Gavin Floyd is set to make $9.5 million dollars this upcoming season when the Rich Hahn and the Sox decided to exercise his club option for the 2013 season. Thing is, most speculate that the Sox did not exercise this option for the sake of using Floyd on their 2013 rotation, but instead to trade him. This claim has only been strengthened with the departure of long-time White Sox backstop AJ Pierzynski, and Robin Ventura’s need of a left-handed bat to balance out a right-handed heavy lineup. In this article I will explore trade options that would make since to both the White Sox and their trade partners involved.
One of the teams that has been linked to Floyd before has been the Boston Red Sox. With their ability to absorb unheard of amounts of salary they could deal any one of their players no matter how uneven the cash flow may be and still be sound financially. That being said the Red Sox are in sore need of starting pitching. Coming off of a second-to-last place finish in the AL East, the Red Sox will want to come back in 2013 with vengeance. With a vicious media and fan base in Boston calling for new players and massive improvement from the year before, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, needs to make a move. He could acquire Floyd from the White Sox by dipping into the Red Sox surplus of left-handed bats. Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is one option as the White Sox current starter Tyler Flowers has proven himself an inconsistent hitter in the limited action he has seen. Saltalamacchia would earn less money than Floyd in 2013, and with Saltalamacchia, as opposed to Flowers, you know what kind of production you are going to get; which is about twenty-five plus home runs, about seventy runs batted in, and around .300 on-base percentage. Unloading Saltalamacchia would clear up the current logjam the Red Sox have at catcher with new addition David Ross and prospect Ryan Lavarnway coming into the mix in 2013.
Assuming that manager Robin Ventura and current left-fielder Dayan Viciedo would be comfortable with a move to third base, Hahn and the White Sox could also take chance on soon-to-be thirty year old outfielder Daniel Nava. Nava, is a late bloomer who was able to get ample playing time last year when the Red Sox outfield was littered with injuries. Nava did well collecting walks in about 13% of his at-bats, compiling a .351 on-base percentage, and was a doubles machine. And though Nava is older, he is not free-agency eligible until age thirty-six which I presume is when he would start to decline, and would no longer be of use to the White Sox. Again, Nava would come at a cheaper cost than Floyd but would also provide a left-handed balance to the White Sox lineup.
Moving on from the boys from Beantown, we still find ourselves in the AL East and move on the Baltimore Orioles, who seemed like they would be the suitor for Gavin Floyd. Well time has gone and Floyd is still a member of the Pale Hose and the Orioles are still searching for depth at starting pitcher. Knowing that Gavin Floyd would probably not be able to bring back a top ten prospect, and not seeing any lefty bats at a position of need in the Orioles top twenty prospects I looked to their major-league outfield, and saw a very intriguing piece. Nate McLouth. McLouth is a reclamation project who came through down the stretch and into the playoffs for the O’s. McClouth can also hit for decent power, and moving into a potent lineup like the White Sox would also give him more chances for RBIs. I like this trade for the Sox as it would be an under the radar acquisition that could payoff big-time, and would allow them to have a more balance offense because McClouth isn’t the same type of hitter as Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, and Dayan Viciedo which is home run first, other hits later.
Heading over to the opposite league, and opposite coast, the Rockies are also a surprise contender to facilitate a trade for Floyd. The Rox are in dire need of veteran pitching with the likes of Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich, and Juan Nicasio most likely taking starting spots in their rotation next year. Luckily for the Rox they also have a surplus of young, controllable lefty bats to offer Rick Hahn and the Sox. The desirable target of any trade involving Floyd would be former Cubs prospect Tyler Colvin who raked in Colorado last year, dropping eighteen bombs, driving in seventy-two runs, and maintaining a .327 on-base percentage. Quite the impressive showing by the for the twenty-seven year old who won’t be free agency eligible until 2017. The only downside would the transition period that almost every hitter going from the National League to the American League goes through. Colvin, according to trends will have a down year, and would need to make major adjustments to his new park which will not carry baseballs as well, and Colvin would need adjust to the tougher pitching and competition of the AL. There is no guarantee Colvin could duplicate those numbers in the AL, but the potential that he could would make this trade worth it.
However there is a chance that Colvin would be too steep of a price for Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd to pay, in that case I would hope the White Sox would ask for budding prospect Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon has seen very limited time in the major leagues, but his initial numbers are very promising as last year he accumulated a .283 batting average and also maintained a .325 on-base percentage in just a little over 100 at-bats. In addition, he showed power hitting two home runs and smashing 8 doubles. With some seasoning Blackmon could be a very good two-hole hitter for the Sox, who desperately need someone who can move current lead-off man Alejandro De Aza around the base paths.
General manager Rick Hahn has options to deal Gavin Floyd. Though he wants to be patient and wait until John Danks is for 100% healthy, the time is now to trade Floyd before he potentially hurts his value anymore. The above options are just a few of the many options that I thought of, others being Floyd for Kubel of the Diamondbacks and Floyd for the Blue Jays’ Maicer Izturis. The key to this season will be how well the White Sox bats can keep up with the juggernauts in Motown, so the Sox must try to make a trade for an impact bat or else this might be another heartbreaking season for our South Siders.
