Despite a 44-52 record and a negative run differential hovering over one hundred, the White Sox don’t have to possess their garage sale tendencies of years past. Competing for playoff participation in an expectantly pitching deficient season was never a realistic goal of the front office for 2019. Completing the theoretical first half with a 42-44 mark may have created some false hope for a floundering fanbase, however.
It would behoove the organization to make some shrewd deals at this year’s deadline but they may not operate in an “everything must go” mindset with winning on the horizon as early as the 2020 baseball campaign. Development remains the primary objective for the organization in the present and the win/loss record isn’t necessarily determinant in regards to deal-making. They look like sellers though with another top-10 draft pick on the docket and more additions to Hahn’s often-quoted critical mass could be a benefit for the franchise’s supposed last hurrah in this stead.
Rick Hahn stated recently that, “there has been more trade dialogue with teams since the end of the break. Whether it leads to deals it’s hard to say. We’re in a position where we remain committed to the long-term“. The roster possesses some players on short-term deals who feasibly could be moved at any time. Whether the front office decides to move some of their more controllable players at this juncture is a more pressing question. Hahn alluded to this idea by telling Daryl Van Schouwen of the Sun-Times that, “some of the pieces that may be appealing to other clubs are potential long-term fits for us as well. You have to make that assessment”.
The Usual Suspects
Alex Colome is the Pale Hose pitcher most commonly bandied about in bartering this season. The Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies have all been rumored suitors for the 30-year-old right-hander. Colome is arbitration-eligible for the third time in 2020 so his acquisition would include an additional year of contract control for a contending club. The Dominican righty has racked up 20 saves pitching at the back end of the White Sox’s bullpen. In 37.2 innings, Colome has posted a 2.39 ERA with an xFIP of 4.65.
Colome could theoretically be a part of the bullpen on the southside in 2020 so the organization might have higher than perceived trade return demands for his services. The problem with that approach is that relievers with middling strikeout rates and unfavorable peripherals don’t bring back elite returns typically. Colome induces lots of ground balls but averaging 6.93 K/9 at this stage leaves much to be desired for contending teams. There is a solid chance that he’s pitching for a contender in August but the White Sox aren’t expected to dump the right-hander for an inadequate return at this juncture.
Dave Dombrowski has long admired Jose Abreu. The @RedSox are among a few teams monitoring Abreu’s availability. He might be most impactful bat on the market if @whitesox we’re willing to deal him. Could trade him and re-sign him but value as a rental is limited.
— Phil Rogers (@philgrogers) July 19, 2019
The 32-year-old Abreu is the elder statesman of the White Sox rebuild and indications have been that he’d likely be open to signing an extension and remaining with the club past 2019. The Cuban’s leadership and steady production have been valued in Chicago in a way that likely wouldn’t be commensurate with how other organizations feel. In his six seasons with the Sox, Abreu has hit 167 dingers and averaged a 131 wRC+. His 2019 hasn’t been as productive though. The first baseman is hitting .271/.306/.492 with 21 homers and 68 runs driven in.
While those numbers look pretty solid to the eye of a traditionalist, warts would likely become more prevalent in trade discussions. Abreu’s .221 ISO% is great for a right-handed masher but he’s basically decided not to walk anymore. Jose’s 106 wRC+ places him 16th among first baseman and his .329 wOBA isn’t ideal either. He’s a free agent at the conclusion of the 2019 season and it’s likely he returns to Chicago on a short-term pact this off-season. The White Sox could benefit slightly from leasing Abreu to a contender for the rest of 2019 but that possibility seems unlikely while pragmatic.
The renaissance of James McCann‘s baseball career has been one of the feel-good stories of the year for the White Sox. The 29-year-old was given a $2.5 million contract in the off-season after being non-tendered by the rebuilding Detroit Tigers. McCann has been a shining star in a winter marred by darkness for the White Sox’s decision-makers. In 69 contests, the California native has hit .295/.351/.476 with a 120 wRC+. He participated in the All-Star Game and has played a part in the resurrection of Lucas Giolito as a pitcher as well.
