December 13, 2013
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013
10 years ago, the White Sox made a pair of trades that resulted in them getting one of the biggest names in baseball without giving up anything of serious value. On Jan. 15, 2003, they turned various bits of nothing much in particular into Bartolo Colon, a pitcher coming off a 20-win season.
The Sox made two trades that day, only one of which involved Colon, but the non-Colon trade was instrumental in setting up the Colon deal. The non-Colon deal came first.
It was with the Yankees. New York had a valuable starting pitcher in Cuban defector Orlando Hernandez. A solid part of New York’s rotation from 1998-2000, Hernandez had plowed through back-to-back injury plagued seasons since then. In 2002, he went 8-5 in 22 starts – though with a fine 3.64 ERA. Despite being in his mid-30s, Hernandez still had some value as a pitcher, though not worth as heavy a price as he would’ve cost a few years earlier.
The Sox knew what they were willing to pay for him: major league reliever Antonio Osuna and aging prospect Eddi Candelario. Osuna was coming off a fine 2002 campaign where the 29-year-old posted a 3.86 ERA in 59 appearances. It was a nice return to form after a 2001 season that saw just four appearances for him due to injury. Candelario was just a throw in, a 24-year-old starting pitcher who had done well in Double-A but gotten killed in Triple-A in 2002.
So the Sox turned a reliever and a marginal prospect into Hernandez. Clearly his injuries and age had diminished the package the Yankees were able to get for him.
Then again, maybe the Yankees just didn’t talk to the right teams. Because White Sox GM Kenny Williams immediately received a much more impressive haul of Hernandez.
On that same day, Williams flipped Hernandez to Montreal for Colon. Actually, it was a five-player trade. The Sox sent Rocky Biddle and Jeff Liefer along with Hernandez for Colon and Jorge Nunez.
Liefer was a back-up player who wasn’t that bad at baseball but wasn’t that good at it either. Biddle was a young failed starting pitcher trying to make a go of it as a reliever. Nunez was a minor leaguer who never made the majors.
When you look at it, this was an impressive day of trading for Chicago boss Kenny Williams. None of the four guys he gave up did much. Liefer played 79 games over the next three years with four teams before moving on with his life. Biddle spent two years in Montreal as a reliever before bouncing out of baseball. Candelario never made the majors. Osuna had two nice remaining years in the bullpen—but only one with New York. Yet those are the four players Williams began the day with that he turned into Colon.
Heck, even Hernandez would be a dud for Montreal. He never played for them. Instead, he injured his arm, missing all of 2003. Frankly, the story of this piece could easily be not how good a job Chicago did trading, but how poorly the Expos did. Hernandez returned to New York in 2004, and then helped the White Sox claim the 2004 world title.
Colon, meanwhile, had a nice season for the Sox, though not a great season. His record of 15-13 wasn’t the superstar performance Chicago hoped for. Colon was starting to show signs of the arm wear that would eventually derail his career as his strikeout total wasn’t nearly what it had been a few years ago.
Colon helped the Sox, but they improved by just five games, from 81 to 86 wins. So the trade helped, but the grand prize of October glory remained beyond their grasp. Still, it was an impressive bit of wheeling and dealing by White Sox GM a decade ago today, on Jan. 15, 2003.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.
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