Take the move of right fielder Carlos Quentin to the Padres, announced Saturday afternoon by both teams, in exchange for right-handed pitcher Simon Castro and left-handed pitcher Pedro Hernandez. As recently as Thursday, when general manager Ken Williams chatted with the media concerning John Danks' five-year, $65-million extension, the White Sox had decided internally that they weren't getting good enough offers to make a deal involving the talented slugger.
"Talks had broken off with various teams concerning Carlos," said Williams, during a New Year's Eve conference call to discuss the trade. "San Diego came back and put something on the table that attracted us."
Part of the White Sox's attraction was getting the 23-year-old Castro and the 22-year-old Hernandez, who could both reach the Majors in 2012 by Williams' estimation. Another strong component was opening up a starting job for Dayan Viciedo.
The 22-year-old possesses the type of offensive skills that make the ball jump off the bat, despite hitting .255 with one homer and six RBIs over 102 big league at-bats in 2011, albeit following a dominant showing for Triple-A Charlotte. With Quentin still on the roster, though, Viciedo's full-time outfield assignment was blocked with Alejandro De Aza, Brent Lillibridge and Alex Rios also back.
Now, Viciedo will have the chance to play every day.
"Viciedo goes into camp as the favorite to start in right field," Williams said. "De Aza impressed last year, and we go into the season looking at him to play well enough to be the leadoff guy."
Moving Quentin brings a little salary relief to the South Side. Quentin was in his final arbitration year and earned $5.05 million in 2011.
That change could lead to a stronger pursuit of Cuban sensation Yoenis Cespedes, who should be declared a free agent in January after establishing residency in the Dominican Republic. The White Sox have found good fortune by mining the fertile Cuban baseball fields, with Viciedo in right and Alexei Ramirez beginning his fifth season as a starting infielder.
Of course, Cespedes has different representation than Viciedo and Ramirez did when they first joined the White Sox, and an expected bidding war might price the projected five-tool player out of the club's range. But this money saved with Quentin should help the organization in some way down the line.
"What I will say is that there are some doors now open for us that were not open just yesterday because of savings of dollars," Williams said. "But which direction we are heading with that, it would be counterproductive in getting something done to say we are deciding to go down that road.
"So we can take some of that little bit of payroll we cleared and invest it in something that helps the Major League club now, or something that helps on the horizon with another prospect. We could end up making this a 3-for-1 deal instead of a 2-for-1, albeit with two guys we really like."
If this trade attempt was proposed two years ago, the White Sox probably wouldn't have received Castro in return. Castro, 23, pitched for the World Team at the 2010 All-Star Futures Game in Anaheim and was considered one of the top pitching prospects in a pitching-rich San Diego system.
His numbers declined to a 7-8 record with a 5.63 ERA and 94 strikeouts over 115 innings in 22 combined starts for Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tucson in 2011. Castro is projected by the White Sox as a starter but could end up as a late-inning reliever with his fastball in the mid 90s, a hard split and a plus slider.
Williams pointed to a back issue felt by Castro, which has since been corrected, that affected his delivery, stamina and stuff during last year's struggles. In looking at video of Castro, Williams also sees mechanics flaws similar to what the White Sox saw and then corrected with Jose Contreras when he first joined the team.
"Hopefully we can get the most out of him," said Williams of the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Castro. "He's a hard worker, and if anything, he works a little too hard. But he will be the first to admit that last year was not a year to distinguish himself amongst his peers that were considered high prospects. We have to get him back there."
"It's hard to give up pitching prospects, but it's an area of strength," Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said. "We liked both of those guys quite a bit."
Hernandez, 22, has developed nicely over the last two years. Williams called him a "strike-throwing machine," and while he presently throws a few too many fly balls for a hitter-friendly ballpark like U.S. Cellular Field, Williams believes that the left-hander has the sink and cutter to develop as another rotation guy.
These talks have been going on for the past 10 days, but a decision finally was reached on Friday morning. Quentin was reunited with Byrnes, who traded him from Arizona for Chris Carter in December of 2007, and Quentin now will be playing near the town where he lives.
During the 2011 Winter Meetings in Dallas, Quentin told MLB.com that he had no control over his situation but hoped for a quick resolution to find out where he would be playing. The free-agent-to-be after this season got that resolution three weeks later on a move he saw coming after the White Sox 2011 disappointment.
"We did underachieve, and I think everyone in that clubhouse would admit that," said Quentin during a conference call on Saturday. "Being traded is a function of what happened. I care a lot about the people over there, especially about my teammates. I have a lot of emotion and love in my heart for my teammates I played with for the last four years."