It’s like 1977 all over again on the South Side, because all anyone is talking about is rumors.
(Get it? Like “Rumours”? The Fleetwood Mac album? Nothing? Fine.)
After this week’s shocking blockbuster trade that sent Jose Quintana across town to the Cubs, it’s assumed that a mass exodus has begun, with the White Sox expected to be nowhere near close to finished dealing productive veterans for minor league assets that could help in their rebuilding efforts.
Todd Frazier’s name has been all over the internet for the past few days, the baseball world almost making it a foregone conclusion that he’ll soon be shipped to the Boston Red Sox. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal went as far as saying a deal between the two seems “seems almost inevitable.”
Strangely, Melky Cabrera hasn’t been mentioned in any rumors, but he showed why he probably should be by picking up four hits — and his major league leading eighth outfield assist — in Saturday night’s game against the visiting Seattle Mariners.
But perhaps the most likely trade candidates are in the White Sox bullpen, particularly at the back end, which has been pretty darn strong in 2017. David Robertson has veteran experience and plenty of postseason experience, too, from his days with the New York Yankees, including a World Series ring from 2009.
But setup guys Anthony Swarzak and Tommy Kahnle have been mentioned as guys who could be moved, too. As good as Robertson’s been, both Swarzak (2.51) and Kahnle (2.57) have lower ERAs.
All three were on display Saturday night, and aside from Swarzak surrendering a two-run homer to Nelson Cruz, the first batter he faced, the trio was lights out, retiring all but one of the final 12 batters of the game — and that one was cut down in a double play.
It was more of the same from the three most important pieces of the White Sox relief corps, who turned in a stellar first half, stellar enough to throw their names into midseason trade talk.
“We all take a lot of pride in it, we all work really hard. And it’s good to see everything kind of coming together for individual guys down there right now,” Swarzak said.
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Swarzak, statistically, has been the best of the bunch, and it’s why he’s been listed alongside Frazier and Robertson as a guy who could fetch something of value in a trade-deadline deal. Robertson is a closer, something contenders pay premiums for seemingly every season around this time, but there are contenders in need of help throughout the bullpen. The Washington Nationals instantly come to mind, a first-place team with the worst relief ERA in baseball.
Swarzak made it clear he doesn’t want to leave the South Side but admitted that there’s a little bit of a silver lining to being mentioned in trade buzz — it means you’ve been pitching well.
“We all want to win now and win here,” Swarzak said. “If your name’s being talked about, that’s always good. But at the same time, it’d be nice to win here in Chicago. These fans are great, these coaches are great, the players are great, and we just want to kind of bring it all together. I know we’ve got the talent to do it in this room, we’ve just got to keep getting the reps together.
“So hopefully they can keep us together and maybe we can win a few more games. If not, that’s how it is, and guys will go on and do great things elsewhere.”
Much like the discussion around Quintana, there are some caveats with guys like Swarzak and Kahnle that maybe don’t apply to guys like Frazier and Cabrera. The White Sox could opt to hang onto these relievers and use them to construct their bullpen of the future. But at the same time, an opportunity exists to add a younger piece that could help the team when the rebuild reaches its apex.
Rick Hahn & Co. will have to think about that with Swarzak, a guy who has really figured things out this season, sporting a 2.51 ERA through 36 appearances with the White Sox after turning in a 4.52 ERA in his first seven major league seasons.
“I think that I’ve made tremendous strides over the last few years,” Swarzak said. “This year, the results are there to back up the hard work. That’s always promising and reassuring because you’re starting to trust the process and realize that you’re heading in the right direction. I want to keep it going. We’ve got a lot of baseball left, and if I have a bad second half, that kind of negates everything I did in the first half. I just want to keep pitching well and hopefully keep the ball in the ballpark.”
"Anthony has done a great job for us," manager Rick Renteria said Saturday. "I think he’s grown into a high-leverage situation guy. But he’s been very effective. We gradually used him early in the season. He showed that he could do it. He’s commanded the zone. Stayed down in the zone. Used his slider very effectively. Hasn’t been rattled by too much. We've tried to put him in situations. ... I think he’s been able to run with the opportunity he’s been given and showed the whole world that he’s capable of doing high-leverage situations very effectively."
Like the rest of the team, Swarzak isn’t necessarily worried about trade buzz on a daily basis. Renteria praised his players’ handling of all the noise ahead of Saturday’s game, and they’ll only have to keep that up over the next few weeks.
“We’re trying to take care of what we can take care of,” Swarzak said. “You can only control so much in this game as a player, and what we can control is in between those lines. That’s really what we’re all trying to focus on. We’re all trying to get better as a group and win as a group.
“It’s unfortunate when we lose a piece like Jose to a trade, but that’s the business we’ve chosen, that’s the game today. If it happens, it happens.”