The White Sox are said to want another right-handed reliever. Some have even said that they covet one. First, Ozzie Guillen said it, which meant it didn’t necessarily have to be taken seriously. Then Jon Heyman said it, which if nothing else gave it more credibility because it was another human being saying it, and now MLB Trade Rumors runs with it regularly. In all likelihood, the White Sox actually do want another right-handed reliever.
I’d like to work on my calligraphy, perhaps even take lessons. I’ve hardly done any since 4th grade Art class, but it’d be really cool and beneficial for my handwriting in general. My signature would become very unique, I could write letters to my friends, and I’d never spring for pre-made greeting cards again; because just writing ‘Happy Birthday’ in fancy letters would be decorative enough. Before I work on that though, I’d rather find a new apartment, buy a new car, get a raise at work, get offered a raise to go work somewhere better, and buy an air conditioner because it’s 300 degrees outside. Frankly, those problems are so pressing, that even taking the time to consider calligraphy (even the amount of time it takes to write just a single paragraph) seems like a waste. People type everything out nowadays anyway.
So in that vein, it’s a bit perplexing that the White Sox–three games under .500 and saddled with a thoroughly uninspiring offense–are waxing poetic on what could be if they had just one right-handed arm more when their bullpen is
A) Not nearly as important as the offense and
B) Clearly not a problem.
The White Sox bullpen was 5th in the AL in ERA going into Tuesday night, but they’d get my bet to finish 1st thanks to their commanding lead in xFIP. Those are seasonal totals too, meaning they include the horrendous start to the year where Matt Thornton was struck with divine comeuppance for every sin he’s ever committed in life at once.
Those times are over now. With Thornton and Chris Sale clearly on the rebound from rough beginnings, and Tony Pena still buried
alive in Charlotte, there’s plenty of reason to expect continued dominance. There have certainly been some bad losses where the bullpen ceded a late run or two that very directly swayed the final result, but the number of those occurrences look trivial when stacked against the number of times the offense has asked “Hey, could you hold onto this one-run lead for me for five minutes while I go to the store?” and then driven away cackling maniacally.
Oh sure, the ‘pen could be better. This is a team that on occasion hands the ball to Brian Bruney with a small lead in the late innings to face right-handers, under the guise of resting the actually reliable Jesse Crain. They don’t need to do that, but they do, and if the Sox replaced Bruney with someone better to pitch at inexplicable times he’s been getting inserted into games at, then the bullpen’s total performance would indeed improve slightly.
A pointless degree, most likely, but it’d be easy to do, because fixing bullpen staffs is generally an easy, feasible task. Adding bullpen arms is cheap, removing bullpen arms is cheap, and the marketing department didn’t make the mistake of launching a series of commercials of Brian Bruney running in slow-motion that would make it awkward if he were gone. He won’t be missed.
Thanks to the patience and/or obstinance of White Sox management, fixing an offense 10th in the AL will wind up being just as easy. Brent Lillibridge’s troubles with pitches that move without warning has cropped up again, and Brent Morel is blatantly not a major-league hitter at the moment (Omar Vizquel probably isn’t either, but that’d be another hard decision). Mark Teahen can gobble up Morel’s starts as he heads back to Triple-A, and the White Sox can continue to start anyone besides Lillibridge, and probably won’t even have to foot the prorated amount of his $430K salary when they designate him for assignment. Whether they make one move or both, it’ll be cheap, painless, and easy.
It would have been far more difficult for the front office to DFA clubhouse favorite Juan Pierre, or find ways to siphon playing time away from horribly struggling veterans Alex Rios and Adam Dunn, and stomached the pain of watching their millions of dollars of salary go unused while they sat on the bench.
Instead, they have waited. Waited, for some sign that the two massively under-producing, budget-killing albatrosses would stop being albatrosses, but also waited while shunning any outside (or should we say “in-house”) additions for lack of a good place to put them; because no one deserved to be released. Such concerns about the offense are apparently put on hold when the possible consequence of Jesse Crain cracking into the top 5 in AL reliever innings pitched is at stake.
It could be said that when the team’s bad enough, everyone is deserving. Or it could just be said that in professional baseball, the best players play, and “deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”
But thanks to replaceable bench players revealing themselves to be utterly replaceable, the Sox will be able to slide in the offensive improvements they need onto the roster without having to pose a referendum on how much the 1st 97 games have stunk, or flipping the roster upside-down.
In fact, they waited long enough that highly clamored-for top prospect Dayan Viciedo is in a slump where he hasn’t hit an extra-base hit in 10 games, and it probably makes more sense to call-up Alejandro De Aza at the moment.
He’s 27, and isn’t the future of the franchise at all. He’s just a guy tearing up Triple-A at a position the White Sox desperately need production from. He could even plug the sinking boat while managing not to rock it. No one will suspect a thing.