The White Sox must improve their offense this offseason and to do so likely means they have to do something they’d like to avoid — trade a pitcher.
Despite $67 million of high-end renovations and strong performances by Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton, the 2015 White Sox finished last in the American League with 622 runs scored. Not only was their run total third-worst in the majors, slightly ahead of the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves, respectively, the White Sox also tied for the fifth-fewest home runs in baseball with 136.
But if they can, the White Sox want to avoid parting with their pitching to resolve their offensive woes. Even more so, they’d prefer to not even consider deals for Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon. While nothing is totally out of the question, general manager Rick Hahn has made it clear he has placed a premium on his top assets.
“It’s conceivable, but at the same time we realize how special some of the arms we have under control for the foreseeable future are and we’re reluctant given the cost of replacing those to dip into those,” Hahn said last week at the GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. “Everything is on the table. We haven’t closed off any avenues to make ourselves better. When you start talking about taking away from the strength of our rotation or even our bullpen part of the calculus you have to balance out is how much of a step back in our run prevention would we potentially take in trying to score more runs.”
The White Sox offense could use help almost everywhere across the diamond.
The team’s catchers ranked 17th in OPS, their first baseman were 16th, their centerfielders were sixth and left field ranked 17th. Aside from the designated hitters, who combined for the ninth-best OPS among 15 American League teams, every other position was in the bottom third for combined OPS. The team’s second baseman and third baseman ranked 30th, shortstop was 25th and right field was 21st.
Part of it was the power shortage and some could be attributed to the struggle to put runners on base as the White Sox finished with a .306 on-base percentage, which ranked 14th among 15 AL teams.
Hahn is likely OK moving forward with the current group of outfielders and Abreu at first base. But nothing else is set, although the White Sox like the defense Carlos Sanchez provided at second and they think he’s more like the hitter he was in the second half, when he hit .252/.302/.385 in 246 plate appearances.
“We’ve talked about behind the plate, we’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do in the middle of the diamond as well as third base,” Hahn said. “Those are all areas where really there’s room for improvement offensively.”
So how will they get it done (and, yes, Hahn thinks it’s possible)?
Though a trade of Sale could easily provide an immediate remedy for at least three or four issues, the White Sox are more likely to try to replicate a deal that netted them Adam Eaton. In exchange for their center fielder, the White Sox parted with Hector Santiago in a three-team trade in December 2013.
They also tried to solve third base that offseason by trading closer Addison Reed for Matt Davidson, who has yet to reach the majors.
Hoping for better execution on the latter, they might try the same idea.
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
With Spencer Adams, Tyler Danish, Carson Fulmer and Jordan Guerrero in the pipeline, the White Sox may be more willing to move Erik Johnson or Francellis Montas in hopes of getting young, controllable position players in return as painful as that option may be. They could also deal from several solid bullpen options, as David Robertson controls the ninth inning.
“We know the value of the talent that we have and the fact that they’re not only premium pitchers but controllable at affordable rates going forward makes them all the more valuable to us much less in the trade market,” Hahn said. “You don’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul to a huge extent but we need to get better offensively so we may have to make some sacrifices.”