By Jim Callis
July 26, 2001
In a trade fraught with interesting subplots, the Dodgers added a much-needed starter on Thursday. James Baldwin arrived from the White Sox in exchange for three minor leaguers: lefthander Onan Masaoka, righthander Gary Majewski and outfielder Jeff Barry.
The subplots? Baldwin’s departure could mean that more trades are to come from Chicago, which has had trouble signing all-star outfielder Magglio Ordonez and Keith Foulke to long-term contracts. This deal signalled an about face for the White Sox, who had dealt away several pitching prospects since Ken Williams became general manager after the 2000 season. The man Williams beat out for that job, 19-year Sox front-office veteran Dan Evans, took a senior advisor job with Los Angeles and now has helped engineer two deals with his former team in the last two weeks. (On July 13, the Dodgers traded lefthander Wade Parrish for outfielder McKay Christensen.)
Most interesting of all? Chicago thought it had acquired righthander Jon Berry, not Jeff Barry, and issued a press release to that effect. Neither team realized which Barry/Berry the other side was discussing, and the White Sox decided to accept Barry.
The bottom line? The Dodgers have surprisingly remained afloat in the National League Western Division and wild-card races despite losing 60 percent of their rotation. Andy Ashby and Darren Dreifort are done for the year, while Kevin Brown is out until at least late August. Adding Baldwin takes some pressure off a rotation that had been comprised of ace Chan Ho Park backed by converted reliever Terry Adams, who hadn’t made a major league start until this year; youngsters Eric Gagne and Luke Prokopec; and knuckleballer Dennis Springer, who owns a career 24-46 record.
Baldwin, 30, was an all-star in 2000 but had trouble getting started this year after offseason arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder. He won five of his last six starts with the White Sox, though his overall numbers are far from impressive. He’s 7-5, 4.61 with disheartening hits-innings (109-96) and strikeout-walk (42-38) ratios. His fastball and curveball are plus pitches, but he’s also maddingly inconsistent and rarely has lived up to expectations. Chicago didn’t offer him a long-term deal after 2000 and will save $2 million on his salary this year. A pending free agent, Baldwin is expected to seek $40 million or more for a five-year deal. He probably won’t get that from Los Angeles. The Dodgers already have $33.5 million per season tied up in Ashby, Brown and Dreifort, and Park’s agent, Scott Boras, has made noise about a $20 million-a-year deal for his client. Los Angeles is banking that Baldwin can live up to his reputation as a second-half pitcher. In seven major league seasons, he has gone 36-32, 5.37 before the all-star break and 33-21, 4.62 afterward. He’ll move into Springer’s rotation spot. Much-heralded Jon Garland will replace Baldwin in Chicago.
Masaoka, 23, spent much of 1999 and 2000 with the Dodgers, going 3-5, 4.23 in 83 games. He didn’t make the club this year in spring training, however, and went 8-4, 5.55 with 61 strikeouts in 73 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas. He has a quality arm for a lefty but still has yet to put everything together. Until he does, he doesn’t project as anything more than a middle reliever. He was a third-round pick in 1995 out of a Hawaii high school.
Majewski, 21, was traded by the White Sox to the Dodgers in March along with fellow minor league pitchers Orlando Rodriguez and Andre Simpson, while big league reliever Antonio Osuna and minor league lefty Carlos Ortega headed to Chicago. A 1998 second-round pick out of a Houston high school, Majewski is a sinker-slider pitcher who can reach the low 90s with his two-seam fastball. He has struggled mightily after switching organizations, going 4-5, 6.24 for high Class A Vero Beach, allowing 103 hits and 36 walks while striking out just 41 in 75 innings.
Barry, 32, has hit .244-5-28 in 244 big league at-bats with the Mets and Rockies. He’s a garden-variety Quadruple-A outfielder who spent 2000 in Japan and is of little use to the White Sox.