White Sox and Rangers Complete Trade

First of all, I would just like to wish all of the BtB members, readers and staff a safe and happy holiday.  

Onto the news, on the eve of Christmas Eve, Ken Rosenthal reported a pretty significant trade that went down between the White Sox and Rangers.  The deal is centered around the Rangers acquiring former top prospect in 23-year old RH pitcher Brandon McCarthy and the White Sox acquiring current top prospect and LH pitcher John Danks along with RH pitcher Nick Masset.

How does this effect both the Rangers and White Sox?

From the Rangers perspective, I must say:  This is a lot better than signing Barry Zito.  Even though there are questions surrounding McCarthy and his ability to pitch in an offensively inflated environment, trading for him instead of signing Zito is probably better in the long run of things. McCarthy is only 23 years old, hasn't hit his peak years, and has more than three seasons left of arbitration.

For those of you not familiar with McCarthy, SouthSideSox gave a fine analysis on his repertoire back in August:

" He now throws 4 pitches for strikes; a 4-seam fastball (90-93 MPH), a 2-seam fastball (87-89MPH), a big breaking curveball(74-77MPH), and a changeup (77-81MPH). When we last saw him, he could throw only the fastball (4-seam) and curveball for strikes. Hitters would just sit on fastball, and hit the ball hard."

The problem lies in his ability to pitch at ballparks such as US Cellular Field that inflate offensive production.  Looking at his two year splits in the majors, it's quite obvious McCarthy is a home-run happy pitcher with not so aspiring groundball rates:

Of course, it must be said these could all be results of small sample size:  McCarthy has pitched slightly over 150 major league innings.  But it's worth a look anyway.  McCarthy's GB% ranked among the worst in the AL last season, and his HR/9 mark was worse than Carlos Silva's.  Nate Silver weighed in his thoughts on the deal as well and projects McCarthy's EqERA at 4.97.  Certainly nothing special.

Regardless, you have to give credit to Daniels.  Even though he dealt top prospect Jon Danks, the Rangers still have young pitchers like Edison Volquez, Thomas Diamond and Eric Hurley around. If the Rangers can find a way to keep McCarthy in the ballpark, he should be a valuable starter making pocket change over the next five seasons.  Sounds a lot more intriguing to me than the peripheral-declining and expensive Barry Zito.

Over to the White Sox side of the deal, this trade is surprising, but not so much at the same time. It's surprising in a sense because Ken Williams has often claimed Brandon McCarthy is an untouchable pitcher, but not so surprising because Williams has stocked up on young arms with potential all winter.

The White Sox rotation will, as of now, feature five starters in Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Jon Garland, Javier Vazquez and many pitchers battling for the 5th spot in the rotation.  Those pitchers being Gavin Floyd, Gio Gonzalez, Charlie Haeger, Heath Phillips and now Danks.  Floyd, Haeger, or even Phillips are more reasonable picks to start the season as a #5 considering Gonzalez and Danks likely need more work in AAA.  This, of course, is all under the assumption Williams doesn't make another acquisition which is far from a guarantee.

USAToday did a fine job giving a short and sweet little overview of what Danks brings to the table:

" Danks is perhaps the Rangers finest pitching prospect since Kevin Brown and Bobby Witt. He has a 90-92 mph fastball, a dazzling curveball, and a solid changeup"

Sounds very similar to that of Brandon McCarthy who features a very similar repertoire.  

But much like many of the pitchers Williams has acquired this offseason, Danks is a work in progress:

Looking things over you have to question a few parts of Danks' overall game.  Of course it must be said that at 21 years old Danks has faced tougher, more experienced competition at every level, but we should look things over anyway.

Since the great run in Bakersfield back in 2005, Danks, like McCarthy, has turned into a home-run machine.  The strikeout rates have stayed fairly sexy, while the walk rates looked good up until the road bump in AAA.  Maybe the most unimpressive figure is the H/9 column.  His career minor league totals include a 9.0/H9 mark which is a bit concerning.  Giving up so many hits at the minor league level usually doesn't translate to major league success.  But the Sox are once again putting the trust into their coaching staffs.  Danks certainly has the stuff to succeed, whether he actually lives up to his potential is another story.  Nonetheless, he'll likely start his season in AAA and hope to work his way up to a possible mid-season callup.

What about Mick Masset?  Even though Danks is the gem of this deal, the acquisition of Masset could have other complications in the White Sox Organization.  For those of you not familiar with Masset, I was able to dig up a little tidbit of info on the lefty.  This time from MLBTradeRumors:

" He had Tommy John surgery as a senior in high school, which could be viewed as a positive (given that his new tendon/ligament doesn't have a lifetime of wear and tear on it).  Masset converted to relief this year and was able to dial his fastball into the high 90s.  He could be yet another hard thrower in Chicago's explosive bullpen in 2007."

The typical type of pitcher Williams has sought after this winter.  

Now what are the complications Masset presents to the White Sox?

As a starter Masset didn't find much success, but found much success this winter as a relief pitcher in Winter Ball.  Masset pitched 20.2 innings, posted a 2.61 ERA and a 22/2 K/BB ratio.  It's still risky to assume Masset will make it as a quality major league relief pitcher next season, but he certainly has the ability.  The Sox will once again look toward pitching coach Don Cooper in hoping to turn Masset into a valuable asset. Masset might battle with fellow lefty Boone Logan in Spring Training for the final spot as the lefty in the White Sox bullpen.

The acquisition of Masset might also ensure of the departure of recently-acquired Andrew Sisco back to AAA where he could start starting again.

Could you imagine a AAA rotation led by Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Sisco and John Danks?  One could argue this trade doesn't help the White Sox for the 2007 season, in fact, this move may very well hurt them for next year.  But the Sox could be sittin' pretty with those three a few seasons from now.

Overall, I like this move for both teams.  The Rangers can now focus on matters other than the Barry Zito race and Jon Daniels won't lose any sleep knowing he has upgraded his starting rotation with a 23-year old that brings good upside.  The White Sox may have dinged up their chances at making the postseason next year, but at least the Sox are realizing their thinning farm system was a problem.

John Sickels summed up the Sox farm system pretty well over at his blog Minor League Ball:

" The White Sox in One Sentence: This system has thinned out considerably, as even the best prospects have a questionmark or two, with lack of positional depth a serious issue."

Simply put the Sox needed to look toward the future.  After watching Kenny Williams deal players like Jeremy Reed, the newly-acquired Gio Gonzalez, and Chris Young, Williams is taking a step back. With Mark Buehrle likely to test the market next winter, and Jon Garland and Javier Vazquez possibly the next, the Sox have dealt for a bundle of young pitchers looking to establish potential for the future in case free agent pitchers cannot be had.

All in all Williams has given pitching coach Don Cooper and his entire staff a boatload of pitchers to work with just this winter alone:  David Aardsma, Gio Gonzalez, Gavin Floyd, Andrew Sisco, Mike MacDougal, John Danks and Nick Masset are all young arms who have either been acquired or re-signed by the White Sox this offseason alone.

Williams has recognized today's outrageous market and knows the ability to compete year in and year out requires a fairly strong minor league core.  Even though he is still missing young positional prospects, he has done a terrific job giving the White Sox fans hope for solid pitching in the future.

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