It's easy for White Sox fans to admire and bemoan the job Mark Buehrle is doing in Toronto this season. He pitched around 11 baserunners over six innings to pick up a victory over the Angels on Monday, running his record to 7-1 with a 2.04 ERA.
The White Sox sure could use what Buehrle's given the Blue Jays and Marlins over the last three seasons, but it came at a hefty financial cost (inflated by a Jeffrey Loria shell game) that could've had further ramifications down the roster. There were layers upon layers involved, and he wouldn't have solved the Sox' position-player woes, so there's not much use in revisiting a complicated decision from a whole era ago.
That said, there's another former White Sox pitcher whose success this season warrants more scrutiny on Chicago's end.
While Buehrle held down the Angels on Monday, Gavin Floyd made his second start for the Atlanta Braves. He pitched well, holding the Giants scoreless through the first six innings before some bad Braves glovework opened the door for a crooked number in the seventh.
Considering command is usually the last thing to return after Tommy John surgery, Floyd's game log couldn't look much more impressive:
Beyond the results, his radar-gun readings fit in with the numbers he posted before the surgery. If Brooks shows any real difference with this small sample so far, his curveball isn't as sharp as it was. That's about it.
Unlike the Buehrle decision, there were far fewer obstacles preventing Floyd from staying put with the Sox. He signed a one-year, $4 million contract with $4.5 million possible in incentives. That's not negligible, but it wouldn't require the baseball version of selling a kidney to make it happen, either.
A timeline of events involving the back end of the White Sox rotation:
Second half of November: Floyd's agent says rehabilitation is going well, and he should be able to pitch in game action before Opening Day, setting up an April-May return if things went well.
Dec. 16: Floyd signs with the Braves.
Dec. 23: White Sox claim Eric Surkamp off waivers from San Francisco.
This order of events doesn't flatter the Sox. When they signed Paulino, he looked like an OK bet as a rehab flier who could build himself up on his own timetable. Then the Santiago trade elevated Paulino to a near-lock for the rotation, making depth an issue once again. So there was still room for Floyd, but the Sox chose not to invest another significant sum for a guy who couldn't pitch until May. If they had to do it all over again, they probably would have retained Floyd instead of pursuing Paulino.
It's more complicated than that, of course. There's a lot we don't know about the dynamics. Perhaps the Sox didn't feel like throwing more money at Floyd after the $9.5 million option for 2013 proved to be a waste -- effectively quitting while they were still mostly ahead. Perhaps they didn't like his chances of a smooth return. Perhaps they did have a strong interest, but Floyd's camp thought he had a better opportunity elsewhere, especially right after the Paulino signing.
And hell, we're only talking about two good starts, which is as many as Scott Carroll has thrown. It's too early to draw strong conclusions, but it's worth monitoring as Floyd (hopefully) adds more innings to his sample. Recent history said the Sox needed to stock up on extraneous starters, and the quixotic Masahiro Tanaka pursuit suggests the Sox had a little bit of money to spend, so if Floyd's return is a success, I'd like a better understanding of why it didn't happen in Chicago.
Other pitching notes
All these warm and fuzzy feelings dissipated in the ninth, when Addison Reed, shiny new closer toy, gave up a leadoff home run to Danny Espinosa to tie the game. Okay, fine, whatever, I mean just leave it for the bottom so the team can break the tie and ... nope, Kevin Frandsen, of all people, hit a pinch-hit homer to break the tie. Proven Closer(TM) Reed now has a 5.03 ERA. Chew on that for a little bit.
*Jose Fernandez landed on the DL with a "right elbow sprain," but all signs are pointing to yet another season-ending Tommy John procedure. Jeff Passan says Major League Baseball still has no idea what's behind the surge in surgeries, and it's possible there won't be an answer until 2022. So, keep your fingers crossed about Chris Sale's rehab start(s).