It's been a good year for the White Sox. But I'm afraid this was an omen.
After 2010, the White Sox made one of the biggest offseason moves in baseball by signing Adam Dunn, resigning Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, and retaining Mark Buehrle for one more season. Then, well, you know what happened. Dunn was awful; the Sox finished below .500; and Mark Buherle followed manager Ozzie Guillen to the new-look, Pop Art, very expensive Miami Marlins. For the former, it was going to be a rebuilding year, one-half of one of the worst seasons in Chicago baseball history; for the latter, at least a playoff run.
(Curious statistic: since they won the World Series, the Sox have alternated above- and below-.500 years.)
Then Dunn returned to something like normal, Chicago's young pitching staff admirably replaced Buherle, and the White Sox, despite a recent skid, are within 1.5 games of the Tigers, who were much more active during the offseason. Finding themselves in contention, the White Sox addressed bullpen concerns with flexible Houston reliever Brett Myers, who's been both a starter and closer, and of course Youk.
The Marlins, meanwhile, are seven games below .500, 11.5 back of division-leading Washington. Ozzie Guillen is yelling at people. And a few months after rebuilding to inaugurate their new stadium and place identification, and after a five-game losing streak, they're signaling that they're ready to rebuild again.
(They don't get much attention despite being in a major market, but the Florida/Miami Marlins are one of the weirdest and most difficult-to-follow teams in baseball, periodically blowing up and rebuilding expensive teams.)
And it's bad news for Ozzie's old team. The first pieces to go are Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez, shipped to the Tigers for their best prospect, pitcher Jacob Turner, and two minor leaguers. It plugs the Tigers' biggest hole, second base, where Ramon Santiago is hitting .216/.298/.294, and allows them to replace one of the mediocre pitchers (three with ERAs above 4.40) scuffling behind Justin Verlander. Sanchez might be a rent-a-pitcher, as his contract expires at the end of the season, but should the Tigers choose to keep him, he's still young, giving them a fifth under-30 starter to choose from. The Tigers didn't get a lot better, but they got substantially better in the right places. About the best news for the White Sox is that it came at a high price.
The Cubs? The Cubs were active in the trade market today, though no one seems to know exactly what happened. It's all been playing out on Twitter today:
In other words, the Braves and the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster, but Ryan Dempster has to be part of trading Ryan Dempster, so he hasn't actually been traded yet, and will probably remain a Cub for the next 12 hours, at least. (The Braves have a lot of good, young, not entirely reliable starting pitchers, so they're looking for a good, old, reliable one. The name being floated for Dempster is the Braves' third-best prospect.)
It's a very Cubs way to go through the trade deadline, though I'm pleased to note one thing, even as a Cardinals fan: as I expected, they've taken their rightful place ahead of the abysmal Astros.