This is one of those moves that’s easy to feel positive about. It’s only a $1.75 million contract for one year with a $250,000 buy out of a $4 million option for 2015. The downside is the possibility that Paulino is never healthy, effective, or both. If so, the White Sox are out $2 million. Given the amounts of money flooding into teams from TV, how little the White Sox have committed to payroll moving forward, and how much some pitchers are going for, this is a tiny amount. They only have to pay a $4 million option if they feel he’s worth keeping – meaning there’s some reason to believe he is or will be good and/or healthy.
Given Paulino’s track record, the most likely outcome is that he won’t really stay healthy. He has only managed more than 100 innings once, and maxed out at 139.1 IP. He’s coming off of Tommy John surgery and a shoulder surgery. The nice thing about this is that it plays to an organizational strength – Herm Schneider has an excellent track record of keeping players, especially pitchers, healthy.
The White Sox are good with pitching as an organization and they have a lot of options for next year. The problem is a bunch of them have question marks – injuries, reasons to question their ability to perform moving forward, extreme overuse in 2013, etc. Paulino serves as excellent insurance. Although he is frail himself, Paulino can step into the rotation when needed, or let his huge fastball play up in relief.
Only 30, Paulino seemed to gradually be harnessing his stuff – missing bats, lowering home runs, and…well, he was working on his walks, one hopes. Collin noted that Paulino has had a tendency to underperform his peripherals. One factor to consider with that, beyond luck and the small samples that result from not being durable, with the Royals and Astros squads he pitched for he was often in front of pretty crummy defenses. Assuming the 2013 White Sox Error Brigade was an anomaly, he should expect a little more help in that department moving into 2014.
This is the best kind of lottery ticket – the payoff is potentially quite large, it costs very little to see if it will, and you have better chances that Paulino adds value than you do of being happy with a real lotto ticket.
This signing leverages the White Sox’ strengths – helping to polish up pitchers and keep them healthy – and helps them avoid the absurd prices teams are paying for some pretty awful pitchers (Hi, Minnesota!). Short term commitment, high upside, low cost, buying low on an injury guy – this is something good organizations do, whether or not this move works out.