Friday, December 20, 2013

White Sox set to add relief pitcher Scott Downs

You didn't really think the White Sox would go into the season with Donnie Veal as their primary left-handed reliever, did you?

Certainly not. You knew the Sox would fill that role via free agency, and it appears well-traveled veteran Scott Downs is their guy.

Reports indicate the Sox and Downs have agreed on a one-year contract worth $4 million.

Downs will be slated to earn $3.75 million in 2014. The contract includes a $4.25 million club option for 2015 with a $250,000 buyout.

I've heard a couple people suggest that perhaps Downs will be replacing Addison Reed as the Sox closer. That will not be happening. Downs will be the guy they bring in to face a tough left-handed hitter in the seventh or eighth inning. A quick look at Downs' career splits will show you he is more effective against lefties than righties:

vs. LHP: .219/.287/.318, 2.95 K/BB ratio, .271 BABIP
vs. RHP: .272/.342/.420, 1.77 K/BB ratio, .307 BABIP

Those look like the numbers of a lefty specialist.

Downs is 37 years old and will be 38 by the time the season begins. But, he doesn't seem to have lost his effectiveness. He split time between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves last year, going 4-4 with a 2.49 ERA in 68 appearances.

His hits allowed were a little high last year (45 in 43.1 IP), but he only gave up one home run all season. This is a pitcher with a track record of keeping the ball in the yard, and that's not a bad thing for a guy who is signing up to be a late-inning reliever at U.S. Cellular Field.

This is a reasonable signing by Sox GM Rick Hahn. Downs fills a need, and there's always the possibility he could be traded for a prospect midseason if the team is out of the race.

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