Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Jake Peavy heads to Boston in 3-team deal

Think the Biogenesis investigation doesn't have an effect on this year's trading deadline? Think again, because that whole sordid affair may have just allowed the White Sox to acquire their right fielder of the future (and possibly the present, too).

The Boston Red Sox had been interested in acquiring pitcher Jake Peavy for weeks. The White Sox were willing to deal, too, but the two teams were having trouble coming up with an agreement. It seems the Red Sox were willing to part with a top prospect OR take all of Peavy's salary, but not both. The White Sox wanted them to do both.

The deal might have fallen apart if the Detroit Tigers had not entered the fray. Detroit's All-Star shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, is about to be suspended as a result of the Biogenesis investigation. Lacking a suitable internal option to replace Peralta, the Tigers went shopping and decided they wanted Jose Iglesias from Boston.

However, the Red Sox wanted a front-line pitcher, and the contending Tigers aren't looking to part with any members of their starting rotation. The only way for the White Sox, Red Sox and Tigers to all get what they wanted was to consummate the three-way trade that went down Tuesday night.

Essentially, the Tigers gave up their top power-hitting prospect, 22-year-old outfielder Avisail Garcia, and pitcher Brayan Villarreal, to bring Iglesias into their organization to plug that soon-to-be hole at shortstop. The Red Sox then turned around flipped Garcia and three other prospects to the White Sox for Peavy.

This is an excellent deal for Boston. The Red Sox did a great job here. They acquired one helluva pitcher in Peavy and didn't give up any of the crown jewels of their farm system. They have organizational depth at shortstop. Veteran Stephen Drew is their starter at the big-league level, and their top prospect, Xander Bogaerts, a 20-year-old shortstop, could be ready for the majors by next year. Iglesias was expendable. He's much more valuable for Detroit than he is for Boston.

I think this is a good deal for the White Sox -- not a home run, but a double off the wall. Garcia is an experienced player for his age. He already has 25 postseason plate appearances under his belt. He played in the World Series last year. He is hitting .374 at the Triple-A level this year. It's clear minor-league pitching is no longer a challenge for him. He's ready for a full-time shot in the majors, and the retooling Sox should have plenty of at-bats to give him in the near future. In addition, the Red Sox took all of Peavy's contract. That's $14.5 million more the White Sox will have to spend next offseason. The acquisition of Garcia and the salary relief are the two pluses to come out of this for Chicago. The three other prospects the Sox got from Boston? Well, those are a bunch of ifs and maybes, like I always say.

As for the Tigers, they were pushed into a corner and forced to make this trade by the impending Peralta suspension. If not for that, they don't cough up Garcia at all, let alone allow him to land in the hands of a division rival. Garcia will have 18 opportunities each and every year to come back and haunt the Tigers over the next five seasons or so. But, Detroit is built for the here and now. This is the Tigers' window to win, and they can't afford to allow Peralta's stupidity to cost them a potential championship. So, they did what they had to do to add Iglesias, who will actually provide them a defensive upgrade at shortstop. No way he matches Peralta's bat, but he doesn't need to in that loaded lineup. The Tigers simply need him to catch the ball.

To sum up, great move by the Red Sox, good move by the White Sox, and the Tigers had better win it all this year to make this move worth their while.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

White Sox trade Jesse Crain to Tampa Bay

White Sox fans will no longer be graced by the strains of Metallica's "Poor Twisted Me" when Jesse Crain enters the game.

The right-handed reliever was traded Monday to Tampa Bay for a player to be named later.

I think this is a terrific move by the Rays. Crain is a reliable, steady veteran who has proven he can handle high-leverage situations. He's in the midst of a career-best season (2-3 with a 0.74 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 38 appearances), and even at age 32, he's still missing plenty of bats (46 Ks in 36.2 IP).

Unfortunately for the Sox, Crain got injured at the worst possible time. He hasn't pitched since June 29 and is currently on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. Crain is expected to return soon, but it's hard to get fair value when you're trading a guy who is on the DL. And the Sox really had no choice but to move Crain. They are woefully out of the race. Crain's contract is up at the end of the season, and he won't be back next year. There was really no point in keeping him. The right choice is to move him along to a contender and get what you can. That's what the Sox did, but they likely won't be acquiring a top prospect in the deal.

This trade is a complex one. It needed approval from the commissioner's office before it could be finalized. The level of player the Sox receive will be based upon Crain's performance in Tampa Bay.

