When the White Sox make a significant bullpen addition via trade in July, it usually leaves us wanting. Mike MacDougal was legitimately excellent in 2006, and a disaster after the Sox signed him to an extension. David Riske served his purpose, but the Sox failed to offer him arbitration, which was kind of the point. The less said about Tony Pena, the better.
So you could color me underwhelmed when rumor became fact -- that Edwin Jackson, a durable starting pitcher among a pretty thin crop, was used more as a vehicle to dump Mark Teahen's contract onto the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for a non-elite, right-handed reliever in Jason Frasor, along with fringy minor-league pitcher Zach Stewart.
I'm going to hold off on an ultimate verdict until the trade deadline passes, because Kenny Williams is in the middle of a plan, and for all we know, this could be a fine start. By trading Jackson and Teahen for Frasor and Stewart, he solved one problem (finding a roster spot for Alejandro De Aza), and he enhanced another part of the team by keeping Brian Bruney away from high leverage situations. Stewart will also serve the Lance Broadway/Carlos Torres/Lucas Harrell role of emergency starter, the kind of pitcher they lack in Charlotte after the Houston Astros claimed Harrell.
There seems to be another combo move in the offing. The Sox freed up some money, the addition of Frasor makes trading Matt Thornton more absorbable, and there are those persistent Carlos Quentin rumors. Otherwise, the Sox used a trade to waste their best expendable asset on their least-pressing need, and they leave third base duties on the overburdened shoulders of Brent Morel.
Now, if that's the case when the dust clears, I'm going to write my angry missive. But given that Williams has chosen the "Get Creative (jazz hands!)" route, he deserves room to operate. He's laid the groundwork for a dramatic revamping, so there's no point in getting worked up about a roster that could look very different in 24 hours.
Reading the reaction on Bluebird Banter, it appears that Frasor was well-respected for his work in Toronto. That's saying something -- he had spent his entire 7 1/2-year career in Toronto, and recently became their all-time leader in appearances. Familiarity breeds contempt -- and Alex Rios proves that Canadians are capable of scorn -- so that Frasor never wore out his welcome is a reassuring sign.
And after watching the video of his initial interview on Chicago Tribune Live, he made an impression on me, if only because he speaks with the cadence and inflection of a real actual person.
So we're off to a good start.
The addition of Frasor addresses the trust chasm between Jesse Crain and Brian Bruney. Bruney has been a delight and a surprise, but he's always waging a war against the walksies, which is why Crain pitched in three consecutive games before getting a day off on Wednesday.
Frasor has no red flags in his background. Not only is he an American League pitcher, but he's spent his career in baseball's toughest division. His home park, Rogers Centre, isn't an easy place in which to pitch. He has no red flags in his medical history. He was born and raised in Oak Forest, so he knows what Chicago's all about, and even if he didn't, Toronto has played the role of Chicago in a ton of movies, including the film adaptation of "Chicago" (which I have never seen).
That's not to say that Frasor can't pull a Pena, but I couldn't tell you why he would be susceptible to it, all things being steady. As long as Ozzie Guillen understands his limitations -- namely, he's prone to some struggles against lefties and usually doesn't work past an inning -- the Frasor-Crain pairing should work well in concert.
The only real drawback for having Frasor around is that it might keep Ozzie Guillen on his current kick of using Sergio Santos as a one-out save artist. Santos has faced eight batters over his six second-half appearances, and what started out as somewhat novel management ("Hey, the closer isn't starting the ninth by default!") is on the verge of becoming a nuisance ("What was wrong with Crain/Chris Sale? He was rolling!").
I understand limiting Santos' workload in just his second full season of real pitching, but relegating Santos in the closer role is what created the appearance of a need for Frasor in the first place, so pushing him further out of the picture is a development in the opposite direction of progress.
(And we could say the same thing if Frasor is the only addition made before the deadline, but let's give it a few more days.)