Over the past month, the White Sox have made national headlines by trotting out recently acquired right-hander James Shields for three embarrassing starts. Since the Sox traded for Shields on June 4th, he has completely fallen apart. In his first three starts for the White Sox (before Thursday's mediocre start), Shields gave up 21 earned runs in 8 2/3 IP. In two of those starts, he wasn't able to make it out of the 2nd inning. Quite simply, James Shields looks to be a bad pitcher that the White Sox decided was worth $27 million over the next two and a half seasons.
But where does this trade rank among other Sox blunders? And more specifically, what are some of the dumbest trades or free agent signings of the Kenny Williams era (2001-present)? Here are three that came to mind.
3. White Sox trade 2B Ray Durham and cash to the Athletics for RP Jon Adkins (2002).
In the summer of 2002, the White Sox were out of contention by June. The Oakland A’s, however, were in the middle of making a historic run to the postseason and needed an upgrade at second base. Fortunately for A’s general manager Billy Beane, Kenny Williams was inexplicably shopping All-Star Ray Durham for just about anybody. Although Durham was due to be a free agent in the offseason, his departure would mean a compensatory pick in the 2003 draft for whichever team lost him. So, in addition to getting half a season of Durham in his prime (.289/.375/.450 in 2002), Beane also stole a first round pick from Williams. Adkins would go on to pitch six below average seasons in the big leagues, compiling a 4.54 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 138 innings.
2. White Sox trade Keith Foulke, Mark Johnson, Joe Valentine and cash to the Oakland Athletics for Billy Koch, Neal Cotts and Daylan Holt (2003).
When taking a look back over the last sixteen years, Williams rarely “bombs” on trades because the prospects he trades simply never amount to anything. This likely says more about the state of the Sox farm system than Williams’ foresight. However, Williams unquestionably lost this deal with A’s prior to the 2003 season. In Foulke’s one year with the A’s, he had the best season of his career (0.80 WHIP, 2.08 ERA, 43 saves). Billy Koch was awful in his first year in Chicago (1.6 WHIP, 5.77 ERA, 11 saves) and the White Sox dealt him midway through 2004 for fringe prospect Wilson Valdez. 2004 would be Koch’s last year in professional baseball.
1. White Sox acquire old former All-Stars
In some ways, Kenny Williams has the same philosophy of roster construction as Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov: assemble a roster of stars, no matter the age or contract. Over the last 15 years, the White Sox have signed or traded for the following players: Sandy Alomar, Kenny Lofton, David Wells, Jose Canseco, Darin Erstad, Ken Griffey Jr., Andruw Jones, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel, Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, Orlando Hudson, Roberto Alomar, and Carl Everett. That group of 14 players has made 89 All-Star games, won 55 Gold Gloves, 27 Silver Sluggers, and 2 MVPs. Only problem? None of those came with the White Sox.