Sunday, August 01, 2010

A Few Trade Deadline Notes

The trade deadline passed on Saturday, and there were some developments for other teams that Twins fans might find interesting….

The Chicago White Sox

The Capps-Ramos deal that the Twins made had an unintended positive impact: it looks like it helped thwart the White Sox attempts to trade for Washington Nationals’ slugger Adam Dunn. And it also looks like it made the White Sox offseason a little tougher.

The White Sox completed a trade, nabbing starting pitcher Edwin Jackson from the Diamondbacks. But it appears that they did so because Jackson was supposed to be flipped to the Nationals for Adam Dunn. I’m hearing that the deal fell through because the Nationals raised their price after getting Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps. They felt it was a seller’s market.

So Edwin Jackson is now a White Sox starting pitcher, which isn’t necessarily bad news for them this year. Yes, Jackson has an ERA of 5.16 this year, but he’s a streaky pitcher who posted a 3.62 ERA just last year with the Tigers. The Sox have an excellent pitching coach named Don Cooper, and Jackson could fast become dangerous again under his tutelage.

But there is also bad news. First, the Sox didn’t get the slugger they needed. Second, GM Kenny Williams gave up two top prospects for a starting pitcher his team only nominally needed. But the final news is that Jackson is under contract through 2011, and is guaranteed to make $8.35M next year. That puts a squeeze on the Sox payroll this upcoming offseason.

For the last few years, the White Sox payroll has been about $100M. Here is how things look for next year:

They’re already at approximately $98 million, and that’s without a first baseman or a DH, or most of a bullpen or bench. The biggest name you might notice missing is that of Paul Konerko, who will be a free agent, and is carrying the Sox’ otherwise anemic offense.

It’s far from an unworkable situation (Step 1 – trade away Jenks) and owner Jerry Reinsdorf has allowed Williams to stretch payroll beyond limits before. But the acquisition of Jackson just used up most of the financial flexibility Williams had.

If the Sox have a rough August and fall back, don’t be shocked if they trade away or just plain let go of a handful of players that other teams might be foolish enough to claim. That’s what Williams did the last couple of days in August last year when he concluded that the Sox weren’t going to catch up.

The Seattle Mariners

Last year, Mariners first-year GM Jack Zduriencik was praised as one of the bright minds in the game, and had the results to show for it. The Mariners improved from a 61 win team in 2008 to an 85 win team in 2009. An improvement of 24 games in one season is remarkable.

But after Sunday’s loss to the Twins, the Mariners are now on pace for a 60 win season – a net of one extra loss after a season-and-a-half’s worth of leadership. And yet he is still almost universally still regarded as on of the best GMs in the game.

Ah, the power of first impressions.

Remember that Cliff Lee trade he made just a couple of weeks ago? It was universally praised because he managed to pry away Justin Smoak (the next Mark Teixeira) from the Rangers. But Jack and the rest of us might want to step away from the Smoak publicity machine for a bit and look at some actual results.

Smoak was demoted on Saturday back to AAA, after hitting .159 with Seattle, including 23 strikeouts and just one walk. If you include his time with Texas, his average goes all the way up to .198. And the 23-year-old’s career batting in AAA is just .255.

It’s obvious that it’s way too early to write off Smoak, but sooner or later a man is evaluated on his long-term performance, and not just the early hype. That might be something Zduriencik should keep in mind, too.

The Detroit Tigers

The Tigers acquired Jhonny Peralta last week to help plug some leaks. Looking at their lineup in Saturday’s game, I hope Peralta has a lot of thumbs, because this dike looks to be falling apart. Here’s the lineup, along with the number of career at-bats each player has:

Austin Jackson, CF – 381
Will Rhymes, 2B – 29
Brennan Boesch, RF - 302
Miguel Cabrera, 1B - 4294
Jhonny Peralta, 3B - 3442
Don Kelly, LF - 214
Jeff Frazier, DH - 7
Gerald Laird, C- 1837
Ramon Santiago, SS - 1477

That lineup contains one stud (Cabrera), one veteran who is struggleing (Peralta) and two rookies who are really exceeding expectations (Jackson and Boesch). It also contains two veterans whose primary value is their defense (Laird and Santiago). And then it has three guys who are - well, I’m not really sure what they are. I’m not really sure who they are. But I do know they aren’t anyone that the Tigers thought they would be relying on this year.

Since the All-star break, the Tigers are 4-13. They are also 7.5 games back of the division. Their next four games are against the division-leading White Sox, and that could essentially end their season, But if not, they then face the Angels, the Rays, the White Sox again, and the Yankees. That’s a brutal schedule for a team that is probably already too far back. Not to mention the leaks thing.