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Dumb and Dumber?

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Dec 7, 2006 1:32PM

Both of our baseball teams made some noise involving pitching on Wednesday at MLB's Winter Meetings, with the Cubs signing a high-priced free agent, while the White Sox traded away one of their starters.

2006_12_sports_jim_hendry.jpgThe Cubs signed Ted Lilly to a 4-year, $40 million deal — with Jim Hendry in the hospital, no less! "Jim was hooked up to an EKG machine, and we got it done," Lilly's agent explained. Hendry had been admitted to the hospital for chest pain and was expected to remain overnight.

As for Lilly, the Cubs' new $10 million-a-year arm went 15-13 for Toronto last season, compiling a 4.32 ERA in 181.2 innings of work. For his career, he's 59-58 with a 4.60 ERA. That ERA is over the league average ERA of 4.56 over the course of his career — meaning a below-average pitcher can now command an 8-figure salary! Wouldn't it have been better and cheaper to simply have offered Greg Maddux an entension rather than trading him?

Not to be outdone by a guy in a hospital bed, Sox GM Kenny Williams also made a big deal on Wednesday by trading Freddy Garcia to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitchers Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez. What!?! Who are these guys he got in return for a pitcher who won 31 games over the past two seasons? One went 4-3 with a 7.29 ERA in 11 starts with the Phillies last season before being sent to the minors. Gonzalez is a minor leaguer that the Sox sent to the Phillies as part of the Aaron Rowand for Jim Thome trade.

Despite much speculation that the Sox were trying to bring Aaron Rowand back to the team, he wasn't included in the deal. Had he been, then maybe it would have made more sense. With the huge demand for pitching this offseason — see Lilly's huge deal — that's the best Williams could get for Garcia? A guy who will pitch 200 innings and win 15 games, year in, year out? The only apparent benefit to this trade now is that it frees up a few million in salary.

Does this big salary dump mean that Kenny's got something else in the works? Say, a trade for Vernon Wells along with a contract extension? Andruw Jones? Manny Ramirez? Alex Rodriguez? Because otherwise we don't understand why you would make such a trade.

We'd rather see the team go out there with a real chance to make the World Series in 2007 even if it means they might lose some players to free agency after the season. Without a bold move to improve the club, this just looks like the Sox tightening belts and deciding to focus on money over competing. While we have never failed to be amazed by Kenny Williams in the past, his and Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf's comments sound like they're waving the white flag on the cost of pitching.