A lot of times in these types of situations, the two clubs involved in the trade will draw up an "A list" of players, as well as a "B list." Each list is made up of Tampa Bay players who could be potentially sent to the Sox as "the player to be named later." As you might expect, players on the "A list" are better than players on the "B list."

If Crain meets certain performance objectives -- such as a certain number of appearances or a certain number of innings pitched -- the Sox will get to select a player off the "A list" to complete the deal. If Crain gets hurt again or otherwise fails to meet the predetermined objectives, the Sox would be relegated to selecting a lesser player off the "B list" as compensation for the trade.

In short, we likely won't know what the Sox are getting for Crain until after the season is over. The best-case scenario for all parties is Crain going to Tampa Bay and pitching up to his capabilities. If he does that, he will help the Rays win in the tight AL East race, and the Sox will be able to acquire a player to help replenish their organizational depth.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Do you suppose the Nationals regret shutting down Stephen Strasburg last year?

I had a thought this morning when I was looking at the updated Major League standings: Man, the Washington Nationals sure are a disappointment this year.

Washington got a lot of respect in the preseason predictions. I just pulled out my 2013 season preview from Sports Illustrated, and sure enough, the Nationals were their pick to win the World Series.

At that time, that didn't seem like a bad choice. How can you not like a 1-2-3 punch like Stephen Strasburg (pictured), Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann at the top of the rotation?

Bryce Harper is one of the best young talents in the game. Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche are proven run producers. A young middle infield featuring Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa appeared to be coming of age. Denard Span was added to the roster to fix a perceived hole in the leadoff spot. Another successful season was considered a given.

Instead, the Nationals are 50-54 entering play on July 27. They are 8.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. They are in second place, with only Atlanta to catch, so they still have a puncher's chance in that division. But it's clear they will be falling well short of the 100-win success that was forecasted for them during spring training.

What went wrong?

Well, Harper has missed time with assorted injuries. Espinosa stunk it up so bad he got sent back to the minors. He's been a combination of injured and bad all year. LaRoche is hitting about 30 points lower than he did last season. Span's contributions have been modest at best. Dan Haren, the presumed No. 4 starter, has been a disaster. Relief pitcher Drew Storen, who had 43 saves two years ago, has an ERA of almost 6. There are a number of things that have gone wrong for that team.

Here's my point: When you have a chance to win, you have to go for it. The opportunity to win a championship is precious and very fleeting. Even when you have a good-looking roster, you're not promised anything. Guys get hurt. Guys have bad years. You just never know.

Last year, the Nationals were a 95-win team. They had the best record in the league. I thought they had a great chance to get to the World Series and win it. Instead, they shut down Strasburg, their ace, because they didn't want him to pitch too many innings in one season. They were trying to keep him healthy for the long haul because it was "the right thing to do for the franchise."


I hated the move at the time. Yes, Strasburg was coming off Tommy John surgery the previous year. But, the Nationals had a great team last season. Everybody was healthy. Everybody was playing well. When it's all going your way, you have to strike while the iron is hot, health consequences be damned. You can't be playing for next year, or the next five years, because the opportunity to compete for a championship in the future is not promised to you.

I'm sure if Nationals GM Mike Rizzo read this blog (and I'm sure he doesn't), he'd be indignant about what I'm about to write. But oh well.

Washington kicked away its best chance to win a World Series last year when it decided not to pitch its ace in the playoffs. The Nationals lost in the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals, and it doesn't look like they are going to make it back to that level this season.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Alfonso Soriano headed back to the Yankees, reports say

Reports indicate the Cubs will soon be sending veteran outfielder Alfonso Soriano back to the team he started with -- the New York Yankees.

The Cubs will be receiving 21-year-old right-hander Corey Black in the trade. Black, who has been pitching at Class-A Tampa, is 3-8 with a 4.25 ERA in 19 starts this season. Never heard of him before today. I'm sure the Cubs will be sending him to either Kane County or Daytona soon enough.

The trade is reportedly awaiting the approval of MLB commissioner Bud Selig. Soriano, 37, is owed $24.5 million on his contract which runs through the end of the 2014 season. Reports indicate the Cubs will send $17.7 million to the Yankees as part of the deal. That seems like a lot, but hey, it's sunk cost at this point and the Cubs are actually saving about $7 million. Best of all, they make Soriano go away and open up a spot in their outfield for a younger player who might be part of their future plans.

Soriano waived his 10-and-5 rights to accept the deal. In many ways, this is the official end of the Jim Hendry Era for the Cubs. Soriano was the last player on the roster with full no-trade rights.

