Breaking news out of Chicago: The White Sox have traded right-handed pitcher Jon Garland to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for Gold-Glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera.
Garland, an 18-game winner in the two previous seasons, struggled through a down year in 2007, compiling a disappointing 10-13 record with a 4.23 ERA in 32 starts. Yet in a weak pitching market this offseason, the acquisition of the 28-year-old solidifies the Angels’ starting rotation headed into 2008.
In return, the White Sox obtain one of the best defensive shortstops in all of Major League Baseball. Cabrera, who led all American League shortstops with a .983 fielding percentage, is coming off one of the finest seasons of a solid 11-year career. In addition to winning his second Gold Glove, the 33-year-old infielder finished the 2007 campaign with a .301 batting average, 35 doubles, eight home runs, and 86 RBIs. He also registered career highs with 101 runs scored and 192 hits.
There are several factors which make this deal surprising, though.
What will Chicago do with Juan Uribe? (AP)
First, the trade comes shortly in the aftermath of Chicago's resigning of incumbent starting shortstop, Juan Uribe, who agreed to a one-year, $4.75 million deal on November 7. After White Sox general manager gushed over Uribe’s defense during the announcement of the organization’s plans to bring the slick-fielding infielder back, shortstop appeared to be a position locked up in the Windy City.
Cabrera, entering the prime of his career, is clearly an offensive upgrade at the position over his predecessor. Although Uribe, 28, was among White Sox team leaders with 20 home runs and 68 RBIs in 150 games, he consistently hovered around the Mendoza line this past season, finishing with a .234 batting average.
But with several other needs to address this Winter, why go after Cabrera?
Second, while the White Sox can just shift Uribe to second base or use him in a super-utility role, the Angels are in short supply at the important infield position. Depending upon how quickly it takes Erick Aybar to take over the role permanently, they now have a gaping hole in their lineup going into spring training.
Finally, Chicago lost a huge member of its starting rotation, arguably the team’s ace over the past three seasons. Due to the trade, the team now needs to make a few adjustments to improve upon its pitching corps. Look for Williams and the White Sox to keep dealing in order to address the lack of pitching resulting from today’s trade.
"We're not done yet. We're still trying to land a big fish," Williams told reporters. "We saw an opportunity to acquire one of the best shortstops in the game and one of the smartest in the game," Williams said. "Somebody who can fit into the No. 2 spot in our lineup for 155 games."
In my opinion, the Angels are on the better side of this deal, depending upon Garland’s performance in the coming seasons, of course. If he can stay healthy, Garland complements the Angels’ frontline starters – John Lackey, Kelvin Escobar, and yes, even Jered Weaver – very nicely.
While the Angels’ biggest concern this offseason should be gaining another bat to supplement slugger Vladimir Guerrero, I like this move. And if Aybar, regarded as one of the best prospects in the Los Angeles organization for a while now, is ready, the trade looks even better for the Angels, in my eyes. Due to the increasingly thin Free Agent market for starting pitchers, acquiring Garland might end up being one of the most integral pitching upgrades all offseason.
Regardless of who comes out on top, I was left scratching my head when I heard about the news.
You can reach Tyler Hissey by sending an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.