|Few general managers balance the benefits and costs of in-season trades quite like Ken Williams of the White Sox. Prospects surrendered in July deals, with few exceptions, seldom fulfill their potential. Most grow into complementary players, if they make it all. On the other hand, veteran acquisitions typically return expected value, even if the cost in terms of salary and prospect assets seems steep at the time. For Williams and the White Sox, the benefit of making the playoffs for the first time since 2008 would offset the costs associated with trading talent from a farm system that ranks among the shallowest in the game.
Winning the American League Central would give Chicago its best chance to make a deep playoff run. So even with his White Sox holding a 2 1/2 game advantage on the Tigers heading into the home stretch, Williams completed his third summer trade, this time acquiring 28-year-old lefthander Francisco Liriano from the Twins. Chicago sent lefthander Pedro Hernandez and shortstop Eduardo Escobar, a pair of modest, 23-year-old prospects, to Minnesota.
The White Sox join the Angels, who traded for Zack Greinke, and the Tigers, who dealt for Anibal Sanchez, as AL playoff contenders who have reinforced their rotations through trade. Already this summer Williams had dealt for Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who has batted .273/.387/.495 through 27 games with the White Sox, and Astros closer Brett Myers, who has made four scoreless relief appearances since joining Chicago last weekend. (You can assess the cost in talent yourself at Trade Central.)
Perhaps Liriano will be subject to similar small-sample success as Youkilis and Myers, because he's been anything but predictable this season. In fact, the White Sox roughed up Liriano in his last outing on July 23 (seven runs, seven hits, three homers in 2 2/3 innings), but in six starts from May 30-June 25 he struck out 40 in 37 1/3 innings while logging a 2.41 ERA and 0.64 WHIP. Liriano has reached those heights infrequently throughout his career, but if matched up against the lefty-heavy offenses of the AL Central-rival Indians, Royals and Twins down the stretch, then he's capable of big things during his final 10 or so starts. Lefty batters have batted .195/.287/.286 with one homer versus Liriano this season, which is in line with his career .593 OPS allowed to lefties.
A free agent after the season, Liriano's wildly-fluctuating results made it unlikely that the Twins would have made him the qualifying contract offer necessary to receive draft pick compensation. So while neither Hernandez nor Escobar project to be future impact players, each possesses at least one plus tool and can help the Twins in their organizational rebuild. That's certainly better than nothing.
|Eduardo Escobar, ss
Age: 23. Born: Jan 5, 1989 in Villa de Cara, Venezuela.
Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 165.
Bats: B. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by White Sox, Jan. 28, 2006.
Escobar made the White Sox roster out of spring training, not really because he was ready for prime time but because projected utility infielder Ozzie Martinez failed his audition so thoroughly. Acquired in the Ozzie Guillen transaction with the Marlins, Martinez went 0-for-10 during spring training and then put up a .450 OPS with Triple-A Charlotte, which cost him his place on the 40-man roster and resulted in a July trade to the Dodgers. Scouts love Escobar's hands, range and arm at shortstop, and now free from the shadow of Alexei Ramirez in Chicago he'll be able to strut his stuff with the Twins. Escobar has farther to go with the bat, but he has shown a contact-oriented, small-ball approach and the plus speed to not be a zero on offense. He has a quick bat from both sides of the plate and has shown gap power in the minors, so future growth is not out of the question. At any rate, his glove will buy him at-bats for the rebuilding Twins.
|White Sox Acquire|
|Francisco Liriano, lhp
Age: 28. Throws: L. Remaining Commitment: Under contract for $5.5 million this season (approximately $917,000 per month).
Contract details courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.