Nothing But Net

This is not a condemnation of the Sox’ trade for Nick Swisher. Truth be told, Swisher is a fine player and a solid addition to a White Sox lineup that needs a bat like his and an outfielder that can cover the ground he does.

(Some will cite his .378 average at Sox Park as evidence that he’s going to be a monster offensive force for the Good Guys; this is bogus for the simple reasons that [a] it was only nine games and [b] it’s quite possible everyone in the American League hit .378 against Sox pitching in 2007).

To question the specifics of the trade is a futile argument, since outfield prospects like Ryan Sweeney are a dime a dozen and neither Gio Gonzalez nor Fautino De Los Santos were going to make the big-league roster next year. Kelly over at Athletics For Life likes the trade, and with good reason. But instead, the trade for Swisher actually has three larger implications that speak volumes about why the Sox might certainly be awful for years and, unfortunately, these things must be acknowledged:

Gio Gonzalez has joined select company of players who’ve been traded, traded for and then shipped out again by the same organization. He was the Sox #1 pitching prospect and is now the A’s #2, according to John Sickels and his crew. Jose Contreras is nearing the end of his usefulness; Javier Vazquez is going to either be traded or become too expensive; Gavin Floyd and John Danks are still totally unproven; worst of all, Sox brass has made no secret of their unwillingness to pay for top-shelf free agent talent. So if position players are a worthless commodity and the top pitching prospects are being turned into position players, where are the Sox of the future possibly going to assemble a respectable pitching staff?

A’s GM Billy Beane is smart. Really smart. How smart? Smart enough to turn a so-so centerfielder locked into a cheap contract into a so-so centerfielder locked into league minimum plus the Sox’ two best pitching prospects. Wow.

A .260 hitter who can play multiple positions and maybe hit 20-25 home runs if he doesn’t get hurt. That describes Swisher pretty well, but that also sounds a lot like a certain outfielder the Sox could’ve had if only they’d have tacked another year onto their offer. When Major League Baseball is generating $6 billion annually and revenue sharing is dishing out tens of millions of dollars to each team, it’s hard to see how the Sox couldn’t come up with a way to outbid the Giants for the outfielder they needed more than the Giants did. It could’ve meant clinging to an aging, expensive outfielder a few years from now, but it would’ve also meant having two more young pitchers locked up for league minimum. Is premier pitching talent going to come for less than $15 million a year anymore? In a world where Carlos Silva receives 4 years and $48 million, probably not.

Yes, they’ll talk about “upside.” They’ll talk about versatility. It may turn out that the Sox were lucky to land Swisher; it may also turn out they never needed him. In many ways, this trade might just mean the Sox have cornered the market on wildly overpaying for the things they already had. Turning gold into aluminum, a bright future into more of the same and making “80 wins” sound like par for the course. As the slogan says: They are Chicago baseball.
God I hate this team.