Coming into 2016, the White Sox did not seem to be under any illusions about the back of their rotation. After Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Rodon, there was a staggering drop off to the fourth and fifth options. They started with John Danks and Mat Latos, one by inertia, and the other as a lotto ticket reclamation project. The latter worked for about a month on sheer luck, the former worked not at all and was essentially forced into retirement. A big reason Latos got the first shot was because Jacob Turner looked even less promising. And while the White Sox’ desperate churn to find someone had one success story, this article focuses on a quartet who were part of the problem rather than the solution.
Danks’ story is a sad one. He had a great frame, simple mechanics, a solid fastball, and a plus cutter. Throw all of it together and you had the makings of a high-end No. 3 or a low-end No. 2 starter depending on some variation. Then, after a contract extension, his shoulder went pop and his fastball became pretty bad, his cutter lost all life, and he attempted to forge onward armed purely with guile and a changeup. The fact that he managed about 500 innings of replacement-level pitching was a testament to his work ethic and savvy, but by 2016 it became clear that was no longer enough.
After he was released, Danks wasn’t picked up by anyone, and unless he comes back with a knuckleball or something his career is almost certainly over before his 32nd birthday. At the very least, he has a singular triumph to remember forever, which was his dominant outing in Game 163 in 2008; arguably the most important non-2005 game for the organization in…well, decades.
Latos was arguably a success, especially when you take expectations into account. Like Danks, he once had the look of a mid-to-frontline starter and then had his career derailed by injuries. Unlike Danks, Latos bounced around the majors and there were always rumblings that he was a handful in the clubhouse. He was a long shot to succeed, and his cheap contract was a reflection of that.
Still, even if it was smoke and mirrors, for a while he did succeed. And while peripherals give you an idea of how someone is going to do moving forward, through March and April, Latos had an ERA of 1.84, which is pretty much a 90th percentile result for a temporary scrapheap stopgap. Having Cy Young caliber run prevention–flukey or not–for a month helped the White Sox get out to a 23-10 start. He imploded pretty quickly afterward, and he latched on with the Nationals on a minor league deal.
Jacob Turner’s acquisition was really, really weird. Even at the beginning. In a vacuum, adding a down-on-his-luck former top prospect isn’t weird, but adding one who looked so done on a guaranteed major league deal is weird. Especially for an organization that acts like $1.5 million might make a difference in making some other necessary acquisition or not.
Turner pitched so badly that the White Sox turned to him when all else had failed and only let him make two starts before permanently banishing him to the bullpen. Evidently he showed so little that when Anthony Ranaudo got pummeled repeatedly to the point where there were legitimate questions as to whether he could keep his ERA under 10.00, he was still deemed to be a more attractive option than Turner. On Wednesday, the White Sox outrighted Turner to AAA, removing him from the 40-man roster. Whatever they saw must have vanished quickly, and to date, their fear that if they didn’t give him a major league deal he would be scooped up by some other team remains without evidence.
Speaking of Ranaudo, he was acquired in the same way as Hector Noesi and it worked out just about as well as that acquisition did too. You know, the “wow, he looked great while the White Sox’ miserable offense annihilated him for another team” scouting method.
I am not discussing the biggest success and biggest failure from this area of the roster, as those each deserve their own article. But Ranaudo and Turner represent two more evaluation failures to be left at the feet of the front office.
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