first two names keep coming up and people seem pretty sure about them. If the third prospect is Trayce Thompson, I wouldn't care in the slightest. If they PTBNL and wind up trading, say, Spencer Adams, I will be very sad although I would understand. Semien is a highly flawed player, although he fits the A's and had some growth potential still in him. He can play 3B/SS/2B and even some outfield and has patience and power. Chris Bassitt looks like very useful depth as a back end starter or reliever. I can see both of them thriving (in their limited capacities) in Oakland.
- It fills a need. We've spoken at length this offseason about how the White Sox bullpen is an area that really needed improvements, particularly in the area of relievers who can strike people out. Robertson certainly checks those boxes.
- He's not too old. Robertson will be signed for ages 30-33.
- He's really good. I have already spoken about it at greater length over here, but Robertson has been a really good pitcher for a really long time and in some respects has still been improving over the last few years.
- He's a reliever and four years is a long time. Relievers are particularly susceptible to variations in performance and injuries. Four years is a really long time to commit to one.
- It's a lot of money. On the one hand, free agency has less and less available as years go by, and so having surplus money might not mean as much as it once did. But still, if they gave David Robertson their Melky Cabrera money, it can be argued that the latter would be more useful to the team than the former.
- It does cost a draft pick. For all that I have spoken above about how the two moves together may be a net positive pick-wise (although that's not certain), it costs a second round pick, which we have seen can have good value.
The 2015 Chicago White Sox
The White Sox offseason - which still really has a long way to go before it is done - when taken as a whole gives the clear indication that Rick Hahn thinks the team can compete for the playoffs in 2015. I am increasingly persuaded by the notion that, "Hey - Sale, Quintana, Abreu, and Eaton are in their primes now - let's go for it." Alexei Ramirez is probably as good as you're going to do at shortstop for a long time. The team has a lot of money to spend. The division is looking quite winnable - even for the AL Central. Although trading Semien and Bassitt hurts your depth at the major league level now, as well as some of your flexibility moving forward, they should be fungible for a team like the White Sox. They were certainly very low investment in terms of draft picks.
There are still needs, although two of the biggest ones were addressed for 2015. This also answers the question of whether the White Sox plan on competing in 2015 with an unambiguous, "Yes." Presumably this makes the White Sox more likely to add in LF, not less.