As GM, Hendry handed out no-trade clauses like candy. Derrek Lee, Aramis RamirezRyan Dempster, Carlos Marmol, Soriano, they were all exceedingly hard to get rid of, in part, because they had no-trade protection in their contracts.

The new regime on the North Side isn't big on handing out no-trade clauses, and they'd be wise to keep it that way. Now that Soriano is gone, any player on the Cubs roster can be traded at any time without their consent. That's obviously a more favorable situation for management.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cubs trade Matt Garza for a package of ifs and maybes

We interrupt the ongoing Theo Epstein love fest in Chicago to point out none of the players the Cubs acquired in the Matt Garza trade have accomplished much of anything in professional baseball.

The long-rumored Garza deal finally went down Tuesday. The Cubs sent the veteran right-hander to Texas for Triple-A infielder Mike Olt, Class-A right-hander C.J. Edwards and right-hander Justin Grimm, plus either one or two players to be named later.

As most people are aware, I'm one of those evil people who prefers proven talent to prospects. Accordingly, I really like this deal for Texas. Garza has been pitching well this year. He was 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA at the time of the trade. Those are impressive numbers with a losing Cubs team playing behind him. I watched Garza pitch earlier in July against the White Sox, and he appears to have refined his changeup. He's always had a good fastball and good, hard breaking ball. Now that he's got another off-speed pitching working for him, he's especially tough to hit.

Garza's presence in the rotation makes the Rangers much more dangerous in a short playoff series. They can stack up Yu Darvish, Garza and Derek Holland now. Those are three pretty good arms.

But if you read the Chicago papers this morning, nobody is really talking about that. The tributes to the Cubs front office are flowing. "Theo" has done it again. He's fleeced another team and acquired a "haul" for a player who wasn't part of the Cubs' future plans anyway. I can agree that Garza wasn't part of the Cubs' future. They probably weren't going to sign him to an extension. But that's about as far as it goes for me.

I don't see how anyone can say whether this was a good or bad trade for the Cubs. We won't know for two or three years.

Olt, a 24-year-old third baseman, is ranked as the second-best prospect in the Texas system. However, he's having a tough year. He was hitting .213 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in 65 games for Triple-A Round Rock. I assume the Cubs will convert Olt to a corner outfield spot. The team just used its first-round pick on third baseman Kris Bryant. The organization has high hopes that Bryant will advance to the big leagues quickly, so surely they don't plan to have a guy like Olt blocking his path. In the short run, Olt needs to report to Triple-A and try to find his swing.

Edwards, 21, was 8-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 93.1 innings for Class-A Hickory. Intriguing prospect? Sure. Close to making the majors? Nope. We'll reserve judgment.

Grimm, 24, made 17 starts for the Rangers this season, going 7-7 with a 6.37 ERA. His last start was July 12 against Detroit. During that outing, he gave up seven runs before leaving in the fourth inning with forearm soreness. I've seen Grimm pitch a few times, and he's basically fodder for the back of the starting rotation. I wouldn't think of him as a building block for the future.

So, I'm struggling to figure out why people are so in love with this trade from the Cubs' perspective. Over the last two summers, the Cubs have traded four big-league starting pitchers -- Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Scott Feldman and Garza. All they have to show for it is a bunch of promises for the future. Cubs' brass has consistently said, "We'll be contenders by 2015." Chicago media seem to have bought in hook, line and sinker. Well, who is going to be pitching for the Cubs in 2015? We know it won't be Garza.

If I'm a reporter covering the Cubs, the theme of my column today would be along the lines of "You guys better be right with this deal." Starting pitching is what wins in Major League Baseball. If you're going to trade a guy like Garza, you damn well better get "a haul" in return. In two years time, we'll know more about the outcome of this deal.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chris Sale gives MVP-worthy performance in All-Star Game

With teams on both sides of town languishing near the bottom of the standings, Chicago sent just three players to the 2013 MLB All-Star Game, which was played Tuesday night in New York.

Pitchers Chris Sale and Jesse Crain represented the White Sox. Pitcher Travis Wood earned the lone All-Star nod for the Cubs.

Crain did not pitch because he is on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. Wood also did not participate, having just pitched 48 hours earlier in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

That left Sale to represent the city, and you can make a good case his performance was the most impressive in a pitching-dominated game.

Sale tossed two scoreless innings and retired all six batters he faced, earning the win in the American League's 3-0 victory.

