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Sox Amongst 8 Teams Interested in Takashi Saito

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Jason Gage

Accountant By Day, Sports Analyst By Night

NBP Tracker, a well respected Japanese Baseball blog, is reporting that the Chicago White Sox are one of eight teams interested in former Dodgers closer and Red Sox set-up man Takashi Saito. Saito would be the third Japanese player to represent the White Sox, joining Tadahito Iguchi and Shingo Takatsu.

 

Saito, 39, has put up a sub 2.50 ERA in each of his first four seasons in the majors. He spent the 2009 season in Boston, where he posted a 2.43 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 50 hits in 56 appearances. Before joining the Red Sox in 2009, Saito spent 3 seasons with the Dodgers, primarily as the closer, saving 81 games while striking out 245 batters in 189.2 innings of work.

 

SN Take:

When Saito first broke onto the scene for the Dodgers, I considered him a fluke reliever, who was getting by more on smoke & mirrors than pure stuff. Four years later, Saito has proven that when healthy, he's an above average reliever. He's struck out on average a batter an inning in each of his 4 big league seasons and has shown success in both leagues. He also fills one of the clubs biggest holes (set-up man) and would provide the club with some leverage regarding Bobby Jenks.

 

If Jenks stays, Saito would team-up with Thornton to provide the Sox with an above average 7th/8th inning righty/lefty combo. If Jenks is traded, hurt, or non-tendered, Saito would set-up Thornton and provide the club with a back-up plan at closer. All of this can be had, at what I expect to be, a fraction of what the club spent on Octavio Dotel in 2009.

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Jason Gage said:

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This would be a real nice move for the Sox. Saito is a veteran that has proven he gets guys out. He appears to be over the injury that cut his 2008 season short and he has shown he can get guys out in the AL.

Add in the fact that he isn't expected to command a huge sum of money and this could be a real nice low-risk signing that helps stabilize the Sox pen.

Saito, along with Carrasco, Linebrink, and Pena is a pretty decent set of right handed relievers.

JimH. said:

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Jason,

In the discussion at SoxTalk there seems to be a prevailing feeling there's a hole at DH. You may want to straighten them out. Both KW and Guillen have stated, several times now, they plan to rotate the DH spot to give them more defensive flexibility.

I do not see them signing a full time DH. They have veteran hitters who can use the at bats (Jones, Kotsay) and guys who can use the occasional break from the field (Konerko, Quentin, maybe even Beckham). Rotating the DH makes sense for the White Sox.

Let's add it up, again assuming no trades:

12 pitchers

13 position players: Catchers (2), An outfield of Quentin, Rios, to be named, and Jones (4). An infield of Konerko, Beckham, Ramirez, Teahan, Vizquel, Kotsay (6). That's 12. However that leaves only one guy to back up three infield positions, a soon-to-be-43 Vizquel. They will need a multipurpose player who can play infield/outfield/pinch run and maybe even be an emergency 3rd catcher.

JimH. said:

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I'm not sure this guy will come cheap. Not surprising they're interested in him though because the bullpen needs help.

The health and success of the bullpen is a huge key to the 2010 team. I expect the White Sox to carry 12 pitchers so after Jenks, Thornton, Linebrink, Pena and Carrasco there are two openings, assuming Randy Williams isn't brought back. If Williams does return, there's one opening and it'd need to be a 7th/8th inning type.

In actuality the team is pretty well set, seeing as it's only the start of December. This of course assumes no trades. They need another OF, a backup catcher, and a 25th man in addition to sorting out the bullpen.

Jason Gage said:

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I think in comparison to what the club is paying Linebrink and what they paid Dotel, he will come cheap. My guess is under 3M a season.

While that isn't pennies, it also isn't incredibly expensive and given where the Sox bullpen ranked last season (18th in ERA, 23rd in WHIP, 26th in BAA, 23rd in OPS)), I'd say adding a guy like Saito would be a nice start.

