Reviewing the White Sox mid-season trades--What was accomplished here?

Reviewing the White Sox mid-season trades--What was accomplished here?
Youkilis, apparently running in ill-fitting, team-issued shoes // Tribune Photo

Mid-way through the year, Kenny Williams ran off a series of trades exclusively aimed toward winning the 2012 AL Central.

That did not happen, and now it’s time to recalibrate the legacy of each deal to account for it.  The common sentiment accompanying all three of the White Sox mid-season deals was that they were “no-lose” swaps.  The Sox had no prospects really worth clutching to, so they had nothing of consequence they could be talked into giving up.  Now that’s some leverage.

Let’s go through the three major deals and do some cost/benefit analysis.

June 24th – Traded RHP Zach Stewart & UTIL Brent Lillibridge to Boston for 3B Kevin Youkilis

What they gave up: Prior to getting dealt, Stewart had just bombed his audition to be a starter by giving up four home runs to the Cubs, after spending most of the year killing hopes that he could be made into a serviceable reliever (.529 opposing slugging percentage out of the pen), and having the radar gun say mean things about his fastball.  Since going to Boston, he’s made two starts that were somehow worse.  Everyone wants Zach Stewart gone, and Kenny Williams was the only one who made it happen this year.

Brent Lillibridge saw his power completely disappear, collected one extra-base hit over 70 plate appearances, and was no longer on a roster where being athletic and fast were premium qualities.  Boston put up with 10 games of him before the novelty wore off.

The Sox didn’t just give up nothing, they purged problems.

What they got: Kevin Youkilis hit .236/.346/.425 over 344 plate appearances, and played some passable, if below average defense.  That’s a quality starter, but it gets better when doused with a bucket of context.

  • Youkilis was stepping into a 3rd base position that had the worst offensive production in all of baseball.
  • His second week on the team produced no less than five game-winning hits, or plate appearances while the Sox made their breakaway.
  • He was a perfect fit for a barren #2 spot in the batting order, and joined Adam Dunn to be one of two players on the team who actually had long at-bats.

Long-lasting impact: Neither Lillibridge nor Stewart had much business on the 2013 White Sox anyway, so there’s no harm, no foul even if the likely departure of Youkilis takes place.  At the very least, Youkilis experience with the White Sox is positive, meaning they’ll have a fair shot at signing him if they’re interested.

Free agent compensation is probably a stretch.

July 10th – Traded IF Osvaldo Martinez to Los Angeles Dodgers for cash considerations

What they gave up: Not much

What they got: Presumably some amount of money

Long-lasting impact: $$$$$$$$

July 21st – Traded LHP Blair Walters, RHP Matthew Heidenreich, RHP Chris Devenski for RHP Brett Myers

What they gave up: A whole barrel full of fringe arms.  Each one with a smattering of encouraging results in the lower levels, middling pedigree, and “maybe he’s someone to watch” prospect status.

There’s not much chance that the Sox will rue July 21st, 2012, but they yielded some depth here.

What they got: Brett Myers had a 3.12 ERA in 34.2 innings that might have otherwise found Brian Omogrosso, or someone else like Jhan Marinez or Deunte Heath.  That seems useful enough.

Why Myers was successful out of the pen with a Buehrle-like strikeout rate is hard to figure, but I was especially worried about all that contact allowing inherited runners to score.  Turns out, Myers only allowed two of 18 inherited runners to score (11%), which is fantastic.

Brett Myers was good, not great, and he clumped his bad moments into the collapse, but he was good.  Chances are this will be forgotten, and he’ll need show a nametag at any future SoxFests.

Long-lasting impact: In all likelihood, the Sox yielded something between a future reliever and back-end starter, in exchange for some emergency relief help.  That’s about the going rate, but with some options left.

They could pick up Myers option and have a good, but non-elite reliever for $10 million–unwise.

They could pick up Myers option, and have a back-end innings eating starter for $10 million–possibly worth it, but not enticing if it’s a cost-cutting season, and less enticing than just keeping Gavin Floyd.

July 29th – Traded LHP Pedro Hernandez & IF Eduardo Escobar to Minnesota for LHP Francisco Liriano

What they gave up: Joe Sheehan referred to the Twins’ return in the trade as “air”, which may be hyperbole, but there’s probably not a major league starter stuffed in here.

Eduardo Escobar is a no-hit, all field utility infielder, who went to Minnesota and hit even worse there.  Chances are the Twins give his bat a legitimate chance to develop and reach his #9 hitter ceiling, but there was no foundational piece swapped here.

Pedro Hernandez isn’t projected to become much more than middle relief, and sure didn’t look like more while getting obliterated by the Red Sox.

What they got: The Full Francisco Liriano Experience.  Liriano had some dominant outings, a no-hit bid, and swing-and-miss stuff even on his worst days.

But he was pretty much a disaster.  Only four of his 11 starts were quality, he barely averaged over five innings a start, and barely averaged over five walks per nine innings.  Attempts by Don Cooper to reform him and emphasize control failed, and were heartily and rightly mocked by Twins fans.

The Sox needed an arm down the stretch, so turning to Liriano might have been more appealing than other options, but this certainly wasn’t a home run.  Kenny Williams didn’t have the proper buy-in for the Zack Greinke table, and got stuck taking a flier on this mercurial monster.

Long-lasting impact: It’s pretty doubtful that anyone in the White Sox organization wants anything to do with Liriano after nothing clicked with Don Cooper, and his performance stagnated.

As such, the Liriano trade feels as empty as the division chase itself.  Nothing major was spent, but now those brief feelings of August and September vitality were the only returns of the trade.

But hey, that was the risk with all of these.  Without them, the illusion of AL Central supremacy would have evaporated a lot sooner, and an enjoyable summer didn’t cost a single impact player.  A decent closing act of Kenny doing what he does best.


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