The Sox ace entered in the second inning and retired David Wright on a grounder to third on his first pitch. He struck out Carlos Gonzalez on a slider and got Yadier Molina on a fly out to center field. Sale came back out for the third inning and fanned Troy Tulowitzki on another slider. He retired Michael Cuddyer on a tapper back to the mound and concluded his night when Bryce Harper lined out to third baseman Miguel Cabrera.

Sale's fastball touched 96 mph, and he needed only 24 pitches (17 strikes) to retire six of the best players in the National League.

There certainly weren't any hitters in this game worthy of the MVP. Not a single player had more than one hit. There wasn't anybody with more than one RBI or one run scored, either. No home runs were hit.

It was inevitable the MVP award would go to a pitcher. Sale registered six outs, more than any other American League pitcher, and he got them in quick and dominant fashion.

But alas, this year's All-Star MVP wasn't going to go to anyone other than Mariano Rivera, the future Hall of Fame closer of the New York Yankees. Rivera is retiring at the end of the season, and the night was all about recognizing his career accomplishments.

Make no mistake, Rivera did his job as usual when he entered the game in the eighth inning. He quickly retired all three National League hitters he faced. But let's be honest, he was given the MVP as a lifetime achievement award, moreso than for his performance in this particular game.

I can understand that. It's just too bad, because Sale was pretty damn good and he would have deserved it. Sale does go down as the seventh White Sox pitcher to earn a victory in the All-Star Game. Here are the six others:

1941: Edgar Smith
1958: Early Wynn
1962: Ray Herbert
1993: Jack McDowell
2000: James Baldwin
2005: Mark Buehrle

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Grady Little got a bad rap from Red Sox fans

Over the weekend, I had the chance to read Sports Illustrated's annual "Where Are They Now?" edition. The magazine comes out every July and features prominent sporting figures of the past who have fallen out of the limelight for whatever reason.

Having just turned 37, I appreciate the features a little more than I did in the past because I'm now old enough to remember watching the subjects of many of the articles.

Among those featured this year is former Major League manager Grady Little, 63, who hasn't been heard from since 2007. Little managed the Boston Red Sox in 2002 and 2003 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006 and 2007. He compiled a 385-290 career record for a respectable .552 winning percentage.

But, as the article notes, Little is best remembered for a game he lost -- Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship series. The Red Sox were leading the New York Yankees 5-2 in the eighth inning -- just six outs away from the World Series -- when Little was faced with a choice: Should he leave in ace Pedro Martinez, who was at 100 pitches and had just navigated a tough seventh inning? Or should he bring in left-handed reliever Alan Embree? Little stuck with Martinez, who gave up three runs in the eighth and surrendered the lead.

Boston lost the game 6-5 in 11 innings on Aaron Boone's famous home run off Tim Wakefield. The Yankees went to the World Series, and Little lost his job. He was never forgiven by the New England fans and media.

As I read the article, I got to thinking: Had Little really made a bad move? The more I thought about it, the more I believe he did the right thing.

Yes, that's right. He did the right thing, even though the Red Sox lost the game.

Think about it. It's Game 7 and the World Series is on the line. Martinez was 14-4 that season with a 2.22 ERA. He was among the best pitchers in the game. For a stretch of about eight years in the late 90s and early 2000s, he was a dominating force. So dominant that many people, including yours truly, believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame. He won three Cy Young Awards and finished second in the voting on two other occasions.

Embree? Well, he was a journeyman who played for 10 teams and had a career ERA of 4.59. In 2003, his ERA was 4.25. Was there any point in Embree's career where he could have been considered a sure bet to shut down an opponent? Not that I can recall. He was a mediocre reliever by any standard.

The Red Sox had bullpen troubles all season in 2003. They had a great lineup with Johnny Damon at the top, setting the table for the likes of Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. The rotation featured a solid top three in Martinez, Derek Lowe and Wakefield. The Achilles' heel was the relief corps. I wouldn't trust Embree, Mike Timlin or Byung-Hyun Kim very far.

So who are you going with in that spot? Martinez or Embree? Or somebody else from that bullpen? If it were me, I'd go with the future Hall of Famer, just like Little did.

Is it ever really a bad move to sink or swim with your best pitcher when the alternative is a journeyman left-hander? Not in my book. 100 pitches? Who cares? It's Game 7. There was no tomorrow and nothing to save Martinez for.

You see, in baseball sometimes a manager can make the right move and it still doesn't work out. Sometimes, too, a manager can make a move that makes no sense at all and have it come up aces. That's just the nature of the game.

