a position of strength

Over the past two years, Kenny Williams's trades have been made to insure the team would not be caught short in the starting rotation.  Part of that, I believe, was because he was pessimistic about keeping Mark Buehrle beyond this season.  With today's signing, though, the White Sox now have a giant stockpile of potential 2008 starters under team control, including all five rotation mainstays from this year.  Let's take a look at what this includes, and what it may mean going forward.

  1. Mark Buehrle.  A horse, eats innings like Greg Luzinski ate sausage.  Aside from the second-half collapse last year he has been among the most durable and consistent pitchers of the 21st century.  Given the terms of his contract, he's clearly sticking around for a while.
  2. Jon Garland.  Not as consistent (see his last start), but also a durable innings-eater who has been very effective at the Cell.  Garland's won a lot of games the past three seasons, which can't hurt his trade value...or the Sox' place in the standings if they keep him.
  3. Javy Vazquez.  Gives up a bunch of homers and isn't always efficient enough with his pitchers to go deep in games.  That said, he also strikes out a bunch and when he's on (like today) he is impressive.
  4. Jose Contreras.  Seems to either be hurt or aging since last year's All-Star break, yet he's under a reasonable contract, shows flashes of effectiveness and has a big-game reputation that could enhance his trade value.  I think most of us here would support trading him given the team's other options.
  5. John Danks.  Has had the ups and downs typical of a rookie starter, but looks like he will be an asset going forward.  
Then there are the prospects and relievers who could step in.
  1. Nick Masset.  I don't want to see him in the Sox rotation anytime soon given his ratios, but the organization seems open to trying him there in the future should the situation dictate it.  
  2. Gavin Floyd.  Didn't do much in his start this week, but his production at Charlotte this year is encouraging.  The idea of Floyd harnessing his stuff to become an effective starter is more plausible than it was in March.
  3. Gio Gonzalez.  Homer-prone, but strikes out a bunch with his wicked curve.  Could join Buehrle and Danks as early as next spring to give the Sox three above-average lefty starters for the next few years.
  4. Andy Sisco.  It remains to be seen if Sisco will find a way to be effective with his stuff, but the potential has always been there.
  5. Charlie Haeger.  His numbers haven't been as good this year, but the knuckler is still a good bet to be a useful major-league innings eater next season.
That's just the ten most likely pitchers to wind up starting major league games next year.  Add Lance Broadway, Jack Egbert, Adam Russell, and Heath Phillips, and you have more than a dozen pitchers who could at least reasonably be imagined to start a game next year.  I'd be comfortable with any save Masset and Sisco in next year's rotation, and would guess no fewer than three of this year's rotation will return.

Kenny Williams vowed after the 2004 5th-starter debacle to never be caught without enough starting pitching, and Despite the implosion of the rest of the team, the solid starting gives the Sox two advantages.  The rotation is a source of stability from spots 1-5, which few teams in baseball can say.  Because the team's strength is a weakness for others, Williams can now package one or more pitchers to shore up the offense.  Thank God, because this offense needs help -- an outfielder or two, and one or both of the keystone combo who can actually get on base.  That's a lot of holes, but all could be filled via trade.

Now that Buehrle is secure as the rotation anchor, what deals that could help the Sox seem possible now?  The first one that comes to mind is Contreras for Lastings Milledge, who would help the OBP and might even be good for that top-of-the-order speed Ozzie craves.  Given how many contenders could use a starter right now, what other deals now seem like a good idea?

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