As we prepare for his Spring debut, Carlos Rodon's likelihood for beginning the season in Triple-A is one of the profoundly unfun elements of modern efficiency-obsessed and cost-conscious major sports. The White Sox have the temptation of an extra season of paying Rodon a suppressed salary, all they have to do is stumble for a few months pretending both Hector Noesi and John Danks are better, or good bets to outperform him during the first part of 2015; a year in which they're said to be competing for a championship.
It's a major philosophical commitment. Back in those old days before the reserve clause was lifted and everyone's wages were artificially suppressed, Rodon probably would have been flinging out of the bullpen in 2014. And since the White Sox have a fairly liberated view of how pitchers can be developed, getting their worth out of the biggest draft bonus they have ever handed is the obvious reason for patience that they will never confirm.
On the premise of keeping things simple, the Tribune's Paul Sullivan thinks the Sox keeping Rodon out of the rotation is a farce, and I'd be inclined to agree, at least in spirit. Anything that prompts this exchange--taken from a scrum with Robin Ventura after the manager denied that Chris Sale's injury boosted the prospect's chances of making the rotation--is worth it.
Alleging that Rodon has something more immediately pressing to work on than the "work inside to a righty without getting mutilated" issue Danks is dealing with is a juggling act the Sox will likely drop whenever it finally suits them, but Sale is not throwing this rather careful approach on its head.
The Sox have done nothing so far to break from their idyllic three-week projection for Sale, which with no need for a fifth starter until April 12, kicks him out of one to two starts. Going down from Sale to Scott Carroll is obviously catastrophic, but we're talking about a couple of starts when they're already sticking with replacement-level work over their top pitching prospect for a couple of months.
This franchise yielded a second round draft pick to sign an expensive closer, and a third-rounder for a left fielder, so they're not exactly slavish devotees to Process now, but this is not the 'ultra sell-out for now' team we've been familiar with in the past. The payroll is under control, the prospects were protected in trades, the Sox still want to avoid dealing with Scott Boras for a year if they can help it, and reasoning that a seventh year of veteran Rodon is worth more than playing rookie Rodon over Danks or Noesi, will do plenty.
If the Sox seem milquetoast on promoting Rodon, that's on purpose, which is how they do things these days.
*Previous version incorrectly said Sox were losing a first round pick because the author forgot about the whole protected pick thing. H/T to David Foss.
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