In a move that took both me and Mark Gonzales by surprise, the White Sox acquired starter Javier Vazquez for center fielder Chris Young (plus the unwanted salaries of Orlando Hernandez and Luis Vizcaino). Whenever a defending World Champion makes a couple of major trades, the GM is inevitably described as "bold" in the media. I'm not sure whether I count as a member of the media, but "bold" is getting cliche. Check out some of these synonyms: spunky, audacious, gritty. I think I'll call Kenny Williams spunky when referencing the Vazquez and Thome deals.
If you're a Sox fan, you can't possibly dislike this trade. It's a classic Williams "win now" move. He's been doing this for years, dealing can't-miss prospects for all sorts of players. And why not? The White Sox have raised tons of failed #1 prospects through the years. Remember Scott Ruffcorn, Chris Snopek, Mike Caruso, Jon Rauch, and Joe Borchard?
Williams was dealing from a position of strength in center field. The 22 year-old Young was ranked #7 among White Sox prospects by Baseball America entering the 2005 season. (If you're curious, Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood, who were used in the Thome deal, ranked #8 and #19, respectively). Young is a skinny, speedy athletic guy with good power. He hit .277/.377/.545 in Double A this year and plays a mean center field. Baseball America compares him to Mike Cameron and says he'll be ready by 2007. By that time, the D-Backs' young outfield should be in full force, boasting Carlos Quentin, Young, and maybe Conor Jackson.
But the White Sox have no reason to worry about 2007. In Vazquez, the club has added a durable innings eater with solid peripheral stats. By that I mean he strikes people out and keeps the walks down. Home runs have been an issue for the last couple of years, and it ain't gettin' better at U.S. Cellular. In fact, the Cell will exacerbate the problem. Still, Vazquez can be counted on for 400 innings of at least league average pitching for the next two years, which is plenty valuable. The fact that Arizona took the washed-up Orlando Hernandez and might give the Sox some cash makes the deal look even better for Chicago.
I'll probably break out a RotoAuthority projection for Vazquez later today, but for now let's see what Bill James's minions came up with. They expect Vazquez to go 12-11 with a 3.85 ERA over 211 innings in '06. Projected WHIP is 1.25, and a 7.8 K/9 is predicted. Of course, the effects of U.S. Cellular and the AL aren't factored into that projection.