Friday, December 16, 2005

Well, we're still waiting for Nomar to make a decision, and it won't happen 'til at least this weekend. There's a rumor floating around that the Astros will trade two pitching prospects for Jon Garland of the White Sox.

After trading for Javier Vazquez, the White Sox have a plethora of pitchers — Beurhle, Contreras, Garcia, Garland and Brandon McCarthy, who they'd like to work into the rotation full-time. Contreras and Garland will be free agents after 2006, so they will most likely deal one of them.

Garland was incredibly good for the Sox last year, posting career highs in ERA (3.50), WHIP (1.17), wins (18), IP (221) , strikeouts (115) and shutouts (3). He came out of the gates on fire, winning his first eight starts and 12 of his first 14. He faded a bit in August, but picked it back up in September and got some deserved Cy Young votes.

Garland's superb sinker makes him an extreme ground-ball pitcher; his career ground ball-to-fly ball ratio is 1.33. He is still prone to giving up the long ball (26 is '05, 34 in '04), and still doesn't strike anybody out: His K-rate has declined in each of the past four years. He definitely benefited from having a superb infield behind him to gobble up ground balls. Garland's control really clicked last year. He walked only 47 batters in 221 innings. That 1.91 BB/9 rate was well below his career 3.35 mark. The big question is, can he keep it up? Was 2005 a fluke, or the new norm? Will he fall back down to Earth, or will he keep improving?

One thing you can count on: He'll likely stay healthy. You can't say enough about a guy who's started 131 games the past four years. And he'll obviously benefit from moving to the NL. Plus, he'll have Brad Ausmus, who's from Dartmouth, so he has his PhD: Pitcher-Helping Degree. More like Puny-Hitting Degree.

In short, Garland would be a very good improvement for us, especially now that Clemens is somewhat out of the picture. I think we could expect Garland to post another 3.50 ERA if he comes to Houston. The problems are: 1) We'd only have him for one year, 2) He'll probably make $6-$7 million in arbitration, and 3) We'd have to trade a couple of top prospects to get him.

So is it worth it to trade away two of: Wandy/Zeke/Nieve/Hirsh/Buchholz/Patton for one year of Garland? It depends on who we give up, but this might not be such a bad move. It's always risky to trade away top prospects, but as Jack has quoted, "There's no such thing as a pitching prospect." Or something like that. The point is, you just never know with young pitchers.

The point is, a rotation of Oswalt/Pettitte/Garland/Backe/Zeke would be great, and, if everyone stays healthy, could be among the best in baseball. Garland could never replace Clemens, but if we improve the team offensively, he may not have to. With Bagwell back and Lane, Taveras and Burke all improving, we might have enough bats to complement our fantastic rotation.

If this trade is indeed on the table, I urge Purpura to pursue it. Try to sell the Sox on Buchholz and Wandy, but try to get the deal done at any price. It's never good to make a move just for the sake of making a move, but it's getting damn near that point. Purp, you gota do something!

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