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Sunning on the job

As usually happens on sunny summer days that begin with an "S," I didn't feel much like being inside at a computer or watching a 4th place baseball team. I apologize for the lack of gamethreads. It appears Wiz was having some connection issues, and I just assumed he would have my back covered. He's usually reliable like that.

I think I saw a total of about 5 innings of the three game set in Pittsburgh, so I don't have anything to say about the actual gameplay. I'm not disappointed in the slightest that the White Sox lost 5 of the 6 games on the road trip. As far as I'm concerned, they're just removing all doubt that a fire sale is needed.

Though it's hard to include a prospect-for-prospect swap in talk of a fire sale, I think the weekend trade of Aaron Cunningham to the Diamondbacks for Danny Richar is a sign that the Sox front office doesn't foolishly think they're still in the race. Cunningham was one of their few minor league trading chips of any substantial value, and would have been used in any way possible to upgrade the current in the rare likelihood that the Sox thought they had a shot this year.

That Cunningham was traded for a prospect who is closer to major league ready -- though it could be argued that Richar will never be major league ready -- is a sign that the front office already has it's eyes on 2008, perhaps at the detriment of the 2010 club. Kenny likes to talk about the 3-year board, and it's not a stretch to think that Cunningham was not on that 3-year board. And it's really sobering to think about who is on that board right now.

While Cunningham was probably the Sox best position prospect in the lower minors, (I think Carter's future is as a DH) it's hard to get indignant about this trade. There's still a very good chance that he doesn't make it as a big leaguer. (I've kind of thought of him as a cross between Jeremy Reed and Aaron Rowand.) And perhaps most importantly, I know nothing about the guy for which he was just traded. I had never heard of him until I found out about the trade this morning.

In my brief research, which included clicking on the links you guys provided in the comments, I think we've made a organizational move with potential. Richar is/was a "toolsy" prospect who languished for 3+ years at the High-A level. His numbers prior to that final season in Lancaster look nothing like that of a good prospect. Since then, however, he has shown continued improvement in his overall game.

Demonstrating improvement year-to-year and within the season is one of my favorite markers to look at when considering a prospects future. I believe, without any study to back up my theory, that those who are able to make adjustments within the season and as they climb the organizational ladder are more likely to make the final transition to the major leagues because they've demonstrated that they have the skill of learning and adapting. And yes, I think both of those are skills, incredibly hard to quantify skills.

Richar's highest minor league OPS prior to that breakout in '05 was .733. In his third full season at high-A, he posted an .884 OPS with 20 HR. And while his OPS fell the following season with a promotion to AA, he finally learned to walk at a respectable rate. This season in AAA, he's OPSing in the .800's again, though that needs to be offset with the knowledge that the average OPS in the PCL in about .770 and Richar played half his games at one of the best hitters' parks in the league. Take a look at his splits though, and it appears that Richar had a bit of trouble adjusting to life in the PCL initially before posting OPSes of .906 and .915 in the last two months.

Richar could very well be one of those rare "toolsy" prospects who finally puts those tools together to become a good baseball player. Though from the little bit I've been able to find about his defensive ability, that could be his biggest stumbling block in the majors, should he make it.

The Trade... in one run-on sentence
It's not a trade that I would have made, and I don't really know what the Sox got in return in Richar, but there's a chance, albeit a small one, that the Sox found themselves a nice cheap middle infielder for the next 6 years.