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Today in White Sox History: January 24

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A massive free agent and trade win for Ken Williams

Esteban Loaiza throws
American League starting pitcher Esteban Loaiza from the Chicago White Sox throws against the National League during the 74th Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 15, 2003 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. The American League won, 7-6.
Matthew Stockmanl/Getty Images

2003

Sometimes luck plays a part in things ... sometimes a very big part.

On this date, Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams signed free agent pitcher Esteban Loaiza to a $500,000 contract, a massive discount from the six-plus million he’d made in 2002 with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Loaiza was expected to round out the back end of the rotation — but he did much more than that. By season’s end he had won 21 games, started the All-Star Game in front of his hometown White Sox fans, and led the American League in strikeouts. He could have won the Cy Young Award, but a pair of 1-0 losses to Detroit appeared to be the difference in doing so. He ended up second in the voting.

Even better, with Loaiza’s contract jumping to $4 million in 2004, Williams flipped the starter at close to maximum value (the righthander was also a 2004 All-Star). Loaiza was swapped to the Yankees at midseason, for pitcher José Contreras … another deal that worked out as a huge White Sox advantage!