The trade deadline is a month away, but the question is already starting to show up:
Well White Sox Nation, 7 games back as the All-Star break slowly approaches. If you had Rick Hahn's ear would you tell him to buy or sell?— White Soxman (@thesoxman72) June 23, 2014
It’s a decent question, which actually has a third answer, which is just to stand pat. Time to explore each option.
The White Sox are 7.5 games out, in last place, and have a –31 run differential. The chances of making the playoffs are incredibly slim, and the chances of advancing are even smaller. Jose Abreu is in his first season, and guys like Eaton, Gillaspie and Sale don’t have a track record for staying healthy. And making the playoffs but not winning a World Series isn’t terribly great. The Sox have a lot of holes, particularly their entire bullpen which repeatedly fails to hold leads. Things get dicey in the rotation after Sale and Quintana, although Danks has come around as of late. They could use a corner outfielder, or a more reliable on base guy near the top of the order, but it just doesn’t make sense to give away the few assets they have for an unlikely run.
Trading away players is never easy, and getting prospects back doesn’t work out all that often anymore, so in most cases it isn’t probably even worth it outside of the economical side of saving money. No matter what anyone says, no player is untouchable. Chris Sale and Jose Abreu could both be had for the right price, but it’s almost certain that price won’t be offered. Typically teams are not looking to trade young, affordable players so the list of guys the White Sox would try to trade is small, and the list of guys they could trade is even smaller.
It’s likely that the White Sox would be willing to trade anyone out of their bullpen, but no team is going to want that garbage. It would be excellent if the White Sox could dump what is left of Adam Dunn’s contract just to save a bit of money, but finding the right team to put the 1B/DH might be difficult. He would definitely be an upgrade for the Mariners, or maybe the Pirates. Even the 1st place Brewers could argue he is a minor upgrade over Mark Reynolds. Staying the AL makes the most sense because he could also DH. He doesn’t add any defensive value so his only extra use in the NL would be as a pinch hitter. Trading him in August when the cost would be lower and some team could grab him for basically nothing and use him as an extra bat could make sense though. The two most realistic possibilities are John Danks and Alexei Ramirez. Danks has come on very strong in the last month, and is in year three of a five year extension. Those last two years are definitely a problem, and the White Sox would almost surely have to pick up some of the cost. That might be too much for most teams though.
(Apologies to my dad) Ramirez makes tons of sense for everyone though. He has just one more year (plus a club option) so he is affordable for most teams. Ramirez has probably been a top 10 ML shortstop so far this season, and there are always teams that need a good shortstop. The number of available bats at the trade deadline looks like it will be thin, so Ramirez would be sought after if made available, giving the White Sox the chance to get someone to overpay. There are lots of teams that make sense here too. Seattle again, for sure. The Yankees would make a ton of sense if they decided to use Derek Jeter in a more limited role, but that is hard to do in his final season. The Brewers make sense again here too as Jean Segura has struggled some. The Washington Nationals could even be a candidate. Of course all of this is subject to change both directions. First players could improve in the next month, and second guys could get injured. If someone like Hanley Ramirez suffered a significant injury, the deep pocket Dodgers would make sense too.
At the end of the day the best option is likely just to stay put and wait for the young players on this team to get better. Dunn will be gone next year so assuming the Sox wouldn’t have to pay any of his salary there is no harm in that move. Ramirez doesn’t have an obvious replacement in waiting so keeping him for the next couple of years isn’t the worst idea either.
This team will get Avisail Garcia back next year, and there are hopes that Eaton and Gilaspie are still going to get better. Adrian Nieto could get better as well. Sale and Quintana form a nice 1–2 punch, and if Danks resurgence is real the front part of the rotation is decent. Carlos Rodon could be in the rotation next year as well, and he could be the real deal. It’s possible that one of their prospect outfielders (Trayce Thompson or Courtney Hawkins) could finally be ready. Overall the Sox should get better in the next two years, and should wait to make a move until they are closer.