Monday, July 23, 2012

Canary, Inserted

And even stealing apples from the cart
's a vital task that needs to be performed
by someone who knows how.  You take too little
and people will forget to stretch their minds,
too much, and they might snap.  They need us there
to test the limits and to go too far
but not too much too far.  When that’s not done
the cities lose their elasticity,
get brittle.  Hard.  Develop tiny cracks
where mildew can get in, and bring decay,
and so the cities rot-for we are gone.
David Sklar, “The Decline of the Beat Poets”

Canary, Inserted: When it comes to WAR, Williams
has consistently vanquished his peers. (Nam Huh/AP)
There's a common perception about White Sox GM Ken Williams, that he is stubborn and old-school, winning a World Series in 2005 by picking up a quarter and pulling a jackpot winner on a slot machine. Because, after all, Jerry Krause didn't draft Michael Jordan, either...

Williams could give a damn about perception. He's clever enough to know that as these lines are written in defense and/or explanation of the man and dozens of others are typing their poisons his way, he's readying his own image and ficitions and counter-perceptions--just as anyone would when sitting at the poker table that is that last week before baseball's trade deadline. 

My own image of Williams, before examining the numbers more carefully, was as the consummate canary-eating cat, a fella who tolerated, even perpetuated, his own know-nothing stewardship of the White Sox while picking your pocket--or threatening persuasively enough to have you hand it over.

Over 12 years as GM, Williams has brought in more White Sox wins than he's dealt away, but often at an enormous cost. (And no, that cost doesn't come in acknowledgement of the ninnied hand-wringers who mew over the cost of losing those so-called "farm" players, the plurality of whom never sniff a tub of big-league ranch-dusted sunflower seeds.) As much as he often comically cries poor as the GM of a major-market ballclub with a healthy budget, blame sits dead at his own feet, for it's usually an overzealous move of his own that has pinched the budget enough to begin poormouthing.

But this first in a series focuses on sheer victories, and while it may not always be pretty, the GM does pull in the wins.

The Dirty Digits
In his tenure, Williams has traded 134 White Sox players and acquired 120.

He's traded away 135.3 player seasons, getting back 126.

He has traded away 93.3 WAR and received 125.2.

The dollar value of the WAR he's traded away is $337.5 million, getting back a WAR value of $495.6 million.

Williams has traded away players would go on to earn $222.9 million in salary, while paying the players he's acquired $346.4 million.

Williams has included $13.9 million in cash considerations over 17 of his trades, while getting back $47.8 million in 14 deals for the White Sox.

The overall surplus value--the dollar value players produced, above player salary--that Williams has dealt away is $124.7 million, while getting back $101.4 million.

WAR Trade Wins: The Top 10
Tomorrow, the paltry value return in value Williams has received during his GM tenure will be examined. Today, it's the brighter news, focusing on Williams' many WAR steals.

1. December 23, 2006: White Sox acquire John Danks (18.3 WAR) and Nick Masset (-0.2) from the Texas Rangers for Brandon McCarthy (1.5).
Net WAR: 16.6.
From the looking glass of 2012 the notion of swapping Danks for McCarthy might seem less outrageous. In fact, back in 2006 Williams was criticized for being a bit hasty in dropping one of the unsung heroes of 2005 simply because of his nightlifing bromance with Brian Anderson. No matter, as Danks almost immediately began producing for the White Sox. McCarthy paid dividends not for the Rangers, but for the Oakland A's (3.3 WAR), who signed him as a free agent in 2011.

2. December 6, 2006: White Sox acquire Gavin Floyd (14.4 WAR) from the Philadelphia Phillies for Freddy Garcia (-0.3).
Net WAR: 14.7.
The front end of Williams' brilliant December 2006 dealing streak came in moving the workhorse Garcia with his stock sky-high (a 17-9, 3.6-WAR year for the 90-win White Sox). Floyd was a borderline bust who couldn't stop throwing gopher balls (seven career wins, and an ERA or nearly 7.00 over parts of three seasons). Garcia turned out to be on the cusp of shoulder surgery and would win just a single game for the Phillies, while pitching maestro Don Cooper coaxed almost all of the first-rounder promise back out of Floyd.

