Obviously, things have been different this year for the White Sox. After losing a combined 195 games during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, they’re two games under .500 as they begin the second half Friday in Oakland. The first half was full of positives that have the future looking blindingly bright.
So will the trade deadline be different, too?
The last two seasons have featured midsummer selloffs by Rick Hahn’s front office, flurries of trades to try to turn short-term pieces into long-term pieces. More often than not, that’s meant relief pitching getting shipped away from the South Side, but bigger names like Jose Quintana and Todd Frazier fell into the same category.
In seasons where the White Sox were not expected to contend for playoff spots, such moves made all the sense in the world. Though the record is much better this year than it has been in years past — and the American League isn’t exactly bursting with unbeatable teams — it would still be surprising to see the White Sox in position to chase down a playoff spot come September.
And even if they won the requisite number of games to do that, general manager Rick Hahn has stated repeatedly that the front office’s goal is not to make sacrificial moves to merely win a wild card spot in the 2019 postseason. Everything that’s done will be done with a focus on the long term, on getting to the White Sox to the playoffs every year not just this year.
So it’s highly unlikely the White Sox will fall into the traditional “buyer” category at this summer’s trade deadline — and remember there’s just one of those this year. No deals after July 31.
There are scenarios, however, in which the White Sox could make a move.
First, Hahn’s front office will jump at the right opportunity to add a big-time outside piece to boost the long-term fortunes of this franchise, like he’s been saying for years now. If the right player with the right contract, in terms of years of team control remaining, is available at the deadline, they will obviously pursue that opportunity. Getting an impact talent from outside the organization is part of Hahn’s rebuilding plan, and he attempted to do it last offseason before Manny Machado opted to sign with the San Diego Padres.
But the White Sox can only capitalize on an opportunity if an opportunity comes along. And it’s more likely, Hahn said, that such an opportunity arises in the offseason as opposed to the middle of the season.
“I would like to believe it’s feasible in season, and we’re going to approach things over the course of the next month as if it is. At the same time, realistically, just looking purely at the volume of such transactions, it’s more likely to occur in the offseason than in season,” Hahn said last week. “We all would like to address as many needs as possible via trade over the course of the next few weeks. Realistically, that’s probably not nearly as likely as needs being filled in the offseason.”
Another way the White Sox could make a trade is if they get blown away by an offer for Alex Colome. I use Colome’s name as a stand-in for any player on the roster whose current contract doesn’t make them a potential part of the team’s long-term plans, but Colome seems to be the one who everyone’s talking about and, because of his at times dominating performance during the first half, the one most likely to draw significant interest from contending clubs.
Shut-down closers are often in high demand this time of year, and perhaps a contender out there gets so desperate that a front office throws the White Sox a package they can’t refuse, a package full of young players who can help their championship cause over the next few seasons. They would probably go for that in any hypothetical deal involving a non-core player on the roster, but Colome seems the most likely to earn such a return. After all, he’s under team control for the 2020 season, as well, which could improve that return package.
Of course, if the White Sox plan on seeing their contention window open in 2020, they have plenty of incentive to hang on to Colome instead of go searching for a closer themselves at this time a year from now. And that’s why, if things stay promising over the next few weeks — and Luis Robert hitting a grand slam in his first Triple-A game certainly counts as things staying promising — the better decision might be to keep Colome and anyone else who can help the White Sox next season.
But an un-turn-down-able package is un-turn-down-able for a reason.
“With any of these things, it's going to be about market value and balancing what we can get in return versus how we project the role going forward,” Hahn said. “We're in a little different spot right now than we've been in the past. First, because we're arguably closer to where we're in a position to make some noise and maybe win something next year. Second, because we have fewer expiring guys, meaning guys who are in their walk year of free agency. There's no (Joakim) Soria or (Anthony) Swarzak or someone like that who's hitting their free-agent year.
“But it's going to come down to market value and balancing it against their potential value going forward.”
Finally, I know plenty of Twitter-using White Sox fans have seen Jose Abreu’s recent comments about his desire to stay on the South Side and have crafted intricate scenarios in which the White Sox trade the All Star away for a nice return package and then re-sign him when he hits free agency in the fall.
I’ll never say never, because baseball has a way of producing things you’ve never seen before, but such a scenario seems unlikely as unlikely can be. And here’s why, more than anything else: The White Sox think so highly of Abreu. They see him as a mentor to their young players, a model for anyone coming up from the minor leagues. It appears they feel the same way about him they have about guys who have their jersey numbers retired and have statues at Guaranteed Rate Field.
They value his contributions and influence in the clubhouse so much, why would they take all that away from players like Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez during important developmental time over the second half of the season?
I understand that it strikes as a sneaky way to get a few extra pieces that could come in handy down the road, but that’s not something you do with a player like Jose Abreu.
I’m not going to go as far as saying you should expect a quiet trade deadline from the White Sox, but their pathways to a deal seem narrow, considering they’d only be shopping for specific players with specific types of contracts that could make specific contributions in specific seasons that aren’t limited to just this one.