The 2018 season was always going to be a throwaway for the Chicago White Sox. And with the trade deadline just five weeks out, they’re on track to sell as expected in July.
The worst possible scenario for the organization might have been the team hanging on the fringes of playoff contention — never truly a championship threat but close enough to hold onto their veterans or, even worse, move a prospect to try to land reinforcements.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has gone about rebuilding the right way — the only way economically responsible for a secondary team in a major market. However, with Kenny Williams and a decade worth of “all-in” mentality that left the farm system looking like an abandoned strip mine, that concern is certainly reasonable.
Instead, the White Sox have been predictably bad. Actually, they’ve probably been a little worse than we imagined, which is causing a little restlessness among the fanbase. But it’s nothing to panic about.
There have been some clear bright spots. In the last six weeks, even a bullpen that spent the first month of the season as the hardest element of the roster to stomach has turned into a strength. And that should be valuable to the organization come deadline time.
In fact, the White Sox have a number of trade chips as they approach the deadline. So let’s go through them all and try to work our way through what they might be worth on the open market.
Chicago White Sox bullpen trade chips
Just about everybody the White Sox have in their pen is expendable, with the exception of Jace Fry and, to a lesser extent, Aaron Bummer. They’re both 24-year-old lefties who don’t hit arbitration until 2021, so unless somebody offers an elite prospect or a haul of prospects that simply can’t be passed up, there’s no sense moving them now.
But Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno, Nate Jones and anybody else who might generate interest should all be available. And the White Sox would probably eat most of Soria and Jones’ contracts to facilitate a move if necessary, too.
The only problem here is that, on their own, nobody here is worth a lot. Soria is probably the most valuable given his history and how dominant he’s been after a miserable start to the season. It would take a truly desperate team to even turn him into anything more than a fringe Major League prospect.
However, the White Sox might have unearthed their best route to bringing in a valuable prospect when they traded Tommy Kahnle and David Roberson with third baseman Todd Frazier for a package including Blake Rutherford and Ian Clarkin last year. So they might be able to sell off those four aforementioned arms in pairs to bring in prospects of consequence.
With two lefties (Avilan and Cedeno) and two righties (Soria and Jones), it’d make sense to split one of each and entice a team that needs multiple bullpen arms to part with something the White Sox actually want. If that somehow resulted in a pair of future Major Leaguers or even a trio, you’d happily part ways with all four of those arms and start paving the way for some of the power bullpen arms in their system.
James Shields still isn’t very good, but the scarcity of available starting pitching actually gives him a little value on the open market. A contender who runs into injury troubles and doesn’t have the resources to go after a top-of-the-rotation starter would have to look at Shields as an option simply because he remains fearless and eats innings.
Shields has averaged over six innings per start this season, and his 4.59 ERA and a 4.56 FIP that tells us it’s not a mirage. That would be stomachable as a fifth starter. The White Sox would probably have to eat just about all that remains of his contract in order to get rid of him. He makes $21 million this year, so he’d be owed $7 million or more depending upon how close to the deadline he was moved.
But they were going to pay that money anyway, so they’d probably even be better off paying as much of that as possible just to get the best possible piece. Because he’s not worth much.
At best, this would be an opportunity for scouting director Nick Hostetler to take another swing on a prospect they liked in a previous amateur draft but didn’t get an opportunity to pick — one that they think is being misused and has some hidden value. In general, you couldn’t expect much more than a prospect who projects as a future bench player. But if that were offered, it’s still a deal you do immediately.
Chicago White Sox veteran position player trade chips
The only players in this White Sox lineup right now who wouldn’t at least be considered as trade bait are Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson. Yolmer Sanchez is a posibility because he’s proven to be valuable at any position he’s played, and he’s only 26. But we’ll lump everybody else into a category and go through a few of the more likely options piece by piece.
In particular, Jose Abreu, Matt Davidson and Avisail Garcia are going to be the players that other teams most likely want. Abreu is the clear crown jewel as a proven veteran with 4.5 years of consistent productivity to his name.
But here’s the deal with Abreu. The White Sox have one more year of arbitration left before he hits free agency, and they like his presence in the clubhouse with young Cuban stars like Moncada here and Luis Robert on the way.
That being said, he is 31 years old and has value now. So without an extension in place for a hometown discount that makes it reasonable to keep him long-term, they’d be crazy not to listen to offers.
The point is, they’re not going to be desperate to move him, meaning it will probably take a major haul to get him. It’d probably take an elite prospect or a collection of guys with genuine Major League potential to get the White Sox to budge. It’s tough to say if that offer is out there. But if there is, it’s probably one you grit your teeth and bear despite the fact he’s a fan favorite.
Which brings us to Davidson and Garcia. Davidson is where Garcia was a year ago — in the middle of a career season — and that’s going to force a really difficult decision.
Garcia has spent most of the year injured and wasn’t hitting particularly well even before he hit the disabled list. He’s back now, but he’ll have to go on a tear for the next month to recoup some of the value he’s lost in comparison to if the White Sox had moved him last July.
So will they risk a regression from Davidson and try to hold onto him for at least another year? The peripherals seem to indicate that his refined plate approach is sustainable. If he can be a three-outcome guy with .800+ OPS potential who can play both corners, it might make sense to try to hold onto him as at least a bridge to the next wave of prospects. And possibly longer if he continues to develop.
However, they might never have this chance to cash in on him again. It’s certainly possible that a similar decision process last season with Garcia might make them a little antsy to move on while they can.
In the event they are interested, the best-case scenario for both players (which again would require Garcia to start raking and fast) is that they’d be worth future Major Leaguers, albeit unexciting ones. With Garcia, if someone offers that, you make the move in a heartbeat and begin paving the way in what is about to become a crowded outfield. With Davidson, the decision might be tough.
Chicago White Sox liquidation sale possibilities
Outside of the young players we already mentioned — Fry, (maybe) Bummer, Moncada, Anderson, (maybe) Sanchez — the only other players that are probably off limits are starters Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon. With fellow starters Lucas Giolito and Dylan Covey, who are trending in opposite directions, the organization seems more than happy to be patient and get a better sense of what each young arm might become, so they won’t be moved either.
But every other piece on their Major League roster is absolutely for sale. So if you’re another club who sees some value, the White Sox would absolutely adore it if you’d make them an offer. Everything eventually must go.
Of all those pieces, Leury Garcia is probably the most attractive because of the positional versatility and some surprising pop. Bruce Rondon’s fastball is certainly intriguing enough to garner attention. Those guys are worth absolute shots in the dark at best. The organization has shown a lot of trust in their scouting department, so they’d probably do those deals in a heartbeat if they thought they could unearth a misunderstood minor leaguer and turn him into something more.
In the end, you can expect the White Sox to be active participants in the trade market. The level to which they’re involved will ultimately depend on how desperate prospective trade partners might be. But they’ve certainly got some chips to play with.