Putzing around

It became clear over the Winter Meetings that, if the White Sox wanted to add a veteran bullpen arm, signing a guy like J.J. Putz would be the only way to go.
The Cubs may have set the tone when they signed John Grabow and his inflated walk rate for two years and $7.5 million. LaTroy Hawkins received the same deal, and Brandon Lyon then topped them all with three years and $15 million from the Houston Astros thanks to Ed Wade’s unsatiable appetite for middle relievers.
So in the wake of those deals, a $3 million base salary for Putz isn’t awful; it’s probably fair.  If he somehow maximizes his incentives ($3.25M in all), he’ll have pitched well enough to have been worth it.
The Sox, who say they’ve done their due diligence with Putz’ medical records, are usually pretty good about these injury risks.  They got about everything they could expect from Octavio Dotel, who had pitched just 56 innings over his previous three seasons before coming to the South Side.  Same thing with Bartolo Colon, who may not have been injured as much as he was uninterested, given the way he vanished into chubby air.  Mike MacDougal also had an extensive history of injuries before the Sox traded for him. Somehow, only mental health was to blame for his unraveling.
And then there’s the gold standard for grabbing a reliever on the rebound, Tom Gordon.
Even if Putz is only able to provide one half of a decent season, he’ll still have served a purpose.  Maybe he’ll have given enough time for a guy like Jhonny Nunez or Clevelan Santeliz to get acclimated to big-league pressure. Or maybe he’ll give Ozzie Guillen another reason to avoid using Scott Linebrink on back-to-back days. My guess will be that signing Putz will ultimately pay off, at least when viewed on an individual level.
It can hurt the Sox, though, if you lump Putz in with all the other guys the Sox paid for before addressing their biggest need — hitters.  More specifically, hitters who can start. Even more specifically, hitters who can replace most of what Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome produced in years past.  Hell, they need to make up for Scott Podsednik a little bit, too.
In a year in which Kenny Williams claims to have little money, the Sox have spent a lot of time dicking around on the margins thus far. You can look at the individual moves the Sox made and not really quibble with any of them, but the total cost makes a definite dent on the budget:

  • Mark Kotsay, $1.5M
  • Mark Teahen, $2M (roughly, over what Josh Fields or Chris Getz would have cost)
  • Omar Vizquel, $1.3M
  • Andruw Jones, $500K
  • Putz, $3M

That’s more than $8 million spent on nonessential players.  The Sox would need those roles filled eventually, but — with the exception of Teahen, for some reason — there aren’t any huge plans for any of these guys. Not one of them guys is a lead pipe lock to provide value. You could spend half as much and end up with similar or better production.
Therein lies the rub.   If the Sox come up $4 million short on an everyday player who would fill the open corner outfielder or designated hitter role, the strong bench Williams paid for is now a starter reject rack. All of a sudden, we’re looking at a reprisal of 2007, with Jones putting a voluptuous spin on Luis Terrero.
Maybe I’m engaging in a bit of fearmongering, but it goes to illustrate that the risk isn’t riding on what’s left of Putz’s elbow. If it turns out that the Sox painted themselves into a corner, it happened well before he entered the picture.
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The fiscal reckoning could be upon us even sooner, actually.
I don’t know how Scott Merkin and Mark Gonzalez connected these dots, but it’s alarming if true:

One pitcher probably out of the loop is versatile reliever D.J. Carrasco, who appears unlikely to be tendered a contract by Saturday’s 11 p.m. deadline.

The logic — whether it turns out to be used by the writers or the organization — is lacking.  The Sox may not need middle relief as much as other teams, but they do need a rubber arm. If the Sox keep Bobby Jenks around, they’ll have about $15 million tied up in fragile (that’s Italian!) right-handers.  Linebrink can’t be used on consecutive days, and it probably isn’t smart to push Putz or Jenks either.
If the Sox carry six relievers, that leaves Tony Pena as the only guy who can be used for multiple innings or back-to-back days on a semi-regular basis, which doesn’t seem particularly smart. Plus, until they get that hitter, the emphasis shouldn’t be on who might pitch the fourth inning.
The 14th might be a bigger issue.

