It’s a world gone topsy-turvy, I tell you. Billy Beane’s Athletics are going to spend about $10 million on closer Jim Johnson next year, even though their bullpen would seem to be plenty good without him. Meanwhile, the White Sox are playing at Oakland’s old game, trading their closers as soon as they can manufacture them.
That’s what they did two years ago, when they sent Sergio Santos to Toronto after his breakthrough 2011 season saw him save 30 games. And they did it again today, shipping Addison Reed to Arizona for third baseman Matt Davidson after he saved 79 games in his first two seasons in the majors.
The really interesting thing is that the White Sox aren’t even waiting for these guys to start getting expensive. Santos and Reed both had two years of service time when they were moved, meaning they weren’t even eligible for arbitration yet. Reed would have made barely more than $500,000 next season prior to his three years of arbitration and then free agency.
Unfortunately, the Santos-for-Nestor Molina trade hasn’t worked out for either team yet. Santos hurt his shoulder just a couple of weeks into his Blue Jays career and also had some elbow problems last season, though he did return to post a 1.75 ERA in 25 2/3 innings in the second half. Molina, who was viewed as a potential No. 2 or No. 3 starter at the time of the deal, floundered in Double-A in 2012 and missed much of last season.He’s not hopeless yet, but it looks like he might be a reliever if he makes it at all.
The return for Reed isn’t overwhelming, either. Davidson didn’t hit for as much power as hoped last year, though he did come it at a respectable .280/.350/.481 with 17 homers in 443 at-bats for Triple-A Reno. If the Diamondbacks had thought he was ready, they wouldn’t have needed to trade for Mark Trumbo. The White Sox, though, have been struggling to find a third baseman for years now, and there just weren’t any attractive options in free agency for them. Davidson gives them some real hope at the position, even if he could use another half-year in the minors.
And now the White Sox get to try to find another closer to build up and eventually trade (Nate Jones and Daniel Webb being the obvious candidates). As quickly as relievers come and go, it seems like a great strategy, even if the payoff isn’t what it might have been 10 years ago. That Molina and Davidson were the best the White Sox could do for young, cost-controlled save specialists shows there just aren’t as many gullible GMs as there once were.