A somewhat decent way of gauging the value of a free-agent prospect is to poll the opinions of fans of their former teams. This practice becomes significantly less useful for Jesse Crain and Will Ohman, whose notable former teams include the Twins and the Cubs; fanbases that in varying degrees have contempt for the White Sox, and want them to fail.
While Crain registered with his old supporters as useful but not irreplaceable, there'll be no one stepping out to wax poetic on Will Ohman's tenure. Not the Cubs, the team he came up with and spent the bulk of his career with, nor the Braves, nor the Orioles, nor the Marlins, and sure as hell not the Dodgers. It's an endless wave of "Good luck with him [expletive]s" comments.
That would be because Ohman has spent the last few years being acquired in a way similar to how the White Sox nabbed him; a late-entry slapped on to round out a bullpen rotation, but never a building block. He's pitched only 273 innings and recorded 3 saves in a major league career that began in 2000. In other words, it's atypical to use Ohman a lot, or when it matters, and that's probably for a reason.
As such, no one has ever bothered to sign Will Ohman to a multi-year
deal (because how can you guarantee you'll be one middling reliever short
year-to-year), and no one has ever paid the man who has compiled under 2
WAR in his career over $2 million a season (because who are you
outbidding?). But as the state of the Sox farm system is, all major
league slots need to be filled with major league players, and if there
is a glowing word I can provide on Will Ohman it is that yes, he is a
major league baseball player.
To land Ohman, the White Sox
whipped out the m.o. that they've used to the point of exhaustion this
off-season; shell out exactly one more guaranteed year than the rest of
the free market is willing to give. It's certainly not the shrewdest
approach, but it's allowed them to get a lot of deals done. Some fans like it when they're team is repeatedly willing to overpay.
you're going to pick up a Will Ohman, 2011 is a fine time to do it.
He's coming off a bit of a bounce-back season after a disastrous and
unhealthy 2009, his strikeout-rate was excellent (9.21 K/9) and
his groundball-rate (46.1%) was indicative of someone who can pitch in
U.S. Cellular without the PA announcer warning fans in left field
first. Even though Will doesn't have the control worthy of a man who
can be trusted, there's no reason that the nickname "Randy Williams: The
Sequel", or just "The Sequel" will be needed....at least not until May.
question, and the source of great amounts of hand-ringing, is Ohman's
role. In a vaccuum (where things are always better), Ohman is a decent
pick-up, but certainly no impact player. If he were to, say, be subbed
in place of an impact player (such as Chris Sale), well....people will notice.
Ohman's 2010 splits (FIP: 3.16 vs. L, 5.04 vs R) suggest he's suited to
be lefty specialist--or simply, not-suited to face righties--that's not
necessarily the way he's been used (238 PA vs. R, 241 PA vs. L),
and it would seem that an extra left-handed reliever might push out
Chris Sale to the rotation. This would move things toward a war between
getting the maximum value out of Chris Sale, and the maximum value out
The max value for Chris Sale is as a starter. This means
giving him the 5th slot until Peavy returns, and cultivating him in
Triple-A afterward until a slot opens up via trade or injury. Sale was
always meant to be a starter, and this is probably the most value for
the Sox in the long run, but...
The max value for 2011 is with Chris Sale
operating as known-dominant commodity at the back of the bullpen. It
gives the White Sox two closing-quality pitchers, one of whom is capable
of going multiple innings with ease, and a lot of versatility. It's
what Don Cooper prefers for Sale at the moment, and starting can always
wait, can't it?
Subsequent moves will reveal the White Sox
intent--and they may very well flip one of the starters for more
offense--but developing young players while the big club suffers has
never been this team's style. Sale could start this year, but taking
time to groom in the minors while the fate of actual games rest on Will
Ohman's shoulders is improbable.
2 years, $4 million, and
broad-sweeping relevance across the organization? Man, this really is
the greatest contract of Will Ohman's life.
Jim Margalus at South Side Sox has a more concise and focused analysis of Will Ohman's potential impact on the White Sox.