3. July 31, 2004: White Sox acquire Jose Contreras (8.7 WAR) from the New York Yankees for Esteban Loaiza (-1.1).
Net WAR: 9.8.
Williams proved he wasn't needlessly attached to even his most surprising finds by dumping Loaiza in the Bronx. The GM had picked the righty off the scrap heap in 2003, and Loaiza reciprocated with 7.7 WAR and an All-Star start in just a season and a half in Chicago. Contreras would give the White Sox the best seasons of his career and was the team's ace for the team's best stretch of Williams' tenure (2005-06). Like Garcia, Loaiza would win just one game with his new club.

4. March 20, 2006: White Sox acquire Matt Thornton (9.4 WAR) from the Seattle Mariners for Joe Borchard (-0.1).
Net WAR: 9.5.
The 2006 calendar year proved to be Williams' best on the job. This late spring training deal was an apparent no-risk move for both clubs, swapping bonus-baby busts. But in a true test of Cooper's skill and Thornton's determination, the lefthander quickly became one of the most dangerous late men in baseball, while Borchard didn't pan out and was dumped on the Florida Marlins a month later.

5. January 15, 2003: White Sox acquire Bartolo Colon (4.8 WAR) from the Montreal Expos for Orlando Hernandez (0.0), Rocky Biddle (-2.9) and Jeff Leifer (-1.2).
Net WAR: 8.9.
Williams and Omar Minaya have made more than one trade together, but none worked out better for the White Sox than this. Hernandez, the linchpin of the deal for the Expos, missed the 2003 season. Colon produced just one great year for the White Sox, going 15-13 with a 3.87 ERA and nine complete games, but this stellar deal was secured by the utter horribleness of Leifer and Biddle north of the border.

6. March 27, 2002: White Sox acquire Damaso Marte (7.7 WAR) from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Net WAR: 7.7.
Marte never got much due on the South Side, but he averaged nearly 2.0 WAR per season for the White Sox. Matt Guerrier (who Chicago sent east) would later turn into a pain in the Chisox's hiney as a member of the Minnesota Twins (2.66 ERA over 51 games), but he never played for the Pirates.

7. June 27, 2004: White Sox acquire Freddy Garcia (8.4 WAR) and Ben Davis (-0.1) from the Seattle Mariners for Jeremy Reed (2.2 WAR), Miguel Olivo (-1.2) and Mike Morse (-0.2).
Net WAR: 7.5.
It may be hard to believe, but if you pair this deal with the Thornton swap in 2006, it makes two utter fleecings of M's GM Bill Bavasi. He's relatively blameless on this one, at least in that Reed and Olivo were highly-touted but never panned out in Seattle.

8. December 2, 2003: White Sox acquire Juan Uribe (6.0 WAR) from the Colorado Rockies for Aaron Miles (-0.5 WAR).
Net WAR: 6.5.
Without this deal, the 2005 World Series win wouldn't have happened--at least not with the spectacular finish the round mound of infield defense provided. Miles would amass just a net of just 0.1 WAR over his nine major-league seasons.

9. July 31, 2009: White Sox acquire Jake Peavy (7.2 WAR) from the San Diego Padres for Clayton Richard (1.3), Aaron Poreda (0.0) and Adam Russell (-0.1).
Net WAR: 6.0.
Williams' brashest "all-in" move has been met with only gradual success, after several Peavy injuries initially made this look like an all-out bust for the South Siders. Richard has plateaued after a fast start in San Diego, while Peavy has downright hornswaggled the role of ace from any takers on the 2012 White Sox.

