What’s Next: Stephen Strasburg, Dontrelle Willis, and the White Sox


Strasburg Debut Next Tuesday

The Washington Nationals have announced that last year’s number one overall draft pick, Stephen Strasburg, is finally “ready” to face a major league club. Or least the Pittsburgh Pirates, anyway.

Strasburg will make his Nationals debut one week from today when the Nats host Pittsburgh. After dominating both AA and AAA in 10 combined starts this season, the San Diego State product will arrive with every bit as much hype as LeBron James did in the NBA seven seasons ago. Strasburg allowed just 40 baserunners (28 hits, 12 walks) in 50.1 innings. He has struck out 60 batters and holds a 1.43 ERA between his two minor league stops.

In truth, this was never about whether or not Strasburg was ready to face big league hitters. His time in the minor leagues was all about service time. By holding Strasbug back until June 8, the Nats made sure he would not accumulate enough service time to be arbitration eligible a season early. If he never returns to the minor leagues after his debut, and it would be shocking if he did, Strasburg will gain 118 days of major league service this season, so he will miss the Super-Two cut-off date by about four days.

(more after the jump)

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D-Backs Interested in D-Train

According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, the Diamondbacks and Tigers are discussing a trade of the recently DFA’d Dontrelle Willis. Willis, the former NL Rookie of the Year, is not the same pitcher who won 22 games in 2005, but he’s also probably not the same guy who Detroit sent all the way down to Rookie League in 2008 while battling severe wildness, either.

Willis earned a rotation spot with the Tigers in Spring Training and was the Tigers most effective pitcher early in the year. Recently however, his outings have become more and more bumpy (he walked 17 in his last 19.1 innings) and the Tigers felt this was the best time to cut him loose. It was something that was bound to happen, it was just a matter of when.

The D-Backs could choose to wait for the Tigers to cut him, but then they have competition to sign the left hander. If they can work out a trade, and Willis seems fine with the idea of playing in Arizona, the Tigers would still pay almost all of the remaining money on his contract. Willis is in the final year of a 3-year, $29MM extension he signed prior to the 2008 season.

Major Changes Coming in Chicago

In the wake of Chicago’s disappointing start to the season, White Sox GM Kenny Williams is reportedly very willing to start trading away his veteran players. Throw in a couple of Ozzie Guillen blow-ups and you have a situation in Chicago that threatens to erupt like Disco Demolition Night.

The first to go, according to Joe Cowley, could very well be closer Bobby Jenks. Jenks was a non-tender candidate this past offseason, but the Sox ponied up and gave Jenks a $7.5MM deal. I bet they are regretting that one. Word is that the Phillies are among the clubs interested in the flame-trowing right hander, who is 7-for-8 in save chances this year, but sports an ERA approaching 7.00.

Jenks would serve as insurance for the NL Champs, who are down to closing option number three with Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson already disabled and Jose Contreras currently manning the ninth.

SI’s Jon Heyman lists slugger Paul Konerko as another of the Pale Hose that could soon be on the move. I’ll add Andruw Jones, A.J. Pierzynski, and Juan Pierre to that list as well.

If/when the Sox do deal Konerko, you could count the Blue Jays as an interested party. That would only happen, of course, if Konerko approves such a deal. As a 10-and-5 player (10 years of ML service, the last five with the same club), Konerko has full no-trade rights so he can pretty much pick his new team. The thought is that he would prefer a West Coast address.

Which leads us to the Angels. Konerko has been mentioned as a possible fit in Anaheim now that slugger Kendry Morales is possibly done for the season after breaking his leg celebrating his walk-off grand slam on Saturday. Konerko nearly signed with the Angels a few years back as a free agent and has a relationship with manager Mike Scioscia dating back to their days with the Dodgers.

Another name being floated around is that of ace left hander Mark Buehrle. Rumors have the St. Louis Cardinals being interested in obtaining the owner of two no-hitters, but Buehrle has already seen his 10-and-5 rights kick in and has never expressed a desire to play elsewhere. The Cardinals don’t appear to have the means to acquire Buehrle anyway, as they have money but don’t want to trade prospects. Straight salary dumps are more likely, which Buehrle would not be.

The Brewers have an opening at catcher thanks to the torn labrum of Gregg Zaun, but GM Doug Melvin thinks they don’t matchup up well with Williams. It is said that the Sox are looking for the kind of prospects Milwaukee is unwilling to part with for Pierzynski. Chicago could lower their asking price soon though, as Pierzynski has 10-and-5 rights as of June 14.

There are some conflicting reports on White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen’s future with the club as well. Guillen’s recent media tirades have worn old on Kenny Williams, according to Buster Olney, but Heyman has a source that says Guillen’s job is safe.

If Olney is to be believed, Williams and Guillen speak only when necessary at this point, which is a tough way to do business, especially when the team is playing as far below expectations as the Sox have. If I were a betting man, and I am, I’d put money on Guillen being let go at the end of the year, if not sooner. There’s just no reason to blow up the roster, but hold on to the manager.

Tags: A.J. Pierzynski Arizona Diamondbacks Bobby Jenks Chicago White Sox Detroit Tigers Dontrelle Willis Kenny Williams LA Angels Mark Buehrle Milwaukee Brewers Ozzie Guillem Paul Konerko Philadelphia Phillies St Louis Cardinals Stephen Strasburg Washington Nationals

  • Joe M.

    Buehrle grew up a Cardinals fan, and it was kind of assumed he’d go to St. Louis when he became a free agent. It was a little bit of an upset when he stayed in Chicago. If he was willing to go anywhere else, it would be STL.

    • Wally Fish

      Joe,
      I never got the sense that Buehrle was going to leave the White Sox then, and I don’t get the sense that he would leave them now. But if he were to be traded, I agree with you. I can’t imagine he be willing to go anywhere but St. Louis.

      It will be interesting to see where he goes (if anywhere) after the 2011 season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he spends his entire career in Chicago.