The Chicago White Sox have been the active team in the weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After first acquiring Kevin Youkilis from Boston to play third base, the White Sox struck this weekend when it came to the bullpen, bringing in Brett Myers from Houston in exchange for two minor-leaguers. TheSportsNotebook evaluates the White Sox bullpen in light of their new acquisition.
Chicago’s save percentage is just 58%, easily the worst in the American League and there’s no one arm that’s clearly reliable, even in setup work, so it makes obvious sense to address this area. Addison Reed has been the closer and is 15/18 on his save chances and the ERA of 4.24 is pretty high. He is only 23 years old though, and in his rookie year. If the White Sox displace him from the ninth-inning role what does that do to his confidence? For a job where mental makeup matters as much as raw stuff, this can’t be taken lightly. And while the White Sox have said all the right things about Reed still being the closer, how many blown saves does he really have left before the new toy starts pitching the ninth inning?
Reed isn’t the only young arm in the Chicago relief corps. 26-year-old Nate Jones and 24-year-old Hector Santiago are each in their first year in the majors and have each done reasonably well. Jones has a 3.57 ERA in 41 innings, while Santiago has worked 38 innings with a 3.79 ERA, also picking up four saves.
When it comes to experience, manager Robin Ventura has a lefty-righty combo of Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain. The latter, 31-years-old, is just off the disabled list and has only worked 22 innings, but has a 2.38 ERA and a good track record of success. Thornton is 35, though his career as a lefty setup man didn’t really take off until 2008 when he started three straight years of sub-3.00 ERAs. The number jumped to 3.32 last year and is at 3.86 for 2012. While age seems to be catching up with Thornton, he’s also a reasonable option to get lefthanded hitters out.
When you look at the pieces individually none of these five pitchers are a major liability. The problem is that there’s nobody you can look at consider a lock to come in and get three outs. In TheSportsNotebook’s evaluation of Brett Myers earlier this week, I’m not sure that he really solves that problem. In fact, I’m sure he doesn’t. Myers is a decent arm added to a bullpen that already has five decent arms. While you can argue his experience makes him a better bet than Reed in closing the crucial games that presumably lay ahead, Myers doesn’t drastically alter the equation for this pen.
That’s the negative side. The positive side is that Myers is under club control for 2013 and given how relievers blaze and fade at any level the fact he’s been consistent for several years ensures the White Sox will have a reliable piece for the pen for the next year and a half. Perhaps next season depth might have become an issue and the Myers deal fixes it in advance. The other factor is that the veteran pitcher has considerable experience as a starter. While there’s no evidence the White Sox intend to use him in that role, intentions can change. If nothing else, if John Danks can’t be effective in coming back from the disabled list next month, Ventura has an option in his back pocket. And again, the option to put Myers in the rotation carries into 2013.
Overall, I give this trade a modest plus grade, but with reservations. If the ultimate cost is Reed losing his confidence then the deal won’t be worth it, but that’s more about how things are handled going forward rather than being about the deal itself. In the end, while Myers isn’t someone whose mere presence changes a game, he is a reasonably reliable veteran who can both work relief and start and the price Chicago paid to get him was fair.