The White Sox traded starting pitcher Edwin Jackson and third baseman Mark Teahen to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitchers Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart on Wednesday.
The Sox also called up center fielder Alejandro De Aza from AAA Charlotte, and the left-handed hitting 27-year-old made an immediate impact, hitting a home run in his first at-bat to to give the Sox a 2-0 lead against the Detroit Tigers. He replaces slumping veteran Alex Rios.
The moves do not signal the start of a selling-off process before the non-waiver trade deadline, although they save the team close to $10 million in payroll through 2012. The trade strengthened the bullpen, left the team with five quality starters and unloaded the big contract of Teahen, who wasn’t offering much in return.
By bringing up De Aza, general manager Ken Williams said he made it clear to manager Ozzie Guillen that he should play his best lineup, regardless of salary. Rios, who is making $12 million in the midst of a multiyear contract, will “take a back seat” for a while, Williams said.
“Here’s what I told Ozzie: Do not worry about the size of the contracts. Just worry about putting the players out there on a given day that can him win,” Williams said. “The size of the contract is not Ozzie’s problem. It’s not Jerry’s [Reinsdorf] problems. It’s not the coaches’ problems. That’s my problem.
“Put the players on the field that can win. I don’t give a darn if one guy is making $400,000 and the other guy is making $12 million.”
De Aza, a left-handed hitter, was batting .322 with 29 doubles, five triples and nine home runs for AAA Charlotte. He batted eighth in Guillen’s lineup Wednesday.
Looking to “make a dent” in its $127 million payroll, the Sox save about $9.5 million through next season with the trade. The Blue Jays assume all of Teahen’s contract, which runs through 2011. The Jays traded Jackson to the St. Louis Cardinals in an eight-player deal that brought St. Louis center fielder Colby Rasmus to Toronto, according to reports.
Jackson will become a free agent after the season, and with six starters in their rotation, he was considered expendable by the Sox.
“We needed to make a little bit of a dent in our payroll here, which has been stressed a little bit,” Williams said. “We did not want to be making a move that would be counter productive to the opportunity for us to win still. So how could we accomplish both of the goals?
Williams said the Sox will absorb the loss of a starter by “shortening the game by having another guy in the bullpen, which also helps protect our other right-handers, Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain, in particular.”
“Because we began to get worried about Jesse Crain’s overusage. Not that he is being overused but the potential is when you get into August and September, you tax a guy, he becomes ineffective and you might end up hurting him. Now we’ve insulated ourselves against that.”
Frasor, who is from Oak Forest, bolsters the bullpen with another solid right-handed setup man to go with Jesse Crain. The 33-year-old Frasor is 2-1 with a 2.98 ERA in 44 appearances. He is 24-28 with a 3.69 ERA in 455 appearances over eight seasons. Frasor, who will join the team Friday, has a $3.75 million club option for next season.
“This kid is one of the best out there,” Guillen said.
Stewart, 24,who will be optioned to AAA Charlotte, was 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA in his first three major-league starts. He made his debut June 16. Before that, he was 5-5 with a 4.20 ERA in 16 starts with AA New Hampshire.
Jackson, 27, acquired before last season’s trade deadline for Daniel Hudson and David Holmberg, was 7-7 with a 3.92 ERA for the Sox this season.
“You leave a great group of guys,” Jackson said. “But at the end of the day, it’s nothing I can control. The only thing I can do is pitch for the team I’m with and help that team win.”
Teahen, 29, batted .209 with three home runs. He was in the second year of a three-year, $14 million contract, and unloading that deal — the Blue Jays assume all of the contract which includes a club option for next season — was a major attraction for Williams making the deal. The Sox also get a right-handed reliever in Frasor, who is signed through next year, and a pitcher in Stewart who has been on the Sox radar for a while.
Teahen was plagued by injuries last season and was beaten out for the starting third base job by rookie Brent Morel. He leaves the Sox with the belief that they can win the AL Central.
“It’s a good team,” Teahen said. “All the pieces are kind of in place and I think adding Frasor will help. Except when we’re playing against them, I’ll obviously pull for a lot of guys here. The team is in place, I think everybody knows the talent is there, it just kind of hasn’t lined up so far this year, but there’s two big months left.”
Said Williams: “Since the All-star Break, with the exception of our KC series, I’ve enjoyed the guys go at it. They’ve been going at it hard. It’s been encouraging. Even last night’s loss, I found encouragement in last night’s loss because they battled their tails off. Justin Verlander is a tough dude out there. We had some guys shorten their swings and battle at-bat after at-bat and we had a chance to win.
“That’s all you can hope for. We keep getting that kind of intensity, I think we are more likely to stick with the situation then to go the direction I mentioned the other day. Let’s wait until we get to Sunday.”