If Sox are looking for a starter, Richard makes plenty of sense


Earlier this week, a report surfaced that the White Sox had Zack Greinke on their radar. What that means is up for debate, but from a logical standpoint, it's tough to see the White Sox acquiring Greinke or any of the other top-flight starting pitchers on the trade market in the next few weeks.

But if the White Sox are serious about adding another starter to the mix, it makes much more sense for them to look a tier below the Grienkes, Garzas and Dempsters. And on Wednesday, a report from FOX Sports' Jon Morosi gave us a name, and it's one you may remember from such happenings such as the 2009 season and Jake Peavy trade: Clayton Richard.

Of course, "checked in" is about as vague of a trade deadline term as "on the radar." Like with Greinke, the Sox could be anywhere on the spectrum from kicking the tires to ready to execute a deal. And just because the White Sox have made some contact with San Diego about Richard doesn't mean the Padres are willing to trade him.

From a practical standpoint, though, Richard makes sense for the White Sox. He's developed into one of the National League's most durable starters and has a 3.83 ERA -- which, if it holds up, would be his third straight year with an ERA between 3.70 and 3.90.

Greinke, Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Cole Hamels will require a bounty for any team wishing to obtain their services prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Richard, who has two more years of arbitration left before he hits free agency, likely wouldn't take a loaded package to pry away from San Diego.

Whereas the White Sox may not have the prospects to deal for a front-line starter at the deadline, they almost certainly could interest the Padres in a prospect or two for Richard.

The 28-year-old Richard has had an intriguing season with San Diego in 2012. Plenty of Padres pitchers since Petco Park opened have enjoyed the luxury of pitching half their games in its spacious dimensions. There were many who expected Jake Peavy to fall in Chicago thanks simply to moving from Petco Park to U.S. Cellular Field, where home runs are far more prevalent.

But Richard is actually allowing quite a high percentage of home runs both at home and on the road. At Petco Park, 13 percent of fly balls Richard has allowed have been home runs, while on the road that percentage is 16.7 percent. That's high across the board, but nonetheless is interesting for a successful Padres starter.

The good news for Richard is that he's walking opponents at the lowest rate of his major-league career, averaging 1.98 free passes per nine innings. He's not striking many out (about five per nine innings), but he's become an extreme ground ball pitcher -- over 50 percent of balls in play off Richard in the last two seasons have been on the ground.

That ground ball rate is a double-edged sword, though. While Richard has enjoyed success this season getting batters to beat the ball into the ground, opponents have a .256 BABIP against him, which is likely due for some sort of regression, especially with the amount of balls in play he allows.

Regardless, Richard has grown quite a bit since he was sent to San Diego at the deadline in 2009 -- the main key has simply been a drastic reduction in walks allowed. And that there is some familiarity between him and Don Cooper could wind up being a positive if he were to return to Chicago.

There's still plenty of time between now and the trade deadline. Maybe the White Sox surprise everyone and make a blockbuster deal for a starter. But if they are indeed looking for rotation help, trying to add their old friend in Richard may make more sense.

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