I also agree with you where the roster stands, although I still believe Kenny has a trick up his sleeve (or will at least try) which will free up some payroll and give him some extra flexibility.

The other question will ultimately be who the Sox look at as there 2nd lefty in the pen. We know Ozzie likes carrying two and hopefully it won't be Williams.

JimH. said:

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I agree, I hope it's not Randy Williams as the second lefthander either. Good guy who has paid his dues but if you're truly shooting for a division title and hopefully a World Series title, aim a little higher.

soxsider said:

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I think nix has to be the last guy. With spring training he will sharpen up his outfield. can play anywhere in the infield(not spectacular). Nix went through a funk last year at short but i do think it was his response to the pressure of starting. And please don't sign crisp. Nix is also the best base stealer on the roster as of now

JimH. said:

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Nix certainly has a shot to be the last guy. However he's on notice with Guillen and so is Lillibridge. Too many strikeouts and they need a better contact guy as the 25th man. At least they have no shortage of candidates in these two plus DeAza and Retherford and whoever they might bring in on a minor league deal.

Also, I do think they will end up signing Crisp and I believe he will be a good fit. Kenny Williams apparently agrees, if reports of his interest in Crisp are true.

JimH. said:

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Also, if one thinks about it, the ability to play 2b, SS, 3B will be more important than playing the OF (for the 25th guy). First off they will add another OF. Second, they have Kotsay and Jones and even Teahan can play OF in a pinch. But only one guy who can backup at SS and 2B and 3B and that's Vizquel.

Plus if they bring in a true DH like Thome, there's no speed on the bench.

It will really depend on the direction Ozzie and Kenny want to go. Based on their comments thus far, I do not see them bringing in a true DH. I think we will see Jones/Kotsay/Konerko/Quentin/Rios all get some time at DH and a guy who can play some defense as the 25th man.

Jeff Buchanan said:

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What's this incessant need for contact hitters? Give me a hitter, someone with actual value on offense over someone who merely puts the ball in play. It's like the speed argument. Sure it's nice to have good, effective baserunners, but ultimately, the ability to get on base and hit for power is going to win you many more games than speed alone will.

JimH. said:

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Are you paying attention to what Williams and Guillen are saying? At all? They want to cut down on team strikeouts, they've said it multiple times.

I base my analysis and comments on what is likely to happen, on what I read /see/hear from team management. I don't base my comments on my own personal biases or fantasy baseball type analysis.

They've been trying to get more contact hitters for a while now. That doesn't mean they won't be good hitters, just guys who don't strike out a ton. Even Andruw Jones with his propensity to strike out brings other things to the table, i.e. power, the ability to draw a walk, and the ability to play a few defensive positions. I keep preaching to you about fit, maybe you will begin to listen.

JimH. said:

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Further to this discussion ... look at what hitters they've brought in over the last 6 months. Kotsay, a good contact guy. Vizquel, a guy who can handle the bat. Jones, a guy who does strike out although not at the level of say, Thome. And Jones draws walks like Thome did but can also add to the team by playing the field. Rios, a guy who had a brutal year but no question he provides good defense.

Teahan is a little baffling but they see something in him they really like so we shall see.

Going back further, Quentin. A good on base guy who also doesn't strike out a ton.

So again ... what fits their direction? They want less strikeouts and better defense and they want to build around pitching. They want more speed, not necessarily base stealers although that can be a big plus. Better speed on the bases and better baserunners. So let me ask you JB, what fits their direction? Not your direction, the White Sox direction?

Jeff Buchanan said:

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So the base for all of your analysis is the assumption that everything Kenny and Ozzie say/do/preach is correct? And you don't see any flaw in that?

Clearly we have different methods of analysis. I just try to look at things from an objective standpoint. What Kenny and Ozzie say is irrelevant to me. I come to my own conclusions by using my own methods.

JimH. said:

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You clearly are having great difficulty comprehending, so I'm not sure it's worth responding. But let's try ...

