MLB: Chicago White Sox at Toronto Blue Jays

Rebuilds Aren’t Just Prospects Being Fun

If you looked at Twitter Wednesday night as the Dodgers rallied against the White Sox bullpen, overcoming a two-run deficit to win on a walk-off from Yasiel Puig, you saw some strong reactions.  Criticisms of Rick Renteria’s repeated pitching changes while chasing match ups, Dodger fans puzzled at the White Sox using Jake Petricka on back-to-back days, and euphoria at the “miracle” the Dodgers had just pulled off.

While people are welcome to digest baseball however they please — it is, after all, entertainment — there was nothing wrong with how Renteria managed*, and there was absolutely nothing surprising about the game’s outcome.  The White Sox have traded away David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Dan Jennings, and Anthony Swarzak.  They’ve lost Zach Putnam, Nate Jones, and Michael Ynoa to the disabled list.  They even traded away Tyler Clippard!

*As easy as it is to roll one’s eyes at a manager aggressively playing matchups, particularly in a lost season, Aaron Bummer is potentially a long-term bullpen piece and he’s going to need to learn how to come in to face elite lefties like that.

In other words, 100 percent of the current bullpen is comprised of backups.  Other than Petricka, these were options 9-16 heading into the season.  So while the White Sox entered the year with a surprisingly excellent relief corps — a group much better than a number of teams that currently have vice-like grips on playoff spots — it has been razed in exchange for minor league talent.

It’s impressive that Rick Hahn & Co. got as much as they did for what they had, packaging Robertson and Kahnle together with Todd Frazier — a rental bat whose value was increasingly in question given the returns for similar players at this deadline — to get a Top 100 prospect in Blake Rutherford.  Even Jennings and Swarzak got flipped for potential future contributors.

But games like Wednesday are the cost of those trades.  Jennings and Clippard are hardly Andrew Miller and Craig Kimbrel, but on most nights they can get you three outs before surrendering two runs.  They’re competent major leaguers.  The relievers left in the current White Sox bullpen are either hoping to be as good as Jennings and Clippard some day or are stop gaps to get through the rest of the year. Factor in the Dodgers lineup and you’re going to get games like Wednesday, and there are going to be lots of games like Wednesday between now and the end of the year.

The triumph, rather, was that Carlos Rodon has now rattled off four straight quality starts while pitching against Cleveland, Boston, Houston, and the Dodgers — the last two opponents featuring the two best TAv’s in all of baseball.  Across those outings, he has thrown 29.67 innings with 28 strikeouts while only allowing 26 hits, 7 runs, and 6 walks.  On the down side, he did pop up two bunts, so perhaps it makes more sense to just let him swing away during his rare interleague road games.

The triumph was that Nicky Delmonico continued his blistering major league debut with two more home runs, raising his line to .396/.463/.625 in his first 54 plate appearances.  The triumph was that Leury Garcia continued his breakout 2017 season with a leadoff home run off Yu Darvish in a 2-for-5 night.

But the games aren’t all going to be the Astros series, where they bludgeoned their opponents, or held them down long enough for Yoan Moncada to perform superlative heroics.  Sometimes Juan Minaya and Jake Petricka and Gregory Infante are going to get shelled, and that’s kind of what they signed up for.

Lead Image Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

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2 comments on “Rebuilds Aren’t Just Prospects Being Fun”


Very good article but two minor quibbles:

1) Bunting is NOT a 100% bad strategy. This is the perfect season to have your players learn how to bunt against real pitching. I’d rather have my pitcher pop up two bunts than hit into two double plays. When the time comes for the 12 useful bunts in a season to take place, you need to know which players have the skill. (Renteria could probably ease up on having Engel bunt, it’s pretty obvious at this point that he has the skill.)

2) What the hell was the point of signing Farquhar, Lowe, and Machi? At least ONE of these guys has to be better than Brad Goldberg. They’ve got open spots on the 40-man roster. And it seems like Holland has a relief pitcher’s arm at this point so it can’t hurt to try him there and let Pelfrey get a couple starts before the September callups. Not sure why Sox management is so reluctant to experiment with the bullpen at this stage.

In the second half, only the Giants and Cubs (!) have worse bullpen BB/9.

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