In the long-simmering cross-town rivalry between the Cubs and the White Sox, few moments are looked back at more fondly by the Southsiders than
The Cubs traded their first round pick from the year before in exchange for an unremarkable reliever with a 5.15 ERA. This trade turned out as badly as that previous sentence suggests, if not worse. Matt Karchner, who had served as the Sox’ part-time closer prior to the deal – he had 26 saves over the previous year-and-a-half – gave the Cubs 28 innings and a 5.14 ERA the rest of the season. He pitched just 33 innings over the next two years before his career ended.
In return, the Pale Hose got Jon Garland, who at the time was 18 years old and pitching in the Midwest League. By the end of the following season, Garland was in Double-A while still a teenager; he debuted with the Sox in 2000; and after getting drubbed as a 20-year-old rookie he settled into the rotation the following year and has been an average to above-average starting pitcher ever since.
How ironic, then, that when the Royals acquired Daniel Cortes for another middle reliever that was stretched in the role of a closer (Mike MacDougal) at the trading deadline in 2006, the comparison I heard multiple times regarding Cortes was that his upside was…Jon Garland.
MacDougal’s a better pitcher than Karchner ever was; in terms of pure stuff he should be a lights-out closer. A lot of guys throw in the mid-90s and a lot of guys throw a sinker, but few guys throw a sinker in the mid-90s. Only MacDougal never really learned how to pitch when he was with the Royals, and just when it looked like he had put it all together for the Sox in 2006, he came back last season and was 31 flavors of awful. It’s possible he simply is incapable of learning how to pitch.
And Cortes wasn’t supposed to be the key to that trade for the Royals – he was supposed to be Tyler Lumsden’s wingman. While Lumsden was beaten to a pulp in Triple-A last year, Cortes made the biggest leap of any prospect in the Royals system, and one of the biggest of any pitcher in the minors. His fastball jumped a few ticks and now sits in the low-to-mid 90s, and his curveball added bite. He was dominant during the season's second half, allowing just 3 earned runs in his final 41 innings, and he’s still just 20.
Will he be as good as
Actually, he has the potential to be even better. The big knock on
A lot can happen between A-ball and the major leagues, but by 2010 Cortes could be a #3-caliber starter earning the league minimum, with plenty of upside to boot. Call us anytime, Kenny Williams.