Was Matt Albers Chicago’s best off-season acquisition?
By Erik Brown
It certainly did not make front page news when veteran middle relief pitcher Matt Albers decided to sign with the Chicago White Sox late in the 2014-2015 offseason, certainly given the other moves the White Sox front office made beforehand. That being said, Albers has been one of the best values across all of baseball this year and unlike another right-handed pitcher on this team, he has made the most of his “contract year”. While Jeff Samardzija has struggled mightily after rejecting contract extensions from both teams in Chicago (reports are the Chicago Cubs offered him a five-year extension about three weeks before getting traded to Oakland during the 2014 season), Albers took a one-year prove it deal and has likely parlayed that into a multi-year contract entering next year, regardless of what team he chooses to play for given his success out of the bullpen.
Following an injury stricken season a year ago with the Houston Astros, the native son left Houston on a one-year, $1.5 million contract to come to the Southside just eight days before reporting to spring training at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona. That 1.50 number for his salary is now higher than his earned run average, as the big right hander entered Friday’s game against the Cleveland Indians with a sparkling 1.30 ERA in 34.2 innings. Even more impressive is that Albers has not allowed an earned run since July 31st against the New York Yankees, who roughed him up for three of his five earned runs on the season. (Note: Albers did suffer a broken finger in the April brawl with the Kansas City Royals that forced him to miss three months.) The impressive season by Albers has been largely unnoticed by fans, especially since his acquisition came after big names such as Samardzija, Melky Cabrera and David Robertson. (This not the only time Albers has been unnoticed, as evidenced by the fact most don’t know he held a major league record as recently as last season.) Given how almost nobody on the White Sox except Jose Abreu has reached expectations for 2015, a 32-year old middle reliever has probably been one of the best players for Robin Ventura‘s club and I would argue the best off-season move made by Rick Hahn and Co., especially given the price tag that accompanies Albers. If Hahn believes this team can compete next year, a deal similar to Zach Duke‘s may be in the cards next year for the 10 year veteran.