10. November 26, 2005: White Sox acquire Jim Thome (10.9 WAR) from the Philadelphia Phillies for Aaron Rowand (5.1).
Net WAR: 5.8.
Unpopular, thy name is the Rowand trade. But while the Resierish centerfielder produced nicely in Philly, he had just two seasons there before fleeing for free agent riches in San Francisco. If you think of Thome as a limited player who could only slug, consider that in just less than four seasons on the South Side, he busted out nearly 11 WAR; in approximately half that time, Adam Dunn is WARing at -2.3 and will be lucky to get to 0.0 before his tenure is through.

The Bottom 5
There were exactly 10 trades that produced a profit of at least 5.0 WAR for the White Sox, and there are just five that do the same in reverse. Brace yourselves.

1. January 3, 2008: White Sox acquire Nick Swisher (-0.5 WAR) from the Oakland A's for Gio Gonzalez (8.1), Ryan Sweeney (5.3) and Fautino de los Santos (-0.1).
Net WAR: -13.8
Swisher sounded good at the time, didn't he? But the combination of playing him in center field and batting leadoff made for rough early going. Dirty 33 didn't take the adjustments well, and his bristling soon wore on Ozzie Guillen, who doesn't leave a corpse behind if he decides he dislikes you. Gonzalez and Sweeney both blossomed into stellar products of the maligned White Sox system--currently starring in other cities.

2. December 13, 2001: White Sox acquire Todd Ritchie (-1.8 WAR) from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Kip Wells (7.9), Josh Fogg (1.4) and Sean Lowe (-0.1).
Net WAR: -11.0
More than a year into the job, Williams still hadn't made a single strong deal. This one, questionable at the time, was his worst yet. Ritchie faltered so badly in his single, disastrous South Side season that he was gone from baseball just two years and nine games later, at the age of 32.

3. November 13, 2008: White Sox acquire Wilson Benemit (-0.6 WAR), Johnny Nunez (-0.1) and Jeffrey Marquez (-0.1) from the New York Yankees for Nick Swisher (7.6).
Net WAR: -8.4
The inevitable make-up deal, done primarily to appease Guillen and some of the clubhouse grousers who didn't much care for Swish's antics, was nearly worse than the original acquisition, made just 10 months earlier. We'll call it Cashman's Revenge, for the fleecing of Jose Contreras Williams committed some four years earlier.

4. July 6, 2003: White Sox trade D'Angelo Jimenez (5.2 WAR) to the Cincinnati Reds.
Net WAR: -5.2
It's probably a good sign when the fourth-worst WAR deal made in 12 years by a GM is a giveaway of a guy you likely don't remember. Jimenez had been plucked from the Padres a year earlier but was flipped to Cincy for Scott Dunn, who never played for the White Sox.

5. July 18, 2004: White Sox acquire Carl Everett (-0.3 WAR) from the Montreal Expos for Jon Rauch (5.1 WAR) and Gary Majewski (-0.3 WAR).
Net WAR: 5.1
You may recall Rauch as merely a boorish, tattooed dude, but there was a time he was a lurchingly failed prospect with the White Sox. Dealing him to Montreal seemed a safe bet for all concerned, even if it meant importing the Looney Tune who is Carl Everett. Everett didn't contribute much to the aborted playoff run of 2004, while Rauch found major league success with the Expos and Nats in spite of himself.

Part Two: The bad news...the enormous cost of wins under Williams.
Part Three: Free agent free-for-all.
Part Four: Who bullies Ken? (A study of GMs)
Part Five: What-ifs, and other trade miscellany.

The fine print: In many cases, exact details of cash consideration are unavailable, so educated guesses were made. Some player-for-considerations deals have been skipped or omitted. WAR data came only from Baseball-Reference, while yearly dollar/WAR values were estimated primarily from Fangraphs data. Players included in trades who never contributed at the major league level are not listed.

1 comment:

  1. this is yeoman's work, Brett. thanks for going through all this stuff. i've done it and been overwhelmed enough not to even post anything.