I don’t purposely pick on White Sox GM Kenny Williams. I cannot deny that neither of the posts I had written about him in the past were very complimentary, which I guess is kind of like saying that The Two Coreys will undoubtedly rocket these two fine gentlemen back to super-stardom where they belong (They’re both understatements. Get it? No? Let’s move on). But I will admit that so far in 2008, the Chicago White Sox have been better than I had them pegged to be, thanks to some very surprisingly effective pitching. And I should give the guy some credit for this. So Kenny, I underestimated you and your club (*quietly whispers* i still don’t think you guys will win though… *cough*).
So why am I even mentioning Kenny? Well, upon hearing the news that A’s prospect Fautino De Los Santos had undergone Tommy John surgery this week, it reminded me of something.
You see, De Los Santos is a 22-year old pitcher who was traded by the Chicago White Sox to Oakland along with Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Sweeney in exchange for Nick Swisher during the winter. It was believed at the time that, while raw, his potential upside was higher than any of the other players involved in the deal. But the A’s shut him down in early May due to a sore elbow. And now it’s Tommy John, meaning that he’ll most certainly be out for the rest of the year, and may miss all of 2009 as well.
But this was reminiscent of another trade that the White Sox made back in 2001, when Mike Sirotka was sent packing as part of a deal that netted Kenny Williams David Wells from the Toronto Blue Jays. But Sirotka never threw a single pitch in a Toronto uniform, because his shoulder had been injured (torn labrum) before the deal ever happened. Kenny Williams (as first year GM) argued that Toronto was given all the medical reports they needed, and the Jays cried foul, claiming that vital information was withheld from them. The whole issue turned into a bit of a fiasco with the Jays appealing to Bud Selig to overturn the deal as a result. The Commish balked, essentially stating that while Chicago was very well aware of the poor state of Sirotka’s shoulder, that Toronto should have done their homework, which isn’t all that unreasonable, I suppose. As I understand it, the Jays front office did not make the trade pending a physical. It was only conducted after the trade was consummated. Oddly enough however, the first physical given by Toronto showed nothing irregular. It was only when they went for a second opinion to Dr. James Andrews that the problem was discovered. But Sirotka himself put it very nicely:
Sirotka said he was examined by White Sox doctors in early January and given a cortisone shot. He was told to let team doctors know if there was any discomfort after 10 days, but was traded.
“At the time I was getting examined, I didn’t think there was much to worry about because they didn’t seem too concerned,” Sirotka told the Sun-Times. “But one of my first reactions after being traded was I must really be hurt because I didn’t think the trade made much sense.”
It should also be noted that another player that went to Toronto in that deal, pitcher Mike Williams, was also injured before arriving in Canada, but Chicago argued ignorance on that one. According to Kenny WIlliams himself:
“After the deal, Mike Wiliams calls our minor-league trainer and says, ‘Hey, by the way, I went on my own this offseason and had an MRI. Basically what it showed is that I’ve got a bone bruise through some sort of dislocation.’
“Our trainer reported that to me. I reported that to Toronto. The player went and did this on his own. We had no knowledge of it. The doctor said it would be a month before the bone bruise could heal. I don’t know that that has changed.
“When I asked Toronto about the problem, they were very vague. I said, ‘Please do this. Send the information to our trainer so we can take a look at it ourselves, but let us know what the problems are.’ If there’s a problem, it’s a completely separate issue from Sirotka. I don’t know what Mike (Williams) was doing. He wasn’t forthright with us. It’s just a very bad coincidence.
“I did inform Gord that if there’s a problem with Mike Williams more than what the player told us, then in good faith we will go back and agree on how to make that right. That’s not at issue.”
Believe it or not, there’s more. Back in 2006, the Philadelphia Phillies also received a pitcher that was injured prior to a trade. And yes, he came from Chicago’s South Side. The acquisition of Freddy Garcia was initially considered a pretty good move for the Phils, who was in need of an “innings-eater”. And Garcia certainly fit the bill, making Philadelphia contenders going into 2007. But right at the onset of spring training, something was apparently wrong. By mid-March, there was talk of him starting the year on the disabled list. Of course, the Phillies went on to win the NL East last year, but none of the credit went to Garcia, who made 11 starts, compiled a 5.90 ERA, and won 1 game. He made his final start on June 8th and underwent season ending surgery in August. It would come to light that Garcia had been receiving cortisone shots in his shoulder, although the pitcher denied this despite his own agent admitting its veracity.
Again, it was a case of a team (this time, the Phillies) not doing their homework. They had relied on the White Sox’ own medical reports to inform them before pulling the trigger on the deal. It was really only after the injury became apparent that people inside the game talked openly about how Garcia’s fastball had lost velocity before the trade even happened. I’m not sure where these opinions were before his shoulder exploded as a Phil, but they were loud and clear by June of ’07. Sure, in retrospect, the numbers posed a bunch of red flags, especially his strikeout rates in ’05 and ’06. But I can’t find one instance where a columnist or analyst pointed this out to be problematic at the time the deal went down. Either way, it was yet another situation where the Chicago White Sox were able to unload a pitcher with a pre-existing injury.
This is not to say that Fautino De Los Santos was damaged goods before he was traded. I have no idea if this was the case and am not making an accusation. But this is now the third incident in Kenny Williams’ tenure that something like this has happened – and that’s not even including the case of Mike Williams. So you have to wonder – will front offices become far more hesitant to even deal with Kenny Williams? And why aren’t they taking more precautions than they do?