McCann’s prowess behind the plate, .350 wOBA, and 10 homers makes him a very attractive piece for contending clubs. He’s likely one of the players Hahn referred to as a potential piece to the puzzle at 35th and Shields though. With one year of club control remaining via the arbitration process, the organization would have to be floored with an offer to ruin a good thing. Over the past three seasons, the front office has traded pretty much everything that wasn’t nailed down. It’s possible that their primary backstop finds his 2nd half home in a different locale but McCann becoming a south side staple seems to be more likely.
A wRC+ of 95 with solid defense in centerfield and shortstop has made Leury Garcia a valuable commodity. The 28-year-old switch-hitter has smacked 5 homers and 20 doubles and provides plus speed. Leury is allergic to walks but he makes lots of contact and while he’s not an ideal leadoff hitter, he could provide value to a contender. Garcia is still pretty cheap and will play under his final season of arbitration in 2020. He likely wouldn’t bring back a significant prospect haul on his merit but is a solid candidate to be paired with something else to return an amenable package. Typical to others on this roster, the front office can hold out for something to their liking in order to move the versatile Dominican.
Clearing The Decks
The 2019 trade deadline could be seen as a tertiary explanation for the additions of guys like Yonder Alonso, Jon Jay, Kelvin Herrera and Ivan Nova. Catcher Welington Castillo, while added in the previous off-season, could be added to this mix as well. Instead of paying star infielder Manny Machado, ownership chose to sink a cost of $38 million in these five players for 2019. For those keeping track at home, that’s $38 million for -1.1 fWAR on the season.
Alonso struggled so badly in his role that he was released after being signed as part of the friends and family plan. The others are still around for now. Herrera has struggled in a setup role and will likely remain in Chicago due to his high salary for 2020 and recent injury history. Nova has taken the bump every 5th day and Jay has been solid since returning from the injured list. The White Sox would likely trade any of these players for a minimal prospect return.
Jay can be a useful piece for a playoff team and he’s accustomed to being an August mercenary. The 34-year-old is hitting .328/.370/.403 with a 110 wRC+ in a small sample. Castillo has made a career of hitting southpaws despite his struggles in 2019. He’s 32-years-old and has provided 5 homers so far this year. If the White Sox can’t move Welly, he could be a candidate for DFA after the deadline passes.
Nova has been a veteran innings-eater for much of his career. He doesn’t strike out a ton of guys or walks many people. In 110.2 innings in 2019, Ivan has posted a 5.86 ERA with an xFIP of 4.86. He could be potentially useful for anyone facing the Cubs but moving him is probably wishful thinking at this point. The front office should be willing to eat money in order to enhance a potential return for any of these guys leading up to July 31st.
The White Sox don’t currently possess a plethora of young assets to potentially trade at the deadline. There has been some talk that the organization could look to add younger talent with years of control. While the farm system is as good as it’s been in years, many of the expendable prospects have struggled or gotten hurt. The premise of a trade sounds better than its feasibility at present.
The club does have one guy that could bring back a substantial amount in return however. 25-year-old lefty Aaron Bummer has posted a 1.80 ERA with a 3.17 FIP in his coming out party. In 35 innings out of the bullpen, he’s striking out one hitter per nine with a ground ball rate of 67%. The former 19th rounder out of Nebraska might have found his niche and he comes with 5 additional years of contract control.
Bummer has looked dominant at times and mostly solid overall. He could be a fixture in the White Sox’s bullpen for years to come. The organization could also strike while the iron is hot and trade Bummer for even more cost certainty while his value is at its highest. Spinning off relief pitchers is generally a sound strategy because of their volatility from season-to-season. Bummer finishing the season in a different uniform is probably unlikely but his departure would likely come with esteem. He won’t be given away.
This year’s deadline could be atypical for Hahn and company but here’s hoping that the front office ends up being quite active. If the decision makers are measured in their approach to the festivities, the outcome should be promising if deals are actually struck.
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