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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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Buehrlesque

Great point Jim- I’m so glad you pointed out the fact that the supposedly cash-strapped Sox have now spent over $8 million this winter… and not filled their biggest need(s)!!
It’s almost as if KW wanted to spend incognito so he could use his trusty “Can’t spend a dollar…” line when it comes time for the big moves. That, or he’s sure he will get some hitters on the cheap.
Otherwise, he basically HAS to move a salary (Konerko, Linebrink, Jenks) to make any real big moves, doesn’t he? And this team can’t be finished as is, can it?

Buehrlesque

^^ EDIT: Despite that mini-rant, I *do* like the Putz signing. Very reasonable contract- a good risk with lots of potential upside.
Random question to all: how much better do you think 2010 Putz will be than 2010 Octavio Dotel, wherever he ends up? Significantly? Marginally?

JJ

Luckily, the 2010 pitching staff should be *slightly* better than the 2007 one. But that Jones to Terrero comparison just made me shudder.

chisoxt

If and if Putz is healthy, this signing is an upgrade but overall, if this signing also result in non-tendering Carrasco, I would say that our bullpen has become weaker

jimbo

If they think Hudson or Torres would be an upgrade at long relief, I could see Carrasco being expendable. I doubt they non-tender him though, as he would be worth something in trade. I still think KW has enough money in his budget to get his lefty bat. I think he’s sincere about Matsui and he would be a great addition. I could live with Matsui at DH and a platoon of Kotsay and Jones in the outfield.

cushinglee

Great post….I have no problem with signing Putz, but the lineup right now doesn’t look too good. Kenny may be playing a waiting game and seeing who’s left without a contract. But that doesn’t give you a lot of options. And here’s something to think about: why would Matsui want to come to Chicago in the first place?

ricksch

Agreed Jim. I’m more than a little bit worried that KW is done. Line-up looks weak and is counting heavily on Quentin and Rios returning to form. Problem is, form for Quentin is a .230 avg. and an injury. Matsui is the wrong move. Too $$ and we don’t need any more slow and old guys. We must get a REAL STARTING OF and maybe Pods as a back-up. I like the idea of not having a traditional DH on the team, especially when you can put Quentin, Konerko and Pods if we get him in that slot.

expatnyc

“Chubby air.” Well done.

soxfan1

Does anyone else feel like we should bite the bullit and give Scotty Pods a small ($4-5 mil) 2 year deal. Maybe I’m too inpatient but Andruw Jones in left doesn’t thrill me. I saw something about Kenny having interest in Brett Gardner but the Yanks won’t deal him without something significant in return.

cushinglee

I agree with this….and the White Sox should try to keep Carrasco.

knoxfire30

I just dont see the sox getting nothing for carrasco they need to move him or tender him a contract, he pitched too well for too many innings. Shouldnt this guy have other teams interested as well?
Granted Torres and Hudson could be used in the long reliever roll but that may stunt Hudsons development and torres is really any good in my opinion.
Williams likes to cry poor and talk budget but he usually comes up with a way to talk jerry into taking on a little more and then he come publicly come out and say how great and generous his owner is in a nice public relations manuever. Sox have done this a few times. They will add a quality bat believe me.

striker

I think we’ll get our bat(s). I think hitters are more plentiful than pitchers, that’s why we got our pitcher first. This team still has 4 or 5 guys that could have over 80 rbis. Ramirez, Konerko, Quentin, Rios, Beckham. So I’m not that worried. Were probably looking until February before we sign them though as we are looking for blue light specials.

knoxfire30

Well its official, carrasco was non tendered, I just dont get it. What was his figure gonna be 1 to 1.5 mil tops…
Oh well Kenny Williams said in an article in the sun times this offseason is going exactly as planned, his order of getting stuff done was the bench, the staff, then the lineup. We will see if he is true to his word.