Sunday, January 9, 2011

White Sox Sign Will Ohman And What It Means For Chris Sale

In a move to solidify their bullpen, the White Sox signed left hander Will Ohman to a two-year, four million dollar contract. If the contact is balanced, it would bring my 2011 payroll estimate for the White Sox to 126.25m. I've already expended a lot of words here at Central In Focus extolling poor logic in handing relievers three-year deals - and while this deal is for just two years, it violates the same basic tenets.

In signing Ohman, owner of a career 4.09 ERA to a two year deal, they're gambling that the lefty specialist can not only repeat his success of 2010, but that he can do it in back-to-back seasons. His career track-record suggests it's a possibility, but his 2009 season should give one pause.

OPS allowed vs lefthanders by year:

2010: .636
2009: .889
2008: .571
2007: .718
2006: .535
2005: .593

At just 2m per year, the Ohman deal is unlikely to have any significant effect one way or another. But I do question the necessity of offering two years to a player who is valuable essentially as a lefty specialist in low-leverage situations.

Perhaps more than anything, the Ohman signing throws into doubt what the White Sox plans are for the young Chris Sale. With Ohman in place to take care of lefty-lefty situations in the 6th and 7th innings, and Matt Thornton a known commodity for the late innings, will the White Sox choose to keep Sale in the rotation even if it means keeping him in AAA once Jake Peavy returns? Or will they keep Sale in the bullpen and roll with three lefties?

Good problems to have I suppose.

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