I don't think a move that doesn't work is by definition a bad move. That's something they don't get up in Boston, and that's the reason Little has been lampooned as a bad manager up there through the years.

The real goat from Game 7 was Martinez. He was a great pitcher who had a bad inning at the worst possible time. It was a simple as that.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

White Sox trade Matt Thornton to Red Sox

I mentioned earlier this week the time was right for the White Sox to trade Matt Thornton. Indeed, the rumored deal with the Boston Red Sox came to pass Friday night. The South Siders sent the veteran left-handed reliever and cash considerations to the Red Sox for outfield prospect Brandon Jacobs.

Thornton, 36, was 0-3 this season with a 3.86 ERA in 40 appearances. He ranks first in White Sox history in all-time relief appearances with 512. In those games, he went 31-35 with a 3.28 ERA. He recorded 486 strikeouts in 463.1 innings. There's no question Thornton was an effective bullpen piece for the Sox for a long time.

But, as we noted, because of age, declining performance and contract status, it was time for a change. The Sox made a move that makes sense for all parties involved.

Thornton is going to a contending team in Boston. The Red Sox lead the American League East by 4.5 games entering Saturday's play. He'll be reunited with Juan Nieves, the former White Sox bullpen coach who now serves as the pitching coach in Boston. He'll be able to fill a role as a situational left-handed reliever, a hole the Red Sox needed plugged after losing Andrew Miller for the season.

The White Sox, meanwhile, got some salary relief out of this deal. Reports indicate the team shipped about $750,000 to Boston as part of the trade, which will almost cover the buyout for Thornton's contract at the end of the season. Including buyout, Thornton was owed about $3.5 million for the rest of his deal. So, the Sox get a savings of roughly $2.75 million.

They also acquire the right-handed hitting Jacobs, who is an OK, but not great prospect.

Jacobs, 22, is hitting .247 with 11 home runs, 44 RBIs, 46 runs scored and 10 stolen bases in 84 games this year with Class-A Salem and Double-A Portland. He hit .421 with six doubles, two home runs and 12 RBIs over his final 11 games with Salem before being promoted to Portland on July 10.

Scouting reports indicate he lacks the arm strength to play right field, so the Sox will probably assign him to Double-A Birmingham and park him in left field. Baseball America ranks him as the 13th-best prospect in the Boston system.

Some White Sox fans have griped about the team not getting enough for Thornton, but to be honest, this is about what I expected out of this trade. Realistically, Thornton will probably make 25-30 appearances for Boston the rest of the season. He'll probably provide about 25-30 innings pitched as well, and then the Red Sox will buy him out and let him walk at the end of the year.

How much is 25-30 innings of aging Matt Thornton worth on the trade market? Well, it's worth a second-tier prospect and some salary relief. And that's what the Sox got for Thornton. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Does trade value really increase or decrease based upon one game?

White Sox right fielder Alex Rios had a helluva game Tuesday night. He went 6 for 6 with two RBIs, two stolen bases and a run scored as Chicago routed the Detroit Tigers, 11-4.

Rios is the first Sox player to collect six hits in a game since Lance Johnson in 1995. He also became the first player to total four hits in a single game against Detroit ace Justin Verlander

This morning, I read articles and heard several comments about how Rios "increased his trade value" with the performance.


So what happens if Rios goes 0 for 5 in Wednesday's game? Does that mean his trade value goes back down? And if so, by how much?

Rios has been in the American League for 10 years. I would guess most scouts are well-acquainted with his capabilities. Teams that are interested in acquiring an outfielder in a midseason deal no doubt have been watching Rios for weeks. Are scouts really going to make a recommendation based upon one game?

I just don't buy the idea that a player's trade value is subject to day-to-day fluctuations. I think teams make evaluations by looking at long-term trends, not one-game snapshots.

Am I right or am I wrong?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It's time for the White Sox to trade Matt Thornton

Let's get right to the point of today's blog entry: There is no way Matt Thornton should be back with the White Sox in 2014.

Thornton is already overpaid this season. He's making $5.5 million. The White Sox hold a $6 million option on him for next year with a $1 million buyout. 

It would be insanity to pick up that option.

Thornton is being paid like a closer, but at this stage of his career, he's nothing more than a situational left-handed reliever. Just check out his lefty-righty slash line for this year:

vs. left-handers: .176/.236/.629
vs. right-handers: .333/.429/.866

Thornton looks like a pitcher who no longer trusts his stuff against right-handed batters. Case in point, Monday night's game against the Cubs. Thornton entered the game in the eighth inning of a 2-2 tie. He retired the left-handed batting Anthony Rizzo, then started picking at the corners of the plate against a pair of right-handed hitters.

