During Game 2 of the double header last night, Twitter started buzzing about the fact that AAA 1B/DH Andy Wilkins was getting hugs and congratulations, indicating a potential call-up. Which would mean someone had been cleared off of the major league roster. Given the position Wilkins plays, speculation was that it would be Adam Dunn, but it turned out that Alejandro de Aza had been sent to Baltimore for two minor league pitchers. As I write this, rumors are percolating up to a boil that Adam Dunn will be sent to Oakland, but one thing at a time.
By giving up Alejandro de Aza, the White Sox are giving up a guy whose bat isn't quite good enough to play in the corners, and whose glove isn't quite good enough to be a solid starting CF. The result, though, is a very nice and versatile 4th outfielder. For Baltimore, it means adding another left-handed bat, and a chance to play Nelson Cruz at DH that much more often. White Sox fans probably can think of times de Aza has upset them with his defense, but I am confident that de Aza is an upgrade on Nelson "No, Ron Washington! Put in a defensive replacement! Nooooooo!" Cruz.
The benefit to the White Sox is indirect, as the prospects they received are extremely marginal. Neither Mark Blackmar nor Miguel Chalas has made the Orioles' BA Top 30 in any of the years they've been in the system. Chalas has made two appearances in AAA, and although he has been left in for multiple innings, he is a fastball only guy - and his fastball is 90-93, so when I say Fastball Only it's not in the cool way that Matt Thornton was. He's right-handed, which diminishes his allure even more. Blackmar has a little bit more potential, as he is surviving in High-A at age 22 having made 18 starts. Like Chalas, he hardly strikes anyone out, but his walk rate is pretty good, and he has gotten 4 grounders for every fly ball he has surrendered this season. With velocity in the high-80s-low-90s, one hopes that would tick up a little bit if he were to come in as a reliever. There isn't enough here to think he can hack it as a starter in the majors leagues, but I could see him being a helpful reliever eventually. As we have seen this season, those are handy to have around.
But the main prize here is getting something in return for de Aza while not having to pay him next year. Gordon Beckham and Alejandro de Aza both stood to move into their 3rd and final arbitration year in 2015, and in 2014 they are each making ~$4.2 million. Off the top of my head, that positions them to make between $4.75-5.5 million next year. Beckham was an obvious non-tender candidate, de Aza less so. In this trade, the White Sox get organizational filler, and maybe a reliever someday instead of just non-tendering de Aza, or paying him more money than they'd like to for a bench player/someone they'd like to upgrade. Between the two of them, as Hahn pointed out last night, they stand to save about $10 million next year that can be spent elsewhere.
While Beckham leaving was a relief, I am feeling rather zen about de Aza's departure. Obviously, he never matched the .329/.400/.550 line he posted in 54 games at the end of an otherwise miserable 2011 season, but I will always remember him fondly for providing value off of the scrap heap. The organization was flailing around miserably trying to find anyone who could stand in the batter's box without embarrassing themselves, all their prospects were stalling out, and Juan Pierre was leading the league in PAs. de Aza emerged from outside the organization's plans and provided a league average bat.
So yes, de Aza was frustrating on the basepaths - he stole at a very poor percentage, especially when you factor in the pickoffs at 1B - and he took some weird curlycue routes in the outfield...but he was cheap and was generally more of the solution on offense than the problem. I wish him well, and hope that he shines with the Orioles.
In the meantime, the White Sox continue to position themselves to be big spenders in the offseason. This trade comes on the heels of rumors that the White Sox would pursue Victor Martinez in the offseason. It also frees up PAs for players like the aforementioned Wilkins, or perhaps Matt Tuiasosopo, Michael Taylor, Jared Mitchell, etc. etc.
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