Well, I’m not sure the Sox can recover from this one.
As you’ve probably heard by now, Gavin Floyd is out for the year and will undergo Tommy John surgery today. The good news for Gavin is the success rate for TJS is pretty good, so he will probably pitch effectively in the major leagues again. The bad news for the White Sox is that, they’re probably done in 2013.
I know, you’re probably saying something like, ‘Gavin Floyd, important piece to the White Sox season? He stinks most of the time.’ And there is some truth to that, Floyd’s never become a the #1 or #2 starter which warranted his number four overall selection in the 2001 Draft.* However, with the Sox, Floyd developed into a steady #3 or #4 starter, giving the Sox a lot of innings, strike outs and depth in the rotation since 2008.
* Interesting draft, btw. Mauer, Prior, Floyd and Teixeria all went in the top five. Then no one of major note until you get to David Wright as a sandwich pick. I think it’s safe to say that Floyd’s had a better career than Prior, however Prior’s 2003 makes it a fun conversation.
Floyd came into the year penciled in as the #3 starter and if Danks recovered, would drop to the #4 spot. You could figure that a healthy Floyd could give the Sox 11-14 wins, a solid K/9 and 180 innings. You could also figure that Floyd would fall victim to a big inning in 60% of his starts usually because he can’t find the plate (Floyd does seem to have bad luck as his ERA and FIP/xFIP spreads have been interestingly unlucky with the Sox). These are the starts one tends to remember with Floyd.
But with Floyd now done for the year, the Sox are now left search for roughly 150 innings at a pretty high quality.
In a perfect world, Danks comes back from his shoulder issues, slides into the #3 spot and the Sox get a little bit better. But this is overly optimistic. Odds are Danks won't be who he was (at least right away) upon his return, which still may be a few weeks away.
And it leaves the Sox with Dylan Axelrod in the rotation. Axelrod has been great so far, but this won’t continue (see his .248 BABIP and 7.4% HR/fly ball ratio). Eventually Axelrod is going to get rocked, and it’s not going to be pretty.
The dream I had in my head for a while now is that the Sox ride out the Axelrod starts, Danks comes back, and then 2013 White Sox really get going in May and June as the
weather improves. But Floyd’s injury pretty much kills this. Gavin’s been, on average, a 3 WAR pitcher, and sure Danks could easily give the Sox that... but again, they’re stuck with Axelrod as the fifth starter.
Now maybe the move is this: Danks returns in June, Axelrod moves to the pen and Santiago moves to the fifth spot. I like this move a lot more**, but again, this assumes that Danks is i) healthy and ii) as good as he was pre-injury. These are two big assumptions.
** Am I oddly confident about Quintana? I sure as hell am! I don’t know what it is, everything about him screams “Oh no!” but he’s been pretty good for 170 innings now. And his K/9 is up this year, which might be because everyone is striking out, but whatever! Quintana as a #4 starter isn’t the end of the world in the AL Central.
My worry going into 2012 was that the Sox wouldn’t be able to replace Buehrle’s innings. Then Chris Sale happened. (And really, it became the Quintana show once Danks went down). Unless Santiago turns into an average starter, that’s not happening this year. The Sox just don’t have anyone in the pen or in minors to give them the 150 solid innings they’ve just lost with Floyd’s injury.
This team already has dug themselves into a hole, one that only got bigger by blowing Sunday’s game against the Royals while the Tigers swept the Astros. They are dangerously close to being in big trouble. Now, they’ve got to replace 150 innings, plus about 30 more until Danks comes back (if not more), at around a 3 WAR level. For as great as Coop is, I don’t think he can pull this off.
Maybe it’s time to start planning for 2014.
And speaking of 2014... Floyd’s injury makes it a better than 50% chance he’s back with the Sox next year. Sure, maybe someone like the A’s or Rays gives him a incentivized one year deal, but seeing that he’ll start his rehab with the Sox, I have to think that Floyd—who is expected to be back around the 2014 All-Start game—might just re-up with the Sox in ‘14. It’s far too early to say if the Sox should consider this, but I’d make them the favorites to bring back Floyd next year.