It's difficult to walk the free-swinging Alfonso Soriano, but Thornton managed to do it on four pitches. He then fell behind 3-and-1 to switch-batting Dioner Navarro before giving up a single. Then, the left-handed Luis "Boom Boom Valbuena, who inexplicably owns the Sox, punked Thornton for a two-run double that gave the Cubs a 4-2 lead. That ended Thornton's night, and he took the loss as the North Siders went on to an 8-2 victory.

Thornton is 36 years old, and he's been in steady decline over the last four years. His numbers reflect that. Take a look at the statistics below. In particular, pay attention to the rising ERA and declining strikeout rate.

2010: 2.67
2011: 3.32
2012: 3.46
2013: 4.00

Ks per 9 IP
2010: 12.0
2011: 9.5
2012: 7.3
2013: 6.7

2010: 1.005
2011: 1.358
2012: 1.231
2013: 1.296

Hits per 9 IP
2010: 6.1
2011: 9.1
2012: 8.7
2013: 8.3

HR per 9 IP
2010: 0.4
2011: 0.5
2012: 0.6
2013: 1.3

You can see the problem. Thornton doesn't miss as many bats these days. He gives up more hits and home runs than he did in the past. His ERA climbs each year as a result. It's nothing to be ashamed about. It's just reality for an aging pitcher who has made 60 or more appearances for 7 seven straight seasons. Soon, it will become 8 straight seasons.

There's no reason for the White Sox to waste $6 million on this declining pitcher for next season. Thornton is still useful as a situational left-hander, but you can find guys to fill that particular role for much less money.

There are rumors the Boston Red Sox are interested in Thornton's services for the rest of this year. If I'm White Sox GM Rick Hahn, I'm pulling the trigger on that deal.

Thornton's subtraction from the Sox roster will not hurt the team now or in the future. Thornton has done a nice job for the Sox through the years, but his best days are past and it is time for a change -- for both the player and the team.

Friday, July 5, 2013

White Sox call up Josh Phegley; Jordan Danks optioned

The White Sox made two roster moves before embarking on a brief three-game weekend road trip to Tampa Bay.

Catcher Josh Phegley, 25, has been called up from Triple-A Charlotte, while backup catcher Hector Gimenez was designated for assignment.

Phegley, the 38th overall pick in the 2009 draft, was hitting .316 with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs for the Knights. He was chosen to play in the July 14 Futures Game in New York and the July 17 Triple-A All-Star Game. Instead, he'll be the new starting catcher for the White Sox.

This move relegates Tyler Flowers (pictured) to the bench. The Sox had hoped Flowers would fill the shoes of veteran A.J. Pierzynski, who signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers last offseason. Instead, Flowers has struggled both offensively and defensively. He is batting a measly .208 with eight home runs and 22 RBIs in 65 games. He also has seven passed balls and has thrown out just 25 percent of baserunners who have attempted to steal against him.

Flowers will probably play a little more frequently than Gimenez as a backup, but it's unlikely he'll be in the lineup anymore than twice a week moving forward. It is possible Phegley will see time at DH on days he's not catching, at least until veteran 1B/DH Paul Konerko comes off the disabled list after the All-Star break.

In a second move, outfielder Jordan Danks was optioned to Charlotte and outfielder Blake Tekotte was recalled. Tekotte, 26, was hitting .249 at Charlotte and is not considered a prospect anymore. Danks was 5-for-37 at the plate in limited playing time with the Sox. What would be the point of this move? The Chicago media asked manager Robin Ventura that question:

“We’re just making a different move,” Ventura said. “It’s nothing he’s done. We’ve got to go give him at-bats. It’s not easy sitting around and expecting to do well with one hit every two weeks. That’s the tough part of the game.”

In other words, the team is getting ready to trade right fielder Alex Rios. Somebody will have to play right field once that happens, and that somebody is Danks. So, he needs to go to Charlotte and chip the rust off his bat in preparation for the opportunity that awaits.

Is Danks part of the Sox future plans? I doubt it. He's a backup outfielder in my estimation. But sometimes you need placeholders while you're looking to acquire or develop somebody better.

Welcome to rebuilding, Sox fans. Ain't it fun? 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Homer Bailey's no-hitter is first of 2013 season

The 2012 baseball season equaled an all-time record with seven no-hitters thrown. This year, things are evening out a bit.