Nowhere do I say that KW and Guillen are infallible. However I live in reality, the reality of what Sox brass say they want to do and what they've been doing. Again, a fit. An approach.

You on the other hand appear to have a wish/want/hope/I know better approach to analysis. That isn't objective. It's fantasy baseball. Good luck with that.

By the way which one are you on SoxTalk? I can guess but there's a large pool to guess from.

JimH. said:

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By the way, none of my comments should be construed as a slap at Thome. I have the utmost respect for Jim Thome and I do think he has a decent year left in him. But I think his time and fit with the White Sox has passed.

Jeff Buchanan said:

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We NEED more offensive production, i.e. power and OBP. Thome FITS these needs. He certainly wouldn't be my first choice but if he's cheap, I'd definitely take him back.

JimH. said:

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Hmmm, let's see, where is Thome not a fit? He strikes out a lot, 1 in 3 AB's. He can't provide anything on defense. He is slow and unfortunately at age 39 quite injury prone. Nagging injuries which hamper his production big time.

But those are White Sox fits and you have already stated that you don't care what the White Sox brass says.

Jeff Buchanan said:

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But he produces. Strikeouts are only a problem if they hamper your performance to the point where you're not valuable. Thome is valuable, Thome walks, Thome hits for power; strikeouts negated. He's a DH; defensive deficiencies negated. Speed I'll give you.

OBP and SLG hold the strongest correlation to runs scored. Speed, athleticism and contact rates should be seen as bonuses on top of those key attributed, not as replacements for those attributes. The Sox brass can disagree with this all the want, but it won't stop it from being true.

JimH. said:

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Yeah ok. So who are you trying to prove your theories to? Are you trying to prove them to me? If so, you aren't. Are you hoping White Sox mgmt. reads this blog and says "Hey, that Stats Buchanan, he really is a budding young baseball mind, let's find out who he is and hire him!"

It is not all about what holds the strongest correlation to runs scored. It's about 25 guys fitting in a team concept and putting all 25 guys in the best position to succeed for the good of the team. It is not about plugging in the best stats player into each position. Sorry, baseball doesn't work that way.

And who ever said it had to be an either/or? Speed and contact OR power? It doesn't. It's about having a combination and not being too overloaded by one type. However, that's something your stats won't tell you.

Why is it you think the White Sox are saying they want to rotate the DH spot? It's not only because they want defensive flexibility. It's also because they want to give their better offensive players the occasional physical break of not having to play in the field. Thereby keeping them fresher and more likely to produce to their potential? See? Another piece of analysis your stats won't tell you.

But I forgot, you don't care what Sox mgmt. says because it appears you're too wrapped up in the notion that YOUR methods of analysis are superior. LOL.

JimH. said:

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The only time strikeouts are negated, in a way, is if it's a really good at bat. That is to say, the hitter makes the pitcher work and it wears the pitcher down. Just like a speed guy can mess up a pitcher.

Other than that, strikeouts are not directly negated by anything.

One could say, hey, Thome will strike out 3 times and then hit a game winning HR. The flip side is, he could strike out 3 times in key situations and then hit a solo HR when the Sox are losing 9-2 in the 8th inning.

Sox brass wants to cut down on strikeouts. I don't blame them, it's a good approach. Whether it gets accomplished or not is another story.

Jason Gage said:

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If we are debating whether Jim Thome is a better fit as a starter than the combination of Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay than I'm going to have to side with Thome.

Jones is a prolific strike-out hitter. In fact, you could make a lot of comparisons between Thome's offensive abilities and Jones. Both rely on walks to have a high OBP, both strikeout a lot, and both have a lot of power.

The difference is Thome has put up more solid numbers over the past year and the fact that in his premiere defensive outfielder.

I also want to point out that I want nothing to do with Thome, Kotsay, or Jones starting on an everyday basis, even if it was a grand platoon amongst those guys.

