Sox must make tough calls on veteran pitchers

Video of Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura discussing Jake Peavy, Dayan Viciedo

The bad news has come in for Gavin Floyd, just like it did for John Danks last August.

Floyd will have season-ending elbow surgery Tuesday, meaning the White Sox will get no more return on the $9.5 million they’ll pay Floyd this season, just as they’ve gotten very little return on the $22.5 million they’re paying Danks in 2012 and ’13. If there’s any good news, it’s that there’s a lesson here.

It’s time to make hard decisions with pitching assets.

Rather than chasing unlikely best-case scenarios and winding up with nothing, they need to break the mold and get back to being trade-deadline sellers, not merely wild speculators. First-year general manager Rick Hahn can’t hang on to Jake Peavy until his next major injury.

Barring a major turnaround that puts the White Sox in the thick of the playoff picture, Peavy should be offered around to contenders as soon as mid-June, assuming he bounces back from his back issues in reasonable fashion.

The backbone of the Sox’s playoff teams in 2008 and ’05 was its starting rotation. But Ken Williams never traded from his pitching depth, allowing Mark Buehrle to reach free agency and hanging onto Danks and Floyd even after they’d been joined by a healthy Peavy.

Danks wasn’t pitching like a $65 million stud in 2011 but Williams and Hahn extended his contract rather than dealing him and hanging onto Buehrle, who is six years older. You can point to Buehrle’s poor start for the Blue Jays (1-2, 6.43 ERA entering Monday night’s start at Tampa Bay) to say they made the right decision but that does nothing about a minor-league system lacking impactful players in Triple-A. There would have been more talent there if Williams had dealt Danks and Floyd when they had value.

Assuming Peavy regains the considerable trade value it appeared he would have before skipping a start to rest his back, the White Sox have to turn him into some talented under-25 players. And Floyd?

Well, don’t be surprised if he does pitch for the White Sox again. He’s going to spend all of this season working his way back from major elbow surgery and then will go onto the free-agent market. His best chance to get well is by staying with the people who know him best. He could wind up pitching the 2014 innings that currently are on Peavy’s plate, and he could do it with a minimal guarantee and lots of performance bonuses, not the $14.5 million that Peavy is due.
 
In the short run, Floyd could be replaceable. Hector Santiago should give the Sox as big of a chance to win as would have Floyd, and the rotation could get a lift when Danks returns. But the disconcerting reality is it takes finds like Jose Quintana and Dylan Axelrod to keep things humming because the farm system isn’t growing its own crop of pitchers.

Erik Johnson is coming fast at Double-A, but there’s not a whole lot else to like at this point, as Andre Rienzo isn’t following up his breakout season. The Sox are withering from lack of inventory, which would be a lot higher if they had been able to make some tough calls on their veteran pitchers.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers
CHICAGO

More

Five on Five