Aaron Rowand. Remember him?
He was a Gold Glove caliber center fielder that played a major role on the Chicago White Sox 2005 World Series team.
He was also the last position player drafted in the first round during the Kenny Williams or Rick Hahn era to have a successful major league career.
Since selecting Rowand in 1999, the White Sox have had a continuous string of failure at drafting position players. They have also had a revolving door in center field since trading him away after the 2005 season.
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Players like Joe Borchard, Brian Anderson, Josh Fields, Jared Mitchell and Courtney Hawkins were all first round picks that were supposed to be the next big thing to come up through the organization and become key contributors.
Borchard’s career never took off, Anderson and Fields converted to pitchers and both Mitchell and Hawkins are currently struggling in the White Sox minor league system.
This has resulted in the White Sox turning to free agency and trades to get better.
One move that was deemed a success last season was the acquisition of Adam Eaton.
Jun 12, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Chicago White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton (1) on deck against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The White Sox got Eaton in a three team with the Los Angeles Angels and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks sent Eaton to the White Sox and Tyler Skaggs to the Angels. The Angels sent Mark Trumbo to the Diamondback. And the White Sox sent Hector Santiago to the Angels.
Right away, Eaton filled the void in center field that the team had since Rowand was traded and also served as the team’s best leadoff hitter since Scott Podsednik.
His .300 average and .362 on-base percentage were both second on the White Sox and among the best leadoff hitters in baseball last season.
As bad as the White Sox needed a center fielder, the Diamondbacks needed a power bat to play alongside Paul Goldschmidt. Trumbo had just come off of a season of career highs in home runs (34), RBIs (100) and runs (85) with the Angels.
Trumbo would go on to play in just 88 games in 2014 and hit .235/.293/.415 with 14 home runs and 61 RBIs.
At the time of the trade, Skaggs was the Diamondbacks top pitching prospect. Before the 2013 season, he was rated as the 10th best prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com.
In his final season with the Diamondbacks, he posted a career high 4.60 ERA at Triple-A and then saw that number go up to 5.12 in seven starts in the majors.
Still, the Angels valued him as a future rotation piece and with good reason. They were the ones who originally drafted him.
In 2010, Skaggs was included in the deal that sent Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks to the Angels.
He would go on to make 18 starts for the Angels before having his season cut short by an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.
The last piece of that trade was Santiago.
The former White Sox lefty was originally a 30th round pick in 2006 that spent equal time as both a starter and reliever. That type of versatility got him to the big leagues in 2012 where he managed to stick from that point on.
Santiago was solid as a reliever and showed flashes of brilliance as a starter. He always had good strikeout numbers (8.7 K/9 with White Sox) and limited runs scored on him (3.41 ERA). His problem was walks.
In his final season in Chicago, Santiago walked 72 batters in 149 innings (4.3 BB/9). Those high pitch counts limited his innings.
Despite the fact that he was in many ways statistically the second best starter on the team, it was the continuous issues with his control that made him expendable.
In his first year with the Angels, he once again jumped between starter and reliever and even spent some time in the minors. By season’s end, he was 6-9 with a 3.75 ERA in 30 games (24 starts). His walk rate dropped a bit (3.7 BB/9) but his hits allowed were up and his strikeouts were down.
Fast forward to today and now Santiago is an All-Star, one of the best left-handers in baseball and the best player involved in that trade.
In 18 games this season (17 starts), Santiago is 6-4 with a 2.33 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 108.1 innings. His BB/9 is at a career low, 2.8 and opponents are hitting just .213 against him.
He has been the Angels best pitcher this season and a key part of their return to first place in the American League West division.
What about the rest of players that were traded?
Well, Eaton has taken a step back this season. He is currently hitting just .245 with a .309 on-base percentage. He is a key reason why the White Sox are in last place in the AL Central.
Trumbo was traded to the Seattle Mariners earlier this season to give Peralta, Inciarte and rookie Yasmany Tomas all more playing time.
Between Seattle and Arizona, Trumbo is hitting .244/.282/.430 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs. He has just two home runs in 30 games as a Mariner.
Skaggs continues to rehab from Tommy John and is currently on he Angels’ 60-day disabled list.
This is yet another example of the White Sox refusing to show patience with a promising pitcher that has some control issues. A couple of months ago I profiled the loss of Gio Gonzalez in a piece as well.
It all stems back to the inability to develop the position players they draft. The need for Eaton had a price and now the White Sox are seeing Santiago blossom into a star.
A star that could have blossomed in Chicago, had Williams and Hahn just given him the chance.
This is not to say that Eaton will never be able to repeat his 2014 numbers. But if the White Sox could do things over again, I do think they view him as worth the cost of Santiago.