The record Powerball prize may have been given away last month, but Rick Hahn and the White Sox are still buying lottery tickets.
While the prized prospects have received the bulk of the headlines during the rebuild, the White Sox have recently quietly collected many low-risk, high-reward players.
Ti’quan Forbes is the latest lottery ticket-type prospect to be acquired by the White Sox. A 2014 second-round draft pick turned struggling minor leaguer, Forbes was obtained from the Texas Rangers on Thursday night in exchange for starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez. During the 2017 season, the White Sox also traded for first-rounder Casey Gillaspie and claimed first-rounder D.J. Peterson and former touted prospect Alen Hanson off waivers. Given their success with similar moves in the past and the opportunity for playing time they have readily available, the White Sox aren’t afraid to gamble again.
“You’re not always going to be able to acquire the guy who’s got the fantastic, loud tools as well as the outstanding track record of performance,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “That’s the ideal. You want to be able to check all the boxes. There are going to be times where we’re betting on a performance that out-straps the tools to continue, and there’s going to be times where you need to bet on the tools that haven’t quite translated in the performance that ultimately, through repetition and improvement, translate into a good performance.”
A free agent after this season, Gonzalez wasn’t going to bring back a heavy return. Not only does Gonzalez not have the shiny qualities of some of the higher-end assets moved ahead of him, but he’s a rental player to boot. While Gonzalez still possesses value, the White Sox could either take a less-talented player who has performed in the minors or a more toolsy prospect who just hasn’t panned out.
Forbes, who turned 21 on Saturday, is the latter. He was ranked as the No. 50 overall prospect in the 2014 draft by MLB.com but has struggled to perform since he turned pro. Forbes has a .634 OPS in his minor league career, a figure that dropped to .588 at Advanced-A this season. But that won’t prevent the White Sox from taking the shot.
The White Sox did the same when they took Gillaspie back for Dan Jennings from the Tampa Bay Rays in July. Coming off a 2016 campaign in which he was the organization’s minor league player of the year, Gillaspie struggled at Triple-A Durham with a .671 OPS entering Friday, down from .869 last season.
“(Forbes) was the one of the youngest kids in the 2014 draft,” Hahn said. “We knew he was extremely raw and was going to take some time. He has second-round pedigree.
“Peterson and Gillaspie were first-round guys, but it’s the same kind of element. There’s a reason these guys had that draft stock that they did at the time, and that’s because of their tools. The reason they’re available now perhaps is because they haven’t lived up quite yet from a performance standpoint, and we’ve got an opportunity here for our player development staff and a change of scene to perhaps hopefully unlock a little bit of that potential.”
The White Sox have had some success with similar moves in the past.
Most recently Tommy Kahnle developed from a hard-throwing pitcher who couldn’t find the plate into an unstoppable force and was the key to the deal that brought Blake Rutherford back from the New York Yankees.
Hahn also cited previous success with Gavin Floyd and Matt Thornton. It’s not as if the White Sox are the only team willing to take these risks -- they’re quite commonplace. But one advantage they do have is an abundance of opportunity.
“It’s not a unique play necessarily that we’re doing,” Hahn said. “But certainly in some of the major deals that we did, the goal was to get that well-rounded player, the well-rounded prospect, the one where the tools and the subjective analysis matched with performance and the objective side of evaluating a player. As we’ve moved toward some of these later deals, we knew you weren’t going to get that perfect mix coming back, you were going to have to take some bets either on the tools or the performance translating to the big-league level.”