Rick Hahn has made his first trade of the offseason, and while it pales in comparison to the significance of the early trades of last offseason, fans are much more likely to see its impact immediately than the return they got for, say, Miguel Gonzalez. The White Sox flipped more international free agent money – money that they cannot really use due to blowing their pool on Luis Robert – to Seattle for flamethrowing relief prospect Thyago Vieira. Most of the reactions in the Baseball Discourse involved how much Vieira lights up the radar gun and speculation about what this means for Seattle’s chances to land Shohei Ohtani.
The cost-benefit analysis here for the White Sox becomes whether guys like Yeyson Yrizarri and Vieira are worth more than what they could have landed by adding additional $300K and below international free agents, and even years down the line it’s very hard to identify what that would have looked like in order to make that comparison. But the temptation of Vieira is obvious. Listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, the Brazilian just turned 24 and made a one-inning major league debut with the Mariners at the end of 2017, and the guy throws really, really hard.
As you might imagine, guys on the verge of the majors who touch triple-digits don’t get dealt for IFA pool money unless the rest of the profile has problems, and Vieira’s does. He doesn’t really have a secondary pitch, and his command is suspect. Glancing at the stat line, it appears that minor league hitters haven’t been able to convert his command problems into home runs, but the walk rate and strike out rate are both worse than you’d like.
White Sox fans can hope for a Matt Thornton or Tommy Kahnle outcome; those are examples of a best case scenario with this type of player. The “Coop’ll fix ‘em” slogan has captured the organization’s greatest strength over his lengthy career as White Sox pitching coach. But for all that Don Cooper is one of the best at what he does and has worked miracles in the past, there are limits to what even he can do, and it’s not an accident that 99th percentile outcomes like Thornton and Kahnle were acquired a decade apart. Chris Beck throws hard (okay, like 94-97 instead of the 97-101 that Vieira has registered) and has been in the organization his entire professional career and last year he was one of the worst pitchers in the majors. Mike MacDougal happened.
Moreover, the trade went through at the last possible minute such that he would be eligible for consideration for the “Next Ten” on the White Sox 2018 Prospects list and our prospect team chose to leave him off. He would likely be near the top of the 20-30 range, although I’m not even sure I’d put him as the next guy up, ahead of say, Ryan Cordell or Jordan Stephens.
So that’s throwing cold water on the excitement. All of that said, the more clay you give to Cooper to mold, the more chances you have at striking oil, to mix metaphors, and one suspects that Vieira isn’t the guy they ask for in this deal unless they have some sort of plan for how that could be done, which is an encouraging thought. And, given that 2018 is another rebuilding year, Vieira will likely break camp with the team and have plenty of chances to get innings against major league hitters, giving them plenty of time to make adjustments and evaluate what they have before they start playing meaningful games again.
And, it’s a lot more fun to watch a young guy who touches 102 work in a losing season than it is to see a retread act as a placeholder.