We got a little over halfway through the 2013 season before Homer Bailey broke the ice with the first no-hitter of the year Tuesday night.

The Cincinnati Reds right-hander defeated the defending world champion San Francisco Giants 3-0 before a crowd of over 27,000 people at Great American Ball Park.

Bailey retired the first 18 batters before walking Gregor Blanco to lead off the top of the seventh inning.

Blanco would be the only San Francisco player to reach base as Bailey faced just one hitter over the minimum.

Bailey struck out nine and needed a fairly economical 109 pitches to finish the job. He threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 28 batters he faced.

It was the second no-hitter of Bailey's career. He blanked the Pirates on Sept. 28, 2012, the seventh and final no-hitter of last season. On Tuesday, he became the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan to account for consecutive no-hitters — meaning that no other pitcher threw one between his two.

Ryan pulled that trick back in the mid-70s. As a member of the California Angels, he beat the Minnesota Twins 4-0 on Sept. 28, 1974. Check out the box score on that one. Ryan struck out 15 and walked eight in the victory. He later no-hit the Baltimore Orioles on June 1, 1975. Those were two of Ryan's record seven no-hitters during his 27-year career.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Jim Thome rejoins White Sox (no, not as the designated hitter)

Former White Sox slugger Jim Thome has rejoined the organization as a special assistant to general manager Rick Hahn.

Thome hit 612 home runs and drove in nearly 1,700 runs during his 22-year career in Major League Baseball.

“It is nearly impossible to top Jim’s baseball resume with 22 seasons in the game,” Hahn said in a statement.  “When we talked recently about how he could move on to the next stage of his baseball career, an obvious fit was to join this organization, where Jim knows so many people and is immediately comfortable.  He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to this role, and we’re excited to see the impact he will have on both our major leaguers and minor leaguers.”

Thome spent four mostly productive seasons on the South Side from 2006-09. During that time, he batted .265 with 134 home runs and 369 RBIs. His game-winning home run off Minnesota's Nick Blackburn in a one-game playoff gave the White Sox the 2008 AL Central Division championship and solidified Thome's place in franchise history.

“Taking on this new role with the White Sox just seemed like a natural next step for me and my family,” Thome said in a statement.  “I am excited about the opportunity to make an impact on a major league organization and to work with people I know and respect, like Jerry Reinsdorf, Ken Williams, Rick, Buddy (Bell) and Robin Ventura.  I don’t think I could ask for a better situation than being in Chicago and with the White Sox.”

Sox fans can only hope Thome can help the organization find some middle-of-the-order hitters who were half as productive as he was.

As is custom, let's welcome Thome back to Chicago:

Cubs trade Scott Feldman to Orioles; Carlos Marmol headed to Dodgers

The Cubs began their much-anticipated midseason trading frenzy Tuesday afternoon with a pair of deals.

First, the North Siders sent pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Baltimore Orioles for starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (pictured), reliever Pedro Strop and international bonus slots No. 3 and No. 4.

In a second move, the Cubs dealt reliever Carlos Marmol  and international signing bonus slot No. 4 to the Los Angeles Dodgers for reliever Matt Guerrier.

I like what the Orioles did here. Baltimore enters Tuesday's play at 47-36. The Orioles have won four in a row and sit just 2 1/2 games back of the Boston Red Sox in the competitive AL East. But, you have to wonder whether Baltimore can stay in the hunt with such poor starting pitching. Orioles starters have a 4.79 ERA this season; that's the third-highest mark in the American League. That's not what you want as a contending team.

Feldman will help. He is having one of his best seasons, having gone 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA in 15 starts with the Cubs. He's been pitching well above his career norms -- his career ERA is 4.66. But even if he crashes back to reality, he provides Baltimore with a more consistent option than Arrieta or any of the other guys who have toiled at the back end of the Orioles rotation. If I'm Baltimore, I'm still looking for another front-line starter to solidify things, but I'm also feeling better about my chances after adding Feldman in exchange for a couple guys who weren't in my plans.

From the Cubs' perspective, I would guess the international bonus slots are what they coveted in this deal. They are probably angling to sign a prospect or two as international free agency opens this week. Certainly, neither Arrieta nor Strop gives fans any reason to get excited.

Arrieta went 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA in five starts with Baltimore this season. The hard-throwing right-hander owns a career 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts) over parts of four seasons with the Orioles. Arrieta was once considered a top prospect, but now he's nothing more than a 27-year-old reclamation project who will spend some time in Triple-A Iowa.

