Young man's game

Young man's game
Vinegar // Eric P. Mull-US PRESSWIRE

Omar Vizquel’s not coming back in 2012, which is one of those announcements that doesn’t really need to happen.  When a 44 year-old utility infielder has every part of his game–except baserunning, strangely–bottom out, it doesn’t exactly merit a press conference, just a calm dismissal of a overly-exuberant Twitter follower.

Now that it’s official–sorta–Vizquel isn’t coming back, it’s easier to look at the positive impact he had.  Gone are the absurd realities of ’44 year-old Omar Vizquel-pinch running!’, or ’44 year-old Omar Vizquel-starting at short today!’, or ’44 year-old Omar Vizquel – kinda snippy about his playing time!’.  And since those daily indignities are past, we can focus on how much smoother the Alexei Ramirez Field-O-Matic has been running since Omar gave it a spit-shine, and man, he really saved the Sox’ keister in 2010.

Vizquel’s presence was a good thing, and even though he was bad-bad-bad in 2011, so many others matched his struggles in more important roles.  Now, younger players can do his job for cheaper, especially if he’s going to do it so poorly.

In a lazy attempt to unify to disparate topics, a similar fate could be befalling John Danks, Matt Thornton, and Gavin Floyd on the trade market.

The Padres just pulled off a trade that rebuilds are centered around, landing 1B Yonder Alonso, C Yasmani Grandal, SP Edinson Volquez, and relief prospect Brad Boxberger.  That’s pretty nifty, and all they had to do was part with Mat Latos, their extremely talented–albeit a little mercurial–No. 1 starter, who’s a full 4 years away from free agency.

This follows up the trade last week that sent Trevor Cahill to Arizona.  Cahill’s not nearly the stud Latos is thought to be, but was also coveted for being under contract through 2015, with two more years of options after that.  And of course, the hottest name on the trade market thus far has been Gio Gonzalez, who also has, yes, four more years under contract.

If we want to make the trend look creepier, relievers Mark Melancon and of course, Sergio Santos were both shipped off with 5 and 6 years of team control remaining respectively.

That teams want to keep their newly acquired assets for longer while paying them less probably isn’t particularly mindblowing, but there’s been a surprising amount of teams willing to shop their young pitchers for value while they remain very cheap and under control.  Sure, the Padres probably got the most they could ever get for Latos, but selling high on a 24 year-old ace is an interesting concept.  It’s not a trade chip most teams can match, and it certainly blows away anything this particular team from the South Side had in mind.

It all points to a longer wait, or lower prices, on prospective Danks and Thornton trades if/when the market slides down to them.  With those two, the White Sox are almost inherently hoping for a team to be desperate enough to overpay for a short-term benefit (and it should be noted that the Red Sox and Yankees both have yet to improve on much on their pitching staffs), but unless the quality and quantity of long-term pieces available diminishes, this off-season may not be the best time for Kenny to work, even if the alternative is horror on a grand scale.


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