Thursday, January 03, 2008

Transaction Recap: White Sox, A's

White Sox receive: OF Nick Swisher (Rating: 4/10)

A's receive: OF Ryan Sweeney, SP Gio Gonzalez, SP Fautino de los Santos (6)

From the standpoints of contracts and talent, this seems like a fair exchange. Swisher is a very productive everyday player who's still fairly young and signed to a very reasonable contract--$26 million through 2011. In exchange, the White Sox basically finished off the pillaging of their farm system, although it wasn't that good to begin with.

Gonzalez and de los Santos aren't elite prospects, but it looks like Billy Beane's M.O. this offseason is quantity, not quality. Either way, the A's added two extremely live arms coming off breakout seasons in the minors. Neither is ready for the Show yet, but both have the strikeout potential to be impact starters once they get there. Sweeney was once viewed by some scouts as a top prospect, but now it seems unlikely he'll ever be more than a league-average bat in center or a fringe starter in a corner.

As I've said about previous White Sox acquisitions, the problem isn't what they're giving up or getting, it's what they're trying (and failing) to accomplish. The Sox are still a sub-.500 team, and while this trade got them two wins closer to the playoffs, they're still several acquisitions away from being legitimate contenders, with no remaining prospects to trade. The Sox have bet the farm on an inside straight draw, and that rarely turns out well.

It could have played out differently. Mark Buehrle and Jermaine Dye could have fetched some top prospects in trade, or at least compensation picks when they left as free agents. Chicago could have traded Jon Garland for young players instead of an old, superfluous no-hit shortstop. Several contenders are looking for a corner bat, so Jim Thome and Paul Konerko could have been cashed in for some big-time prospects. Some team is probably willing to exchange a B prospect for a year of Joe Crede.

Sure, if they make all those moves, this year's Sox win 65 games instead of 77. On the other hand, they'd be looking at a potential contender a couple of years from now. Instead, they've chosen to try and recapture the glory of 2005, which will leave the 2010 team with a $100 million payroll and 70 wins.

Hey, at least Kenny was true to his word about aggressively pursuing a championship. You can't get any more aggressive than a scorched earth strategy.

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