A world series caliber club should not have to resort to that early in the season, just like a so-called playoff contender shouldn't have had to resort to starting Dwayne Wise on opening day at the top of your order.

The Sox might go that approach but I will not agree with it and do not find it to be a good approach, but given where they stand financially I realize we might just be stuck with that.

And if that is the case, than I think Kenny deserves to take some heat because he put the team in a spot where they don't have the financial flexibility that he'd like it to have.

I still think this team is in a good spot either way, but I think they have major offensive holes and ignoring two key spots of the order isn't a way of fixing them (ie DH, and leadoff).

JimH. said:

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Now of course there is a chance Thome does indeed come back to the White Sox. The scenario might unfold where the White Sox can't land the OF they want. It's possible but not likely. Also someone could get hurt in spring training. So I would never say never but by virtue of them saying they plan to rotate the DH spot around, it appears unlikely. This message brought to you by Reality Baseball Analysis.

Jason Gage said:

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I think there is a good chance the Sox look at Thome later on down the road. They themselves have said they will look at DH at a later point in time and what I have heard is that the club internally told Jones he will be a bench player, plain and simple.

That to me would indicate that he won't be a key cog in a rotation DH and I'm glad to hear that because signing Jones to be a relative regular and hoping he figures things out isn't a great idea for a contending team, imo.

Signing him to use him on the bench is a great idea, and if he earns his way into a starting job, so be it.

For all intents and purposes, I have heard the Sox are looking for impact bats and that will be there focus now that they've filled up most of the holes and have a lot of roster flexibility (ie, Omar/Jones on the bench, Teahen at 3B, 2B, or OF) and at the very end focus on DH.

How they get that big-name, who knows, but I expect one to two pretty big trades to go down between now and opening day. I think one clears payroll, the other brings it in.

JimH. said:

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I would never ever put an impact trade past Ken Williams. Bottom line the whole landscape of the roster could change with a huge trade. Which would throw all this analysis out the window for the most part.

He is always looking for impact guys, whether it's Peavy or his attempt to get Miguel Cabrera or several other scenarios from the past.

Remember though he brought in two impact guys this past summer. Rios hasn't been an impact addition yet but he will bounce back. So some of the heavy lifting has already been done.

Jason I think Andruw Jones will get lots of at bats in March and further, if his swing is all messed up I do not think the Sox will have a problem paying off his contract and letting him go. Obviously they think he has something to offer and the only way he can find out is to play him. I do think if he makes the team he will get at bats at DH.

Jason Gage said:

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I agree with all of the above and I do think he will get at-bats as a DH, but I think the club and Ozzie are pushing for him to be in shape and be able to get at-bats as the clubs back-up outfielder.

He is better defensively than Kotsay and more capable of handling CF on a back-up basis than Mark.

However, I do know everything we've heard on Jones is that he will not be getting significant playing time, which tells me he won't be part of a rotating DH.

I expect Kotsay to get the bulk of the bats off the bench because he is a far superior player to Jones, imo. I think Kotsay has a much more low-maintenance swing which will make him a more effective bench guy.

However, clearly, for 500K, Jones was a no-brainer to give a shot and I think he's much more an alterantive-depth plan.

The interesting thing is, before signing Jones, Boras brought up the name Joe Crede. Apparently Kenny had a pretty long conversation with Boras, which is strikingly odd given the organizations stance with Boras clients.

Mario Scalise said:

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I really hope Thome isn't in the plan, especially if Guillen is going to continue to carry 12 pitchers. Can't waste one of 13 position spots on Jim Thome when you already have Quentin and Konerko on the team that are limited.

My hope is that the Sox bring in another outfielder, third baseman or first baseman, which would allow them to play Quentin at DH more, with Konerko and others rotating in as well.

JimH. said:

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Mario, all indicators point to exactly what you're saying. The last several years they've carried 12 pitchers. With 13 position players, they'll need more flexibility, especially with the need to get Konerko/Quentin more rest, or at the very least get them off the field.

