While most moves the White Sox' front office has made this offseason have been aimed to help the club way down the line, Rick Hahn has sprinkled in a couple that present a boost for the immediate future. Early Thursday the second bullpen-related deal of that nature went down when the team inked veteran lefty Scott Downs.
Another acquisition of some serious flow. Credit: Joe Scarnici, Getty Images
Last season Donnie Veal took two steps back from his dominant 2012 campaign, though he did finish off the year okay. David Purcey doesn't present a long-term, or a guaranteed short-term solution. And youngsters like Leyson Septimo, Santos Rodriguez, Frank De Los Santos, etc. don't appear to be ready for the big show.
And like you've seen on the north side of town over the past couple seasons with the Cubs, having a bad bullpen can make a young, developing team an unwatchable trainwreck. Similar to Ronald Belisario, Scott Downs presents a pretty safe option for the 'pen. If the team exceeds expectations, he'll be one small reason why. And if the Sox struggle mightily again, he'll be interesting trade bait for a contender.
Downs came up as a starter with the Cubs way back when in 2000, but hasn't started a game since his days in Toronto (2006). He's now a 37 year-old veteran (will be 38 for the season) that's been about as consistent as one can be.
Since being moved to a full-time reliever in 2007, he's pitched on average in just under 64 games per season and hasn't posted a season ERA over 3.15 (2012), only going over 3.00 twice. Last season he dominated for the Angels (1.84 ERA in 43 appearances) which wound up getting him dealt to Atlanta, where he struggled. It was his first time in the National League since 2004, and though his ERA was only 3.86, his 1.929 WHIP was what really blew up.
But now with him back in the American League where he's proved comfortable, you can definitely expect good things from Downs. He did have a solid groundball rate of 64.3% in 2013, which bodes well for US Cellular Field.
Throughout his career lefties have only hit .219 against him, while righties are up at .272, the latter a number that's jumped quite a bit over the past two years. But thanks to his extensive experience, the team won't be afraid to throw him out there against a righty, though he's obviously coming to town mostly to get out lefties.
The 1-year, 4MM deal includes a vesting option for a second year at the same price which will likely be used as long as he tosses a normal amount of innings.
The bullpen will now consist of Matt Lindstrom, Nate Jones, Ronald Belisario, and Scott Downs with Jacob Petricka likely sliding in, leaving two open slots for quite a bunch of guys to compete for throughout spring training. And that's juuuuust how I like it.