Strop, 28, had solid overall numbers in 2012 -- a 2.44 ERA in 70 appearances as Baltimore's primary setup man. A closer look reveals he actually had an outstanding first four months, followed by some horrific struggles down the stretch. From April through July of last season, Strop compiled a 1.34 ERA. In August and September, his ERA was 5.12.

It has only gotten worse for the right-hander in 2013. He is 0-3 with a 7.25 ERA in 29 relief appearances. He's been battling back problems throughout the season. Recently, he complained about the home fans booing him off the mound in Baltimore. 

Both Arrieta and Strop seem to be on the fast track to nowhere. The best the Cubs can hope for is a change of scenery getting both back on track.

Speaking of the need for a change of scenery, Marmol is finally out of Chicago. The 30-year-old headcase was 2-4 with a 5.86 ERA in 31 relief appearances before the Cubs designated him for assignment on June 25. Marmol is owed more than $5 million on his $9.8 million contract for this season, and the Cubs will send some cash to the Dodgers for doing them the favor of taking Marmol off their hands. In return, the Cubs get the 34-year-old Guerrier, who is 2-3 with a 4.80 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP in 34 relief appearances this year.

Guerrier will not be part of the solution on the North Side, but hey, he's not as bad as Marmol and he'll eat up some innings in middle relief. That's probably the best thing you can say about his acquisition.

Monday, July 1, 2013

If Dr. Seuss described the 2013 White Sox....

This poem comes courtesy of longtime White Sox fan Tom Braxton. Well done, my friend:

The park was too big. The crowd was too small.
And there we sat watching some White Sox baseball.
The players tried to hit, but they could not connect.
It was not a hit, just a swing that they checked.

“The White Sox are bad,” I said to my friend.
“I wonder if ever this season will end.”
We only could sit there, my friend there with me,
As they went down in order, strikes one, two, and three.

The Sox cannot hit, at least not hits they need,
Like with runners on base or to build up a lead.
They also can’t catch, at least not very well.
Hey, there’s a pop fly! And whoops, it just fell.

Still we just sat, my friend there with me.
And again down in order, strikes one, two, and three.
“You know they will lose,” I said with a sigh.
“This game’s almost over. I’ll see you. Bye-bye.”

Then there was a BANG! I said, “What was that?”
A sudden loud sound had come off of a bat!
We looked and we saw him step out on the dirt.
We looked and we saw him! It’s Frank, The Big Hurt!

“What’s wrong with you two?” he asked with a shout.
“The White Sox are playing. They’ll win it, no doubt!”
We tried to explain that we had no more fun.
“You think that we’re kidding? Just watch Adam Dunn!”

“Or maybe Ramirez will drop a ground ball,
“And then we’ll see Flowers pass one to the wall.
“Eight years since the Series, it’s 2013.
“And Frank, this might be just the worst that we’ve seen.”

He gave us a smile. He started to talk.
“I think you should listen to my friend The Hawk.
“You know what he told me?” he asked with a grin.
“All that they need is some new will to win!”

“And that’s what we’ll do!” he said with a smile.
“We’ll make something fresh out of this steaming pile!”
“So come with me now, and say it with me,
“TWTW is what sets us free!”

My friend and I sat there just watching Big Frank.
But what could he do? There’s De Aza, there’s Tank,
There’s Paulie’s sore back and there’s Peavy’s few wins.
And Beckham thinks fielders are big bowling pins.

Big Hurt would not quit. He had much more to say.
“I know that you know I watch this every day.
“I watch them make errors. I watch them pop out.
“I know what is wrong here. I know it, no doubt!”

“It’s not in their workouts. It’s not in their food.
“What these fellows need is some new attitude.
“I’ve got that, I know that, and now they will too.
“Come with me and help me – yes, I mean you.”

But we could just sit there without much to say.
We knew that he meant well but there just was no way.
“Frank,” we said, “thank you for all your good cheer.
“We thank you for hitting them out every year.

“But this year is over. We know that it’s shot.
“We hoped for the best, but here’s what we’ve got.
“Quick! Rick Hahn is coming. Go talk to him. Run!
“Tell him that the Yankees might take Adam Dunn.”

“You really should do it. We know that you care.
“There aren’t any trades. Our cupboard is bare.”
And Frank said, “Good-bye, then. Just follow your game.
“Come see me next year at the big Hall of Fame!”

The game sputtered on with the Sox looking bad.
And I got to thinking what great players we’d had.
We only could sit there, my friend there with me
As they went down in order, strikes one, two, and three.