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Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Pitching Situation

The publication a couple articles piqued my interest to look into the White Sox starting pitching situation over the next few years.

The first was an article in the Daily Southtown, that mentioned two possible names on the White Sox radar, Randy Johnson and Eric Milton. The second was from the New Jersey Star-Ledger, and indicated that the Yankees may be willing to eat all of the remaining salary owed Kevin Brown, in order to get him out of town.

Here's how the Starting Pitching breaks down, in terms of Millions of dollars, over the next three seasons.
                     2005    2006    2007

Mark Buehrle 5.75 7.75 1.00*
Freddy Garcia 8.00 9.00 10.00
Jose Contreras 8.00** 9.00**
Jon Garland 3.00*** 4.50***
NY Cash (1.50) (1.50)
Total 23.25 28.75 11.00

* $9.5M option in '07
** NY sent $4M to the Sox, $1M in '04, and $3M divided between '05 & '06
(I'm not sure on the distribution of this $, so I divided it evenly)
*** Estimated arbitration awards.

In 2005, Brown makes $15M and Johnson makes $16.5M($6M deferred over an unknown period of time). Adding them to the payroll would put the sox rotation at between $38 and $40M on a team that figures to have a payroll around $75M, which is purely an educated guess by me.

A deal that brought Johnson to the southside would likely have to include both Carlos Lee and Jon Garland. So while the Sox add $16.5M in salary, they would lift about $11M from the books. Last off-season, the Diamondbacks made a similar trade when they sent Curt Schilling to the Red Sox for Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Jorge DeLaRosa, and Michael Goss, none of whom have turned into productive players for the D'backs as of yet. The Snakes got burned on this deal, in addition to the Richie Sexson debacle, and will be looking for more in return this season.

It is my thought that they will be looking for young, Major League ready players, in order to turn around their team as quickly as possible. Garland almost certainly would be in the package that brought Johnson to Chicago. In addition, I'd expect a couple of Cotts/Adkins/Munoz/Bajenaru/Diaz to be gone as well.

Before I get too involved in trade scenarios with the D'backs, I should explore what the Yankees are looking to do with Kevin Brown. Apparently, they are so desperate to get rid of him that they would be willing to eat all of the contract to get him out of town. The Yanks would likely be looking for a prospect-laden deal from a team with a rich farm system like the Twins. They would then package those prospects, and toss in one of their own (Donnier Navarro), to Arizona in exchange for Randy Johnson. That would essentially mean the Yankees are willing to spend $31+M dollars and a prospect to for the rights to Randy Johnson for one season. And you wonder why people hate the Yankees.

There is a chance that Bud Selig could put his foot down and not allow such a trade (KB + $15M <---> Prospects) to occur. He has spoken out on the "purchasing" of prospects in recent years, and this would be a perfect scenario to put an end to it.

Realistically, the Sox have no shot at getting Kevin Brown. They would have to put a deal together that started with Sweeney or Anderson and McCarthy to even begin serious talks, and that's not likely to happen anytime soon.

Based on past deals made by the Twins and their reluctance to give up prospects, I would be willing to bet that they are not involved in serious talks either. I can't think of too many other clubs who would be in situation where they would have enough to package together to warrant getting Brown for "free" in return.

The most likely scenario would probably the Yankees eating part of Brown's salary for a top prospect, and a ML ready player, plus pulling a simillar deal with Javier Vazquez's name in place of Brown's. They would then package most of the players they recived for Johnson.

I can't foresee Kevin Brown or Javier Vazquez ending up in the AL Central division right now. The best farm system in the Central is undoubtedly the Twins. Then there is a steep drop-off to the White Sox and Indians. The Royals and Tigers sorry systems hardly justify a mention.

Getting back to the original intent of this entry, I was looking to explore the White Sox starting pitching situation in the years to come. The Daily Southtown article idicated interest, misplaced as it may be with his 42HR's allowed last season, in Eric Milton. Adding another long-term contract to the Sox rotation would be a big risk.

Let's say that the Sox land a second tier starting pitcher in the off-season, at $7M a year for 3 years. What does that do to the payroll?
                     2005    2006    2007

Mark Buehrle 5.75 7.75 1.00*
Freddy Garcia 8.00 9.00 10.00
Jose Contreras 8.00** 9.00**
Jon Garland 3.00*** 4.50***
FA pitcher 6.00 7.00 8.00
NY Cash (1.50) (1.50)
Total 29.25 35.75 19.00
That essentially means that the Sox are locked into 5 pitchers at an average of $32.5M for the next two seasons. Would you be willing to give a pitcher a 10-year deal? No, the injury risk would stop you. Well that's essentially what would be happening. That's 10 seasons, combined across 5 pitchers, that you're going to be paying a good portion of your overall payroll to.

Adding second tier guy ($5-7M) wouldn't kill the sox financially, but signing the top FA pitchers likely would. Pedro would command twice as much as out fictional second tier pitcher, and likely would require a longer commitment too. Here's what Pedro added to the pitching staff would look like.
                     2005    2006    2007

Mark Buehrle 5.75 7.75 1.00*
Freddy Garcia 8.00 9.00 10.00
Jose Contreras 8.00** 9.00**
Jon Garland 3.00*** 4.50***
Pedro 16.50 16.50 16.50 16.50
NY Cash (1.50) (1.50)
Total 39.75 45.25 27.50
Not only are you chewing up payroll and flexibility by signing Pedro to a long term deal, but you're adding another health risk. The White Sox would be walking a tightrope between dominant rotation, and total disaster. It's a chance worth taking, but one that should be given careful consideration of all the possible outcomes first. The Cubs and Yankees are perfect examples of lots of big name pitchers on one staff, they both failed in their quests for a World Series title.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a quality starting staff, but the White Sox are not in the Yankees class where they can buy their entire rotation. They need to concentrate more on developing arms that will not only be dominant, but relatively cheap for a few seasons. I mentioned the Cubs before; they had Zambrano, Wood, Prior, Clement, and Maddux playing for under $8M a year(total cost: $22.58M in '04). Clement and Zambrano could easily be off payroll in '05, giving them flexibility to go out an acquire another top pitcher, if necessary. Here's a breakdown of some of the better teams pitching staffs and their corresponding 2004 salaries.

Team Rotation Salary 6/15 Salary** % of total Payroll
Oakland $14.55 $59.77 24.3%
Yankees $52.95 $182.59 29.0%
White Sox $12.37 $64.18 19.3%
Boston $43.95 $131.40 33.4%
Anahiem $36.62 $122.53 29.9%
Cubs $22.58 $93.00 24.3%
Houston $17.55 $62.25 28.2%
St. Louis $19.28 $81.58 23.6%
Dodgers $32.38 $92.80 34.9%
Atlanta $27.30 $74.43 36.7%
** I used 6/15 because that was the last date that Dugoutdollars was updated.
I'm not looking to do a study on pitching staffs, and the optimal money that should be spent on them. I'm just vamping here. I have an idea, I go with it. I was just making that chart as much for me as I was for you. You can never have too much information.

Note: I did a little bit of rambling here, and never really had a thesis. I've been pretty distracted, and I'm gonna be crazy busy for the next week. Normally I would just save this draft, clean it up and post it later, but I might not be able to get to that until sometime next week. Some info is better than no info. So I apologize, in advance for my probable absence over the next week, and in succession for my disorganized ramblings.