As fans we all have trades that we look back on and say: “damn, we robbed them,” or we have trades that we look back on and wonder, “what in the world were we thinking?” I have decided, in lieu of lack of White Sox discussion topics, to start a series where I analyze past White Sox trades and free agent signings. I will look at the reactions to the trade then, actual performance by all players involved, and then I will grade the trade on the A-F scale with an explanation for my grade. The A-F grade is more based on well the players did only with the teams that were involved, if they moved on after a year it doesn’t count, this will be the trade’s legacy with a team’s fan base. We’ll start with this little gem. On this date in 2005, only two months removed from a World Series championship, aggressive general manager, Kenny Williams, made a trade in an attempt to improve our starting rotation and gear up the White Sox for a defense of their title. Williams would see RHP Javier Vazquez come to the South Side in exchange for ALDS hero Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, RHP Luis Vizcaino, and prospect outfielder Chris Young.
The Reaction: The World Champion White Sox had already begun retooling for another World Series run before this deal went down, resigning Captain Paul Konerko and acquring slugger Jim Thome and utility man Rob Mackowiak in seperate deals, However, Vazquez had just demanded a trade and seemed like he could be a very good middle of the rotation pitcher who ate a lot of innings for the Diamondbacks. Vazquez was a fit for the White Sox because of the depth we already had at starting pitcher allowed us to use him in whatever slot we chose considering we had All-stars Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle at the one and two spots, World Series hero Jose Contreras in the middle, and big game Freddy Garcia holding down a back end job. For the Diamondbacks, they were acquiring a pitcher who would be making about $5 million dollars less even if he hit all of his performance based incentives, and who just came off a very good season for his age. The Diamondbacks also acquired Luis VIzcaino a man with a repectable reputation in the bullpen, and coming off a year seeing him have a solid 3.73 ERA and a less mentionable 1.47 WHIP. He would provide then manager, Bob Melvin, with another arm to run out to the mound in an always competitive NL West. Last, but not least the Diamondbacks acquired outfield prospect Chris Young, who was ranked number six in the White Sox list of top prospects in 2005.
Performance: Vazquez would spend the next three seasons with the Palehose, with his best performance coming in 2007 when the team was at its worst, he went 15-8 with 3.74 ERA and an outstanding 1.14 WHIP. However, 2007 would be the only year Vazquez would post a sub-four ERA, and also the only year he would have a winning record for the South Siders. Fortunately, he did eat a lot of innings, more than 200 each year and provided relief for the White Sox bullpen. Transitioning to the fruits of the D-Backs acquisitions, Orlando Hernandez was only on the team for half a season, and an atrocious half it was. Hernandez did not return to 2005 form with a bloated 6.11 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, and allowing 31 earned runs in only 45.1 innings of work. Hernandez would be dealt to the New York Mets later that season. Vizcaino would remain with the Diamondbacks for the duration of the 2006 season, and did well. Vizcaino had a 3.58 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP in 65.1 innings of work, going 4-6 in his decisions. After the season, Vizcaino was traded to the Yankees with three prospects for future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. Chris Young would make his debut in 2006 for the Diamondbacks in center field, but his first full year in the majors was in 2007, which saw him have a monster year, hitting 32 home runs, driving in 68 runs, and scoring 85 runs. As the Diamondbacks starting center fielder for the next five years, Young would continue to “do work.” After a long and successful run in Arizona, Young was traded on October 21st of this year to the Oakland A’s. Having all players involved off of the teams involved in the deals we can now look back and analyze the Winners and the Losers of the trade.
Legacy: For the Chicago White Sox this trade was all about gathering depth for the starting rotation, and preparing to defend their division title in what would be a very difficult AL Central. For the Diamondbacks this trade was about unloading some salary and beginning to retool and rebuild. The Diamondbacks would have another losing season in 2006, and then return to competing in 2007. Some of you fellow White Sox fans may remember that year because that is the first year the Cubs made their series of one and done playoff appearances. This still makes me laugh.
The Diamondbacks would then proceed to have a roller coaster decade, seeing them finish 2nd in 2008, last in 2009 and 2010, winning the NL West in 2011, and now in 2012 finishing third. By this season, Orlando Hernandez and Luis Vizcaino have been long gone, but one consistency has remained. Chris Young has been patrolling center field for the snakes through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Young is more than what the Diamondbacks could have hoped for when they dealt Vazquez and the move definitely paid off for them. For the Sox however, we have a different story. The Sox paid steep price for a guy who never seemed to regain the all-star form he achieved while with the Yankees. Though he had an impressive 2007 season, his performance was lost in the disaster that would unfold that season seeing the White Sox finish in fourth with only the Royals buffering our fall to the cellar. Though I would normally say Vazquez did what we acquired him to do, but Vazquez’s price tag of $11.5 million in 2006 and 2008, and increased price tag of $12.5 million in 2007. Being paid that kind of money, I would have expected a better performance. That being said, it is now grading time. And the grade Kenny Williams receives on this trade is a: D+ Although he got rid of Orlando Hernandez before his tumultuous 2006 season, he also lost what seemed to be our center fielder of the future. If I recall correctly, we expected stud Brian Anderson to be able to fill that role, but could not, and then we spent subsequent years experimenting with prospects Jerry Owens and Luis Terrero in center field before eventually platooning Alex Rios and DeWayne Wise together in 2009. This center field dilemna could have easily been solved by the bat that Young developed, and the work Vazquez did as a member of the White Sox could have been done by a cheaper free agent signing.