Iguchi trade makes room for Richar
White Sox want to see prospect play in the big leagues
CHICAGO -- Friday's trade of Tadahito Iguchi to Philadelphia will be viewed by many as difficult to understand, with a valuable starting second baseman being moved out in exchange for a Minor League hurler whose current biggest claim to fame is being the son of the Phillies' pitching coach.
But while the trade might not knock fans over at the moment during this disappointing 2007 campaign, it serves as the first of many steps toward getting the best possible team in place for the 2008 White Sox.
Although the South Siders played with a 24-man roster in Friday's series opener against Toronto, Danny Richar will be called up from Triple-A Charlotte prior to Saturday's contest and begin his apprenticeship as the team's everyday second baseman.
"This was just a matter of our desire at this point to want to see Danny Richar play, potentially Andy Gonzalez a little bit over there as well, depending on how [manager] Ozzie [Guillen] wants to work the lineup," said White Sox general manager Ken Williams, addressing the trade in the White Sox dugout prior to Friday's contest.
"I wanted to make sure that we had a good read on what we had on Danny Richar before September, before the offseason came around," Williams added. "I wanted to make sure they have adequately answered some questions before going into the offseason."
The White Sox acquired Richar from Arizona on June 16 in exchange for outfield prospect Aaron Cunningham. Since arriving at Charlotte, Richar has shown off his offensive potential at the top of the order.
Richar hit .346 in 32 games with the Knights, posting a .400 on-base percentage and a .556 slugging percentage. He also produced five home runs and drove in 15.
According to Williams, Richar either will be a top-of-the-order hitter with the White Sox or provide the team with that double burst of speed at the bottom. Williams sounded excited to test Richar before the September call-up period, but he also wanted to let Richar's specific skills speak for themselves on the field.
"Our Minor League people and the guys that have been on rehab, the [Scott] Podsedniks of the world and [Darin] Erstads, have communicated their feelings about how good this kid is," Williams said. "I even hesitate to say such things, because all that does, he picks up the newspaper or hears the radio, and that puts a little more pressure on him. I don't want to do that.
"Let's just say we're going to like seeing him out here and evaluating him."
A market didn't really exist for the free-agent-to-be Iguchi, and Williams was not in conversation with any other team, as most of the contenders already have a solid second baseman in place. In fact, Williams made the call to Philadelphia general manager Pat Gillick on Thursday night upon seeing highlights of Chase Utley breaking his right hand after being hit by a pitch.
Trading Iguchi marks the third deal put together between Williams and Gillick since the 2005 offseason. The two general managers pulled off a deal involving Aaron Rowand and Jim Thome at Thanksgiving 2005, and Freddy Garcia was shipped to the Phillies at last year's Winter Meetings in exchange for Minor League hurlers Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez.
Having Rowand as part of the Phillies will help Iguchi adjust, as he explained through translator David Yamamoto. Iguchi also got to know first baseman Ryan Howard during a Major League Baseball series with Japanese All-Stars this past November.
Iguchi clearly was shocked and saddened to be leaving Chicago, a place where he had expressed a desire to stay. But Friday's trade does not necessarily end Iguchi's association with the White Sox, as he could return via free agency.
"There are a lot of things going through my head right now, and I am always open to all angles," said Iguchi when asked about keeping the White Sox as an offseason option. "Obviously, I'm going to leave my family here for the last two months of the season. I'm always open-minded, and who knows? You never know in this game.
"I'm really honored that there is a team out there that has a need for me. It's a really great feeling. But I really wanted to stay here in Chicago. I had no idea that something like this was going to happen."
Williams agreed with Iguchi in regard to keeping the lines of communication open, as well as the difficulty of making the deal.
"That doesn't change anything whatsoever," Williams said. "We have a great relationship, and obviously with his reaction to the news, he was sad that he would be leaving Chicago and leaving the ballclub.
"There's still a chance there that something could be worked out. But it's our desire -- [Richar] is going to bring us a little bit of energy, a little bit more speed and some abilities that we haven't had at the position.
"My reflections aren't so much this year as they are what he has meant to us since we got him on board," added Williams of Iguchi. "We couldn't have asked for a guy to come over and do what he's done, hitting out of the second spot and defensively for us. But in particular, the way that he handled the bat out of the second spot and the clutch runs that he's driven in for us, just an outstanding player."
Of Richar's 32 games for Charlotte, six came at shortstop. With the White Sox holding a $5 million option on Juan Uribe for 2008, the chance exists that Richar could move over one spot on the infield and Iguchi could return.
For now, Iguchi's only pending trip to Chicago comes this Monday for a series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Meanwhile, the White Sox get a chance to see if one position can be marked off from their offseason list of things to do.
It's a maneuver signifying more of a retooling and reshaping than any sort of rebuilding process.
"As long as I'm here and Kenny's here, we're not going to bring a team just to have a team in Chicago," said Guillen in strong tones, after extensively praising Iguchi as a player and as a person. "We're going to bring a team to win.
"What kind of ballclub we're going to have next year, we'll wait and see, but I know for a fact it's going to be a good one. We're going to compete. Our general manager likes to compete. I don't want to go through, and I don't think Kenny wants to go through, a season like this year. It's not fun. I think right now we're just going to put the best ballclub out there.
"We still have people here," Guillen added. "We might have a couple kids -- I'm not for sure -- but in the meanwhile, we're going to put the best product to compete. We're not going to have rebuilding."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.