Go West, Old Men: What do the Thome, Contreras trades mean?

As August came to an end, Kenny Williams officially brought his team’s postseason hopes to a close.
The Gentleman Masher is now a Gentleman Dodger.

My favorite piece of Thome art, courtesy of thecip.
My favorite piece of Thome art, courtesy of thecip.
The White Sox traded Jim Thome for Justin Fuller,  who will never be more famous than he is right now.  Somehow, they also sent Jose Contreras to Colorado for something of value.  More on that later, because Thome’s departure is the much bigger story.
Now, it’s entirely possible that this is merely a rental.  The Sox need a left-handed bat, and there’s nothing stopping them from re-signing Thome in the off-season.  Of course, if Thome is willing to be a bench player for a World Series ring and comes away empty, he may be short on reasons to come back to the South Side.
If he’s absolutely, positively no longer in the plans, there are implications abound:
No. 1: Williams has made a number of surprising deals before, but this is the first one that shakes the team’s true veteran core.  Other moves had been made to accommodate Thome, Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko. Not anymore.
No. 2: If Thome isn’t re-signed, then the Sox have an opening for a left-handed bat.
No. 3: The Brandon Allen trade becomes much, much more confusing now.
No. 4: Evidently, Williams isn’t going to hold piss-poor attendance over the final month against White Sox fans.
No. 5: This can’t hurt the Sox’s reputation among free agents.  With the Sox throwing cash in the deal, they’re basically paying for Thome to get a chance for a championship.  The Sox have the reputation of trashing players on their way out, and this definitely helps combat that.
No. 6: It opens the door to sign Frank Thomas to a commemorative deal for the last few weeks of the season.
No. 7: The Sox had maxxed out their 40-man roster, but without Thome and Contreras, there’s some breathing room.  Bartolo Colon can also be removed at any time.
No. 8: One of those spots will be used on Tyler Flowers, who will be more than a ceremonial third catcher.
Flowers becomes the biggest priority for Ozzie Guillen, who will hopefully continue his recent trend of giving young players a long leash.  I’d personally like to see him rotate between DH and catcher with A.J. Pierzynski, since it would give Pierzynski his desired playing time while saving some mileage on his knees.

Here's looking at you, kid.
Here's looking at you, kid.
If Flowers proves he can hit, it gives the Sox some much-needed flexibility entering the offseason.  He could be considered a full-time DH candidate for the 2010 season, which I wouldn’t want to see, lest his defensive progress stagnate.
A less-likely possibility is that he replaces Pierzynski, who has resurrected his trade value by combining an excellent offensive season with an expiring contract.  I don’t think the Sox would deal Pierzynski, but anything’s possible after this trade — especially with savings of $6 million.
But that’s looking way too far in the future at this point.  The present reality is bittersweet.
It’s sad to see Thome go, but it’s nice to hear the kind words from Sox fans on The Score’s post-game programming.  He was often blamed for the team’s one-dimensional ways despite being its steadiest offensive force over a four-year period.  He was one Sox hitter who could provide value even while slumping.
Every caller called Thome “a class act,” and that was my impression as well.  But I’ll hold off on any further eulogy, because there’s a great chance he may not be gone for long.
Plus, with the addition of Flowers, the last month of the season stands a chance to be far more watchable — even after Williams raised the White Flag.
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Jose Contreras
is definintely gone, and for some reason, the White Sox received actual value in return.
Brandon Hynick probably won’t be much of a major-league pitcher, as he has an unenviable combination of a high-80s fastball and a high flyball rate.
Still, it’s worth monitoring his progress in Charlotte next season.  Pitching in Pacific Coast League is hard work.  Check out Aaron Poreda’s progress:

0-3, 7.57 ERA, 27 1/3 IP, 27 H, 3 HR, 29 BB, 22 K

Colorado Springs?  Even harder.  That’s where Jayson Nix hit .303/.373/.591 last year, after all.
So that he’s managed to limit the damage well enough in his first go-around at Triple-A makes him somewhat intriguing.  More intriguing than, say, a guy who also didn’t get that many ground balls and didn’t show much of anything in his first shot in the pitcher-friendly International League.  I won’t name names.
Steve from White Sox Cards pointed out Hynick’s Web site.  I’d definitely call it the finest Web site for a questionable Sox prospect since JeffBajenaru.com. Sadly, it no longer exists.
I’ll have a eulogy on Contreras once I figure out where I’m putting them.  His time was clearly up, but it’s sad to see him go on such terms.  If you had to list the players responsible for bringing a World Series title to Chicago, his name would be near the top.
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Couple other notes:
*Jake Peavy is battling a bruise and nothing more, the MRI shows.
*Other September call-ups, at this point:  Chris Getz, Dewayne Wise and Josh Fields.

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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matttherock

Wow. All of this is just stunning.
I’m not sure which is the better way to look at this… that you’re getting rid of Contreras, or that you now have another #5-AAAA pitcher to play with. Hynick’s nothing special, but just unloading Contreras is shocking.
From a Rockies fan perspective… I’m alternating between shaking my head, trying to talk myself into it, and stupefied silence.

knoxfire30

Jim Thome did everything a sox fan could have dreamed for when the acquired him in 06. I wish I had links to posts of bloggers, newspaper articles and magazine articles talking about their expectation level of thome, “20 homers and 80 rbi’s” “Hope he can play about 100-120 games a year” “Maybe he can add a lefty presence we have been missing” ect ect ect. This guy FAR AND AWAY passed up those modest expectations and yet has managed to never get an ounce of credit that he has deserved for a bunch of stupid ass sox lure myths. The same bums who LOVED joe credes 250 ave 310 obp line and brutally inconsistent offense hate jim thomes 250 ave that came with a 400 obp and the 30 and 95 that you could set you watch by. Its a shame to see him go, but I just became a dodger fan for the last month of the season cause I would love to see him get the ring he has been after for so long.
Dye, Dotel, Pods seem to be on notice as guys who wont be brought back, and im not ruling out a trade of PK or AJ during the offseason in an attempt to get some young guys on the field and create more payroll flexibility.

soxfan1

Thome is a class guy! One of the classiest ever to wear a Sox uniform. I’m still shocked that the Dodgers made the deal. Trading for a pinch hitter hardly ever happens. Can anyone remember the last time, I can’t. With all tht being said, I hope Kenny keeps backing up the truck. I can think of 5 or 6 guys that I’d like to see gone by the beginning of 2010. How about: Colon, Dotel, Linebrink, Williams, Dye, Castro & Kotasy??? I’d re-sign Pods unless they can find a better leadoff hitter.

knoxfire30

Trade for a pinch hitter, um geoff blumm and mark kotsay immediately come to mind

striker

I wouldn’t mind saying goodbye to Konerko, Jenks, Linebrink or Pierzynski this offseason. I just hope KW won’t give them away.

knoxfire30

well PK and Linebrink can basically be given away in the sense that if the other team picks up those contracts we would be getting a lot of value back in my opinion. Jenks and AJ I can see being useful stil for a couple more years each so… probably is going to take a lot more to pry one of those guys away.

max160709

I always thought we should put Contreras in the bullpen. In most of his starts he’s rolled throught the first few innings and then gotten in trouble. except for the last start…that was just all trouble