Not that it was something we didn't know, but at Sox Fest pitching coach Don Cooper was quoted as saying that recent signee Felipe Paulino has "a real good chance" at the rotation. White Sox fans seem to be getting somewhat excited about Paulino, who has tons of talent and is under control for a couple years pretty cheap. And it's good for fans to be excited about a new guy with definite low-risk and obvious high-reward potential. But it's important to keep his long-term outlook as a south sider in perspective.
No, that's not a Sox jersey, but I did a double-take too. Credit: Getty Images
As we discussed upon Paulino's signing back in early December, starter Andre Rienzo, despite giving several solid performances in 2013, has really fallen out of favor. He too is a talented hurler, but it just doesn't seem his low-K, high-contact rates are going to translate well to the big leagues. Though he definitely does still have a shot at the 2014 rotation, it's starting to seem as if Paulino has the inside track on him.
But I'm pretty confident in saying we'll see Rienzo at some point this year, because I just don't see Felipe sticking with the team too long.
For Paulino, one of two things can happen: he can be good or he can be a flop. If he doesn't work out for the team, whether due to an injury or just bad performances, then you may as well give Rienzo or fellow prospect Chris Beck a shot at a starter role. But if he is good, there's still a good chance one of those guys will get a look because Paulino will not be hard to move for a prospect or two near the deadline.
Like we said, he's signed cheap: a one-year, $1.75M deal with a $4M 2015 team option ($250K buyout). So you're probably thinking, "Well, if he's signed so cheap and can perform above his contract's value, then why move him? Especially considering the fact that best-case, he'll haul us just one decent or two average prospects." And that's a very fair argument. But I feel the counter argument is even stronger.
The reason you deal him and net a profit for your minor league talent base is because Chris Sale, Erik Johnson, Jose Quintana, and John Danks aren't going anywhere … and with a young, rebuilding team like the White Sox, you need an open spot to audition other youngsters like Rienzo, Beck, or any others that may climb the ranks in 2014.
Sure, they could hang onto Paulino for the entirety of the season, but if he's not very good he won't be brought back anyway and if he is good and you're going to shop him (because again, you're still going to need an opening for young talent somewhere) you have to keep in mind that teams strapped for pitching near the trade deadline will always give up more than they will over the offseason when options are aplenty. Especially for a guy said teams can get for a year and a half.
Obviously there's one scenario in which it wouldn't make sense to move Paulino – if the White Sox are in the playoff hunt come late July thanks in part to Paulino succeeding in the rotation. In that case you'd obviously hang on to him. And trust me guys, it's not that I don't think this White Sox team has the potential to be that young and exciting squad that shocks the baseball world – but I sure as hell am not going to expect it.
So be excited to watch Felipe Paulino this year. Talented and cheap with a good shot at the rotation, he certainly could be a headliner this year. Just keep in mind his not-so-long-term outlook with the White Sox.