Catcher is the toughest position to play on the baseball field. The catcher controls the pitchers during the game, prevents runners from taking extra bases, blocks the plate from both balls trying to find their way to the backstop and runners attempting to score, and through all this he must still be a productive member of the lineup and hit. Finding a catcher who is just a right mix of all the above is very tough to do. There are maybe a hand full of catchers who I think fit this description closely: Buster Posey, Carlos Ruiz, Joe Mauer, and Yadier Molina, and they are all highly valued by their respective teams and will probably never see the free agent market due to their high value. But because finding that right man to play catcher is so difficult it is often challenging to transition from an established starting catcher to an inexperienced and unproven one. Unfortunately, this is the situation the South Siders find themselves in this offseason, they can bring the incumbent backstop AJ Pierzynski back but on a huge contract for 36 year-old-to-be or they can pass the gavel to Tyler Flowers who is ten years younger and has stated that he is ready for the starting job. Despite Flowers’ confidence in being able to take over the job, the White Sox have continued to explore other options such as shopping Flowers to the Mets and giving youngsters Josh Phegley and Hector Giminez looks behind the plate as well. Here I will breakdown the Hahn’s options for a starting backstop and tell you why or why he should not pursue the option. I have the likelihood of the move happening on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 being the most likely option.
Free Agents: Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Russell Martin, Mike Napoli, Miguel Olivo, Ronny Paulino, Humberto Quintero, Brian Schneider, Kelly Shoppach, Yorvit Torrealba, and Matt Treanor
Well this is quite an unimpressive list of major league catching talent. Guys who would sing on for less than AJ Pierzynski’s asking price are old and have never had much consistent success at the plate, so Paulino, Quintero, Treanor, Blanco, Schneider, Barajas, and Torrealba all are out. The rest: Olivo, Martin, Napoli, and Shoppach would all most likely be out of Hahn’s price range, as the Sox still need to address the third base spot and hopefully some bullpen weaknesses; so it seems as though free agency will not be the way to go for Rick Hahn.
Trades: JP Arencebia & Jarrod Saltalamacchia
The Blue Jays have let it be known that they have a top prospect just itching to get out of Triple-A and they will deal all of their catching in order to get him in the clubhouse, thus making JP Arencebia available. In addition, the Red Sox have brought in veteran backstop David Ross and have prospect Ryan Lavarnway sandwiching slugger Jarrod Saltalamacchia out of the picture in Boston. While neither Salty or Arencebia are a picture of consistency, they do something the White Sox like when looking at potential players, they hit home runs. Saltalamacchia had 25 home runs last year while driving in 59 runs, and Arencebia crushed 18 home runs while driving in 59; while neither of their RBI totals are impressive, they could definitely improve with better lineup placement and better players around them. Considering both Salty and Arencebia would be coming from the 5th and 4th place team in their division respectively, it is a given that they will have a better supporting cast. As the GM in this situation I would rather pursue Saltalamacchia than Arencebia because Saltalamacchia has a higher on-base pecentage, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging percentage than Arencibia. The best thing is that both Arencebia and Saltalamacchia can probably both be had a for a mid-level prospect or two low-level prospects.
For most Sox fans this is the preferred route to take. We know AJ will provide a solid defensive presence, he is an average to above average hitting catcher, and he knows how to handle a pitching staff. On top of that all AJ is one of two remaining members of the core of our 2005 World Series team and is a popular figure with the fanbase. Unfortunately, the fans have to realize that AJ is going to be 36 years old this season, and he is not getting any younger. The only direction for a 35 year old catcher who just had a career to go is down, I can promise you that unless AJ signs for two years at $4 million or less a season, he will not live up to any contract the Sox will give him. History is not on his side. I don’t see any conceivable way — except for the hometown discount — that AJ stays on the South Side after this year. It’s a shame, but AJ has left on the franchise and when he returns someday all old and wrinkly he’ll still be embraced by the Chicago faithful for cementing a legacy, with the likes of Carlton Fisk and Ray Schalk, as one of the best backstops in franchise history.
Josh Phegley as of right now is a top ten prospect in the White Sox system. Although that isn’t saying much, it still means that he has a shot. With whispers of Hahn shopping Flowers around the league, specifically to the Mets, and the unlikelihood of AJ returning the Sox, Phegley has an outside shot to be the de facto winner of the starting catcher job. Now if you don’t know much about Phegley he has consistently possessed a .300 on-base percentage throughout his minor league career, he doesn’t strike out a lot, and he seems like a straight singles hitter by only having 20 doubles in 394 at-bats. This is not the best option as we have seen many a times a prospect fail because the Sox rushed him to the big leagues, examples being Danny Richar, Brian Anderson, and most recently Brent Morel.
Tyler Flowers has been the White Sox catcher of the future since we acquired him from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Javier Vasquez and reliever Boone Logan. However, Flowers has been unimpressive in the limited action he saw this past season. He hit for a .213 average with a .296 on-base percentage, while hammering seven home runs and driving in 13 RBI’s. But we can’t judge him in the limited action he has seen. As a backup catcher, it’s easy to pull him when he is struggling and not let him work through his struggles, this year, if given the starting job we will hopefully see Tyler do well, but when he struggles, it will be key to see how he fights through it. Resiliency is key. I wish we had the money to re-sign AJ, but his time is over and it is time for Tyler Flowers to take the reins and become the starter he thinks he is. This is the most likely option for Hahn as it is relatively no risk (as in making a trade, or gambling on signing an aging veteran) and we have an idea of what kind of player we are getting when we insert him into the lineup.
Ultimately, I believe Hahn should go with the cheap in house option because it will not cost us any prospects, it will be cheaper than re-signing AJ or going out and signing a free agent, and it will give Phegley a chance to develop in case Flowers doesn’t pan out. Thus, I predict that Tyler Flowers will win the starting catcher’s job for the Palehose, and that AJ Pierzynski will most likely sign elsewhere, most likely Tampa Bay or Texas. Here’s to AJ Pierzynski for all of his time on the South Side, and here’s to hoping that he has further success in the rest of his playing career except, against the Sox of course.