The point you make is exactly why Guillen and KW have been saying they want to rotate the DH. It is why they are placing emphasis on building the bench because there is a domino effect. A strong bench allows them to rotate guys in and out.

One thing for sure, they'll bring in another OF.

Mike Thomas said:

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Bring on Saito. A team can never have to many quality arms in the pen. If they can add Saito I really like the this team is shaping up. Bring on spring training the Bears suck.

Jeff Buchanan said:

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I do have some reservations about Saito, namely his declining BB%, K% and HR%. Plus he's not young. I wouldn't feel confident giving him a significant multi-year contract, something he may well garner.

JimH. said:

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On this we agree. I base my opinion on his arm troubles of recent years. And yes, he is either 40 or pushing 40. Further I don't think he will come cheap.

Jason Gage said:

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That is the big question, his cost. If you can have him on the cheap, its a great move. If he's looking for a 2yr deal worth 8-10 million than it would be a foolish signing.

And for what it is worth, I expect Linebrink, Pena, and Jenks to be significantly better than they were in 2009.

The question will be whether Thornton is close to as good and whether DJ stays as effective.

Jason Gage said:

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I think if you go the Saito route, you don't go longer than a 1yr deal with options for a 2nd year, with a buyout.

I also am reserved to give him more than 3M a year. He is old, had an injury to end his 2008 season and as you point out has had some declining numbers.

At the same time, he still is striking out guys at darn near a clip an inning and put up pretty darn good numbers while playing half of his games in a hitters park (Fenway).

I also like the flexibility he would bring to the bullpen.

NadaSurf2009 said:

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I pay no attention to what idiot fans think, therefore I will make this next statement...
One of the guys I would like to see in the Sox's bullpen (NOT STARTING ROTATION) is Jose Contreras.
He has a terrific split finger and would be great out of the pen.

Jason Gage said:

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Contreras is reportedly considering playing in Japan next season. He did a great job for Colorado down the stretch but I don't believe he has the stuff to be a solid starter.

He isn't a bad spot-starter, but Contreras doesn't profile well as a reliever, imo. He gives up stolen bases, so he'd struggle with inherited runners, and he walks a lot of guys. Add in the fact that he has very little experience out of the pen and I think their are better options for the Sox pen, imo.

soxsider said:

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I would not like contreras changing a flat on the bus let alone seeing him on the field. Yes he has a good split when it is on. Other times he can't control it to save his life. Saito would be ok for cheap. Thome would fit a need for a left handed power bat. At the same time with these signings it looks like were tryin to cash in on social security not make a run. Granted they were both cheap signings but jones is washed up. Not the same defensive player he was in the past and would much rather like to see a younger player get a chance in a reserve role. Vizquel makes sense to me but another utility guy would be nice. Linebrink needs to bounce back, pena i still have my worries about and jenks thanks for the past but i think you may be changin you zip code pretty soon.

soxsider said:

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Also i do not tink that dj will be reliable with a different role. He gives us alot of hits first of all. When he came in last year with runners on they hit 324 against him. Hes also not a role pitcher like coming in to get a k or ground ball so i think he is most effective as a long guy. But then what to do with Hudson because many have expected him to come up as sort os a dj role. And also if jenks moves we need a lefty

Jason Gage said:

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I agree with you completely on DJ. I think DJ's value is his ability to come in during the 5th or 6th inning of games that we are behind and keep it close. Sometimes he'll have it, other times he won't.

I don't think he profiles as a guy who will be a good set-up man. I love him as the long-man, in fact, I believe he's one of the most valuable in baseball given his ability to work a ton of innings over multiple days.

The guy is a horse, but he's a horse that should rarely see the 8th/9th innings, imo.

I'd expect Hudson to open the year in AAA. I think the Sox will eventually bring him up, but it will be to replace Garcia when his arm falls off, haha.

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