February 16, 2012
Fukudome Lands on the South Side
Ayala tore his UCL during the 2006 World Baseball Classic after a promising start to his major-league career. He did rebound nicely in 2007, but he failed to build on that and wound up resurfacing on a minor-league deal with New York last winter. The Yankees kept Ayala around and used him as their long-reliever—a decision that paid off in the form of 56 innings and a 2.09 earned run average.
But let’s be honest. Ayala isn’t likely to repeat his performance. You know it, I know it, the league knows it; how often do you see a reliever toss that many innings while allowing that few runs earn a raise of just $300,000 on the free-agent market? Some team had to see if Ayala can pull the rabbit from his hat again. Why not Baltimore? Sure, they could give his innings to a minimum-wage pitcher, but if Ayala does fake it for another 20-to-30 innings, then maybe he can bring back a live arm at the deadline.
What power he did show in the big leagues is pretty much gone, and he doesn't run as well as he did when he came over to the States. The only way I'd take him is if he came to camp on a minor-league deal worth no more than $1 million if he made the club and was willing to be a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Tip your hat; he nailed it on all fronts.
Fukudome becomes the White Sox’ insurance policy should Alejandro De Aza disappoint. With two righty batters in Alex Rios and Dayan Viciedo likely flanking De Aza in the centerfield, Fukudome becomes the primary reserve outfielder or, at the very least, is in position to share the title with Brent Lillibridge.
No one will accuse Fukudome of being more than a one-to-two win player. He is a bit of a tweener, possessing the bat to play center field but not the glove. Without much power or speed present in Fukudome’s game, he buoys his offensive value with walks instead. Fukudome turns 35 in April, and his collapse in Cleveland may warrant concern, as his walk and strikeout rates both worsened. Is that a sign of impending uselessness, or a small sample mirage? At $1 million, the White Sox can afford to find out.
Won’t someone think about the innings eaters? The cold winter for charter members rolls on. You know times are tough when Livan Hernandez and Jon Garland settle for minor-league deals. Oh sure, Aaron Harang got a comfy two-year deal, but that alone can’t fund all the organization getaways and giveaways that come with being a card-carrying innings muncher. At least Garland’s minor-league deal is sensible, as it comes on the heels of right shoulder surgery. Some teams seemingly subscribe to the motto that “elbows heal, shoulders kill,” so it isn’t surprising that it took until the final week before camp for Garland to latch on.
When right, Garland is your average pitch-to-contact innings sponge, having tossed fewer than 180 innings in a season in 2011 for just the first time since 2001—and even then, he completed more than 150 innings between the majors and minors. He won’t give a team many strikeouts (he has topped six strikeouts per nine just once in his career), and his strikeout-to-walk rates have sat at below 2.0 in each of the past five seasons, meaning shiny peripherals are unlikely too. What Garland will give you is 30-plus starts and more than 60 percent quality starts by changing speeds and locations and by getting batters to beat the ball into the ground.
Cleveland was primed to trot out a groundball-heavy rotation prior to Fausto Carmona’s arrest. Should Garland return to form, he could add some more groundballs to a staff that already includes Carmona (should he return this season), Justin Masterson, Derek Lowe, and Ubaldo Jimenez. Another storyline to watch for is if Garland can outpitch Carmona (again, should he be allowed to return to the States). PECOTA knows not of Garland’s surgery, but Garland’s projected 4.39 earned run average is close to Carmona’s 4.33 figure. Heck, is it even silly to think Garland may have outpitched Carmona over the past three seasons?