Recently there's been the news that the rest of the league is hot-to-trot for cheap and wildly talented reliever Sergio Santos and wish to make a trade. It's also been learned that maybe the White Sox should trade John Danks already seeing as they haven't made him a real extension offer since 2009. Finally, on Tuesday, it was reiterated that while interest has been tepid, should a legit offer come along, Matt Thornton can be waiting on the corner with an overnight bag and a sandwich within an hour.
The matter of the Elder Danks is dependent on what direction the White Sox want this off-season to take; a controlled re-tooling or razing everything to the ground with acid.
But as for the relievers, or really any of the relievers mentioned, the White Sox would be well-advised to keep an open mind to selling some of the most consistently overvalued players in baseball. Not to criticize the White Sox relievers--they're great, I love them!--but relievers in general. Overvalued.
For example, the SB Nation Free Agency Tracker indicates 4 major league relievers have been plucked so far. They can be classified as follows:
Great Relievers Coming Off Terrible Seasons Where Health Was a Factor
Jonathan Broxton - 1 Yr/$4MM
Joe Nathan - 2 Yr/$14.5MM
A Good LOOGY
Javier Lopez - 2 Yr/$8.5MM
An Elite Reliever
Jonathan Papelbon - 4 Yr/$50MM
In this crazy world, Thornton's thought-to-be onerous 2 additional years on contract at $12 million total fits in nicely as a grade up from Lopez--as Thornton would be a fantastic LOOGY--or considering that he's a great reliever who had a merely 'good' 2011 season, comfortably in Nathan's territory...seeing as he's two years younger.
The only caveat being that Thornton is missing the 'proven closer' stink, but he otherwise fits in with the pricing of this market enough to register as a moderate asset, especially as demand accelerates in the Winter Meetings.
Santos, under contract for 3 years for $7.5MM, with three more reasonable team options after that, along with impressive talent, closer experience, and very little wear-and-tear, is somewhat off the scale in a reliever market that just hosed down Jonathan Papelbon with money.
As a skilled reliever signed to a very reasonable contract, Santos is a fine asset--and a joy to watch--but is ultimately filling a role that is often a haven for failed starters, lower-ceiling prospects, and even converted shortstops. On a team with relievers to spare, no less.
Come to think of it, $9MM for 2 more years of Jesse Crain seems pretty reasonable for the current reliever market as well.
The accelerating costs for relievers should make the White Sox wary of tossing out their entire pen in a fire sale, because they have no farm system and re-stocking the pen entirely even with buy-low candidates could be surprisingly expensive.
However, the Sox are limited in the ways they can replenish their roster, but with their strong holdings in an overvalued portion of the free agent market--with Addison Reed ready to step into a high-leverage role and Will Ohman ready to graduate to lefty-specialist from 'goofily-used mop-up man'--it's an avenue through which they can acquire young talent with minimal damage.
Ultimately, it's likely that the White Sox are going to cripple the current 2012 team's playoff chances when the heart of the starting rotation departs in an effort to re-tool the roster for the future. That's all the more reason not to commit to the current bullpen lineup. What are they going to save if everything else is going to hell anyway?