For years the White Sox have tried over and over again to trade Jon Garland. Today they finally did it: the California native is going back to his home state to play for the Los Angeles Angels. In return, the Sox have acquired 33-year-old Gold Glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera.
The first domino has fallen.
I am a very big Cabrera fan: he is a terrific number two hitter and had hoped the Sox would acquire him as far back as last off-season, as detailed in this article from March. He immediately knocks Juan Uribe out of the picture as the Sox starting shortstop, and gives a big boost to a sluggish line up.
Cabrera hit .301 with a .345 OBP, 20 stolen bases and 101 runs scored for the Angels last year. His bat control is marvelous: he had 44 walks compared to only 64 strikeouts, and in 2006 he actually had more walks than strikeouts, a Herculean feat that will be a welcome change of pace in Chicago.
Finding a shortstop than is better defensively than Uribe was extremely difficult, but the Sox have done it. Cabrera's defense earned him his second Gold Glove in '07, and he lead all AL shortstops with a .982 fielding percentage over the past three seasons. He has excellent range and quickness to go along with soft hands.
Cabrera will earn $9 million in 2008, the last year of his contract, and the Angels are reportedly throwing in a little cash in the deal. (Are you surprised? The Sox always get cash in these types of trades: think back to Jose Contreras, Jim Thome and Javier Vazquez.)
Maybe the savings from getting Garland's $12 million salary off the books (along with the Angels cash donation) will go toward signing a starting centerfielder-a Torii Hunter or Aaron Rowand. Then, the Sox are one trade away, for a lead off hitter/left fielder, from having a competitive line up for 2008.
The pitching, however, still leaves a lot to be desired.
The Angels have had the hots for Garland for many years; in 2001 a Darrin Erstad-Garland trade fell through at the last minute. Their starting rotation, by the way, looks very impressive right now: Lackey, Escobar, Garland, Weaver are a formidable top four and Adenhart, Saunders and Santana can duke it out for the fifth spot.
The Sox rotation, on the
other hand, looks like a 4th place team's. Buehrle and
Vazquez are solid up top, but, as of right now, spots three through
five would likely go to Jose Contreras, John Danks and Gavin
Ken Williams has never been one to maximize value in a trade, and this deal is no exception. I continue to be disappointed that Williams can't get more for a dependable, 28-year-old 200-inning eater.
But make no mistake: the Sox now have one of the best veteran shortstops in the entire American League. That sounds like hyperbole, but it's not: Cabrera's in the top five with Derek Jeter, Edgar Renteria, Michael Young and Miguel Tejada.
Getting a significant upgrade at a premium position, both defensively and offensively, makes this a decent trade. But with glaring holes in the outfield and the pitching staff, this team is still a long way from finished.