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Cheat's Take: Thome Deal

These are the posts that are the most fun to go back and look at a year or two down the line; the post where you break down the hours-old trade down to last detail and provide your opinion on it one way or the other. -- In the past, I've been wrong on Garcia (I substantially overrated Olivo) and right about the Contreras and Pods deals. -- First the specifics.

Phillies Get: Aaron Rowand, Gio Gonzalez, and a PTBNL (Daniel Haigwood)
White Sox Get: Jim Thome and cash, which limits Thome's salary to $8M/year

(I'm speculating that the PTBNL is Haigwood, and not Gio as otherwise reported. Haigwood is on the 40-man roster, and would have to be put on Philly's 40-man as soon as he is named. With the Rule 5 draft coming up in a few weeks, the teams will wait until after the draft to give Philly some added flexibility)

I'm sure many White Sox fans are upset at the loss of Aaron Rowand. He was a fan favorite for his style of play, and it didn't hurt that he was the biggest Chicago Bears fan on the planet. (I actually heard him him say something to the effect of "this is the coolest thing in my life" on Sunday as he was on the sidelines during the Bears victory over the Panthers.) But Rowand's departure should not cripple the Sox.

In dealing Rowand, the Sox were dealing from a position of strength. They have Brian N. Anderson poised to take over for Rowand in center, and Podsednik, Jerry Owens, and Chris Young all as options should he falter. ESPN 1000's Bruce Levine has now shot down all of the Juan Pierre rumors, saying Anderson is the Sox 2006 center fielder. Anderson was rated the White Sox top prospect in '05 by Baseball America,( though they misspell Brandon McCarthy, so what do they know) giving him high marks for his defense. Overall he profiles to be very similar to Aaron Rowand. I expect his '06 season to mirror Rowand's '05. -- Here are the ZiPS projections for Rowand and Anderson.

Name P AVG OBP SLG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS Rowand cf .284 .343 .448 151 525 77 149 32 3 16 69 33 97 14 5 Anderson cf .263 .323 .425 130 464 68 122 21 3 16 57 38 113 6 3

The Sox DHs and #3 hitters were among the worst in baseball in 2005. The Sox needed to get more left-handed while increasing their OBP and maintaining/adding power. Thome fills the White Sox biggest needs in one fell swoop.

AB R H 2B 3B HR TB RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS DH 578 75 141 25 2 33 269 107 56 122 4 5 .244 .310 .465 .776 #3 642 82 150 27 1 30 269 103 54 140 7 8 .234 .296 .419 .715

Those are numbers that Thome should be able to improve upon. Thome doesn't figure to play the field at all, rather taking Frank Thomas' spot as the Chicago DH. Yes, Sox fans, The Big Hurt has played his last game in a White Sox uniform. With the cash they received from the Phillies, the Sox will be paying Thome $8M annually. At this point in their respective careers, it appears that Thome is more likely to be healthy for a full season than Frank Thomas, and that's what this move came down to.

In terms of Major League talent, the Sox gave up a player who they feel is easily replaceable, and filled their biggest need. It appears to be a win for the Sox. From the Phillies perspective, they were able to unload an aging injured player who they felt was easily replaceable, and got prospects for eating part of Thome's contract. It appears to be a win for the Phillies.

Assuming the Sox sign Konerko to play first base, which appears very likely at this point, the '06 Sox team appears better on paper than the '05 Sox team that won the World Series. It's hard to be too critical of this trade when looking purely at the '06 season.

When you take a look at the prospects, however, the deal swings heavily in favor of the Phillies. Gio Gonzalez was our #3 rated prospect, and Daniel Haigwood our #6, in our community prospect list. -- I said right in that very link that I would trade Haigwood over the other three lefties because of his GB/FB ratio which will make it more difficult to succeed at USCF, so I was actually happy to see him included in the trade, despite him being one of "my guys." Seeing Gio's name attached to the trade, however, has a bit more sting to it. He projects to be a #2 starter in the bigs, and has some dominant stuff. He's just 19 and was already pitching well in high-A. In the long term, this trade will be judged on how many victories Gonzalez goes on to post in a Phillies uniform, or if the White Sox are able to make another post-season run on the strength of the Konerko-Thome tandem.

Overall, I like the acquisition of Thome, and I think that Rowand was the right chip to use to get him. I just think the Sox gave up a little bit too much in terms of prospects. However, prospects are just that; prospects. They are there to be used through development and trades to improve your major league club. And that's what the Sox have done.