The White Sox have reportedly signed Octavio Dotel to a 2 year, $11 million contract. Earlier in the off season the White Sox also signed Scott Linebrink to a 4 year, $19 million contract, and obtained Nick Swisher in a trade with the Oakland A's. The White Sox generally received good reviews for the Swisher trade, but these reliever signings are curious at best. It is this lack of consistency that makes me wonder if the White Sox have a serious plan for getting back into contention or if Kenny Williams and Ozzie are making player personnel decisions by playing a drunken game of Rock-Paper-Scissors (how else do you explain the Erstad signing last year?).
Let me explain. The White Sox were very bad last year. Gave up up 839 runs. Only scored 693 while finishing 24 games behind Cleveland. They only had a .318 OBP as a team and their best hitter,Thome, will be 38 years old next year. Yes a very bad year. The picture I am trying to paint is that the White Sox appear no where close to competing with the teams ahead of them in their division with out some major changes. As an organization the White Sox really have two choices. Either they need to do a major overhaul this off season to try to catch up to the teams ahead of them, or build for the future. A jump from 72 wins to 75 wins is sort of like kissing your sister don't you think? Since this seasons FA market was relatively weak it didn't appear the Sox would be able to bridge the gap in talent with their division rivals. This is where I agree with the Swisher trade. He is young, gets on base (100 walks, .381 OPB last year) and is cost controlled for the next few years. That move makes sense, for you can see Swisher being part of the solution a few years down the road due to his age and the fact that he addresses a major team weakness. This is where the reliever signings seem to make a little less sense.
I know the bullpen was awful last year, their relievers posted a collective 5.47 ERA. That's ugly. But both the new guys have some red flags. Linebrink's K rate has dropped from 8.89 in 2004 to 6.40 last season. And he is going to the big boy league. Signing him for 4 years is pretty silly. Dotel still seems to have his stuff (41 k's in 30.2 innings) but has only pitched 63.2 innings the last three seasons. I could see taking a chance on him for one year but two years is questionable to me. I actually think these guys will marginally improve the White Sox bullpen next season. But considering how bad the bullpen they had last year, it wouldn't take all that much to actually do that. Back to my broader point of, WHY? The White Sox have a lot of major flaws as a team and are probably a couple season's away from being back in contention unless they quickly bring in a handful of high impact players. These guys just ain't going to make a significant impact short term. And they won't have any impact long term due to age, injuries, or just poor performance. I think this is a classic example of a GM making a move just for the sake of making a move(Sort of like the Royal's signing Tomko yesterday).
I can understand why Kenny Williams and other GM's sometimes feel pressure to make moves like this. The White Sox have a lot of money, and the pen was really bad last year. To the fans, media, and sometimes even the owner, it wouldn't look very acceptable to sit on your hands and do nothing. It's clear something needed to be done and this way he can say he is trying to make the team better. It is a very difficult for the GM to sell the notion that doing nothing may be the best course of action, especially when he has a lot of cash to throw around, as the White Sox do. But it is also the GM's job to have a bit more perspective than the fans, media, and yes even the owner. Considering the current state of the White Sox roster, these two reliever deals are just pointless; not enough to help now or in the future. Maybe Kenny Williams likes to kiss his sister.