Dumpster Diving for Starting Pitchers

Zach Putnam, seen here obviously throwing a splitter

James did a great job breaking down the bleak situation the White Sox find themselves in his week in review post yesterday. The picture James paints of the White Sox starting pitching options is pretty grim, and even more troubling is that it is true. The White Sox traded away Hector Santiago, and were relying heavily on the risky trio of John Danks, Erik Johnson, and Felipe Paulino. Unfortunately, Erik Johnson's velocity is gone and they don't know where it went, Paulino was unplayable, and now John Danks is doing his best to push his ERA above 6.00. To make matters worse, half of the two starting pitchers the White Sox have who ARE good, Chris Sale, has been out for over a month now. What now?

To briefly touch on the obvious options: Tommy Hanson and Chris Beck do not look viable right now, for different reasons. There is currently more evidence that Hector Noesi and Scott Carroll can't hack it in the majors than that they can. Scott Carroll and Hector Noesi just got bombed by the freaking Astros and Royals. There have to be other choices somewhere, right? The 2014 White Sox rotation is surely more than a Chris Sale and Jose Quintana away from being the 2013 Twins...right?!

I haven't even mentioned Andre Rienzo yet, because Rienzo will probably stay in the rotation despite the fact that he is giving up 1.8 HR/9, 4.2 BB/9 and only striking out 5.1 per 9. It's like he's a pitcher from the late 40s pitching in Coors Field in the 90s, but hey, his ERA is under 4.50 and some prospect people thought he could be okay so let's go with it.

Who else is left? Dylan Axelrod blew every chance any reasonable human being should get with his performance last year. He's still hanging around, but his ERA is almost 6.00 in AAA so I'm not sure it's going to help to call him up. Surkamp and Leesman seem pretty terrible. So, I'm going to try to get wacky and see if there's anything here that might stick.

Crazy, Emergency Idea #1: Move Zach Putnam to the rotation, call up Javy Guerra to replace him in the bullpen.

Guerra to the 'pen is not the crazy part of this plan. Despite their hideous start to the year, the White Sox bullpen has stabilized nicely of late, lowering its ERA to a perfectly respectable 3.83 on the year. That's while being asked to throw 150 innings already, which places them in 3rd in the majors for most innings by a bullpen - and not far behind the two teams ahead of them (the Dodgers and Rays are tied at 154 IP a piece). Putnam has a meh fastball, but a good splitter - and he knows it, throwing the splitter for just over half of his pitches.

Can he do that while starting instead of relieving? Probably not, but so far it has yielded a groundball rate of 59.1% and he has allowed zero homers in 16.2 IP.* Putnam has only started 15 games in pro ball, none of them in the majors. But, he at least dominated AAA this year and has been very good in action out of the bullpen, and has made appearances longer than 1 inning with some regularity. In fact, his first 3 appearances with the team were all for 2 innings or more. 

If Putnam were to be able to give 5 quality innings every other turn through the rotation it would probably be better than what they're getting now. Guerra has pitched to poor peripherals in AAA, but good results. He's probably good enough to be at the back of a major league bullpen. 

*Watch. He will now immediately give up home runs relentlessly until he is sent down. 

(UPDATE: STUPID REDS!) Crazy, Emergency Idea #2Sign Jair Jurrjens

Hey, they already have Tommy Hanson - might as well add another 20-something whose career was shattered by injury. Several weeks ago, Jon Heyman reported that Jurrjens was trying to make a comeback and was hitting 90 mph in the hopes of finding work.

On the one hand, Jurrjens never really threw that hard to begin with -- Jurrjens hasn't averaged more than 90mph on his fastball since 2010, and he seemed to do just fine. On the other hand there don't seem to be any more updates on his comeback attempt in the two weeks since Heyman broke the news. But hey - he's not Dylan Axelrod, right? 

Crazy, Emergency Idea #3: Trade Gordon Beckham For Someone

The Red Sox could use a third baseman and have plenty of pitchers sitting at AAA - the problem here is that the Red Sox are really deep, and may want to solve the problem internally. What's more, any of their AAA pitchers worth trading for are probably way too good to give up for someone as meh as Beckham. One option might be if the Red Sox feel as though Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, etc. etc. are ready to come up, Felix Doubront becomes expendable and he would probably be an upgrade on what the White Sox currently have.

Unfortunately, it looks like the trade market has gotten weaker for Gordon Beckham instead of stronger if you're looking for pitching. Competitive teams like Tampa Bay, Texas, and the Yankees are all scrambling for pitching as desperately as Chicago is - and frankly, they all have a lot more to lose if they don't find it.

Gordon Beckham is expendable, though, and at this point the staff needs any help it can get. 

Crazy, Emergency Idea #4: Trade Adam Dunn 

Dunn is in the last year of his deal, and has already played through 25% of it, meaning there is only about $11.75 left for the year. If the White Sox were to be willing to pay a percentage of it, he may actually become an attractive option for some team in need of power. Dunn is hitting a very productive .246/.388/.458 so far this season. 

Milwaukee has leapt out to a 27-17 start in the first half, and although there's a lot of baseball left to play those games still count and there's every reason for the Brewers to consider themselves playoff contenders. Even if/when the Cardinals pass them, the rest of the NL Central has stumbled pretty hard out of the gate and Milwaukee should be a strong option for a Wild Card spot.

One of their biggest weaknesses lies at first base, as they are currently deploying a platoon of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay. Replacing Overbay with Dunn would give them a two-headed monster of strikeouts, dingers, and platoon splits. One of the Brewers' strengths this year has been the fact that, although they don't have an ace, they have five good to very good pitchers they can run out there, giving them a chance to win pretty much every game.

The problem with the Brewers as a trade partner is that they really don't have anything left in the minors. If the White Sox are looking for emergency options who could be help now and still be useful once the crisis is over as relievers or spot starters, asking for both of Mike Fiers and Tyler Cravy could be interesting. Both earn the dreaded label "Finesse Righty," but Fiers has had bursts of success in the majors and is eviscerating AAA. Cravy is the younger version, who can actually run it up to 90-91 as a sinker/slider guy, and has posted good results in AA this season.


This is a bad article to write for my pride because I'm basically arguing in favor of terrible options. Feel free to write in about how Putnam is lucky he's holding it together in a limited role or whatever. These guys aren't Plan A or B for a reason. These are plans Q through W. 

It's important to remember that the White Sox' primary goal should be improving their position for 2015, so you don't want to spend any real resources for a stopgap or a rental. At the same time, you don't want to put too much of a burden on Sale and Quintana, or the young arms like Webb and Petricka to soak up innings just because Ventura can't stand using anyone else.

This is what I get for trying to be optimistic. 


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