A’s grab Durham at little cost

With several more teams looking to dump players than are seeking to acquire them, plus the likely end of draft-pick compensation for the loss of free agents, it’s very much a buyer’s market on the trade front right now. That condition was hammered home on Thursday, when the White Sox sent two-time all-star Ray Durham to the Athletics, along with cash toward the remainder of Durham’s $6.3 million salary for 2002. In exchange, Chicago received Triple-A righthander Jon Adkins, who has a live arm—but also a 6.03 ERA at Triple-A Sacramento.

Durham, 30, was an American League all-star in 1998 and 2000. He has recovered from a slow start this year to hit .299-9-48 in 96 games and rank among the AL leaders in runs (71), stolen bases (20) and on-base percentage (a career-high .390). His defense is not a strength, but he’s a top-notch leadoff hitter and will be a significant upgrade over rookie Mark Ellis, who has been starting at second base and batting first for Oakland. A career .278-106-484 hitter with 291 steals in 1,146 games, Durham will become a free agent at the end of the season.

Durham’s pending free agency contributed heavily to the decision to deal him, as the White Sox are looking to trim payroll and have three Triple-A middle-infield prospects as potential replacements: Willie Harris, Tim Hummel and D’Angelo Jimenez. Chicago general manager Kenny Williams said that another factor in the trade was getting a chance to see Harris play regularly in the majors. But no matter what spin is put on this transaction, Chicago got very little in return.

Adkins, 24, has intriguing stuff: a 90-94 mph fastball with good sink and a plus slider. He also throws a changeup and a splitter, which aren’t as refined as his two best pitches. Despite his arsenal, however, the 1998 ninth-round pick out of Oklahoma State doesn’t show consistent command in the strike zone and gets hits hard and often. In 97 innings at Sacramento, he gave up 139 hits and 33 walks, while striking out 76. He had Tommy John surgery in 1999 that kept him out of most of the following season.