ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The White Sox may have to tap into their young pitching cache this offseason to answer other questions.
There’s little debate the White Sox farm system has improved the past three years, going from the bottom of the barrel in 2012 to the middle of the pack earlier this season. But even though they’ve made strides, general manager Rick Hahn knows the organization’s pitching prospects are on a different level than most of its position players. With several potential needs to fill this winter, Hahn said Thursday he would consider trading young arms to help fortify the White Sox roster. That may mean anyone not named Chris Sale could be dangled on the trade market in the upcoming hot stove season.
“Being as objective as we can, the strength of the system is obviously pitching and at the big league level,” Hahn said. “Knock on wood, over the course of the first five months of the season, most of our issues have been on the offensive side of things. Come the offseason it may be something we have to look at as sort of reallocating some of those assets to address player position needs.”
The only positions at which the White Sox seem to be set for 2016 are first base, center field, left field and designated hitter, as Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche are all signed through at least next season.
Beyond that, the White Sox have to figure out how to remedy an offense that has consistently disappointed this season. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez has a $10 million club option with a $1 million buyout that Hahn must decide upon. Tyler Saladino could be an option at short until Tim Anderson is ready if the White Sox move on from Ramirez. The White Sox are likely to continue searching for a long-term answer at catcher and they have to determine whether or not Avisail Garcia is the hitter he’s been in April, May and August or the one who went two months without a homer. They also love Saladino’s glove at third, but unless LaRoche rebounds -- and even if he did -- the White Sox would seem to need a big bat if they field a lineup featuringboth he and Carlos Sanchez. With so much uncertainty only one thing is sure -- the White Sox need to improve offensively.
Despite a recent hot streak, the White Sox have averaged 3.70 runs per game this season and entered Thursday on pace to score 600 runs. Even with the additions of Cabrera and LaRoche, the White Sox have scored three or fewer runs in 64 of 118 contests (54 percent) and are 17-47 in those games.
“I wouldn’t say it’s one particular pitcher,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It kind of runs the gamut -- left, right, hard, soft.
“We’ve got to find some kind of rhythm to score some guys from third and keep the line moving, and it’s been tough at times. When we went on our run, it just seemed like you just kept seeing balls find a hole. Balls hit hard. This one has just been inconsistent.”
Which brings it back to the one area that is tried and true with the White Sox -- pitching. Back in 2013, the White Sox felt good enough about their stock of arms to trade Hector Santiago in a deal that netted Eaton and Addison Reed for minor leaguer Matt Davidson.
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Over the past three seasons they’ve drafted or traded for a number of talented pitchers, many of who are the top prospects in the system. Currently, Carson Fulmer is the No. 2 prospect, Frankie Montas is No. 3 and Spencer Adams is ranked fourth with Tyler Danish coming in at seven, according to MLB.com. And that’s a system that has already graduated Carlos Rodon and has seen a rebound at Triple-A Charlotte from former No. 2 Erik Johnson and feels good about other potential pitchers who don’t have the same notoriety as their top arms.
With so many pitchers close to making an impact in the majors, the White Sox might consider dealing Jose Quintana or Rodon, though that price would likely be extreme as the rookie has six more seasons under team control.
Not that Quintana would come cheap.
Two offseasons ago, Quintana was considered one of four players the White Sox wanted to build around and therefore would have been nearly impossible to acquire. Since then, Quintana -- whose 3.20 Fielding Independent Pitching ranks 23rd among starters this season -- has posted a 3.32 ERA in 200 1/3 innings and also signed a five-year, $26.5-million contract potentially worth $47.5 million -- a deal rated as the 41st best in baseball by fangraphs.com.
Though the prospect of trading any pitching can’t be easy for Hahn to stomach, its likely his only solution to address some of the team’s bigger needs.