The reported interest in White Sox relievers is not surprising.
The White Sox have some good relievers and don’t appear destined for a playoff race in 2019. Teams that do have the look of contenders can always use relief help. It makes all the sense in the world that those teams would look toward the South Side.
But this year is different for the White Sox. Yes, much like the 2017 and 2018 seasons — when Rick Hahn’s front office shipped away a hefty hunk of the team’s bullpen each summer — the schedule might not spin into October. But there have been so many positives during the first three and a half months of the campaign that it looks like next season’s schedule could.
The future is arriving fast, and if the White Sox see themselves as potential contenders in 2020, then maybe they could use their major league relievers more than they could use the prospects they’d get in exchange at this season’s trade deadline.
That’s this team's approach to this deadline in a nutshell, one heavily influenced by the contract situations of those aforementioned relievers.
According to The Score’s Bruce Levine, closer Alex Colome is “on the radar of most clubs” and there are multiple teams interested in late-inning man Aaron Bummer.
Again, not surprising. Colome has spent the majority of his first season in a White Sox uniform as a dominant closer and currently owns a 2.33 ERA to go along with his 21 saves, a total eclipsed by just eight other pitchers in baseball, only four of whom play in the American League. Bummer, meanwhile, has a pencil-thin 1.73 ERA and has given up just seven earned runs all season.
But whereas Hahn traded away the about-to-expire contracts of Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno, Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Tyler Clippard in each of the last two summers — as well as the still-under-control David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle in 2017 — Colome and Bummer are still under team control into 2020, a season in which the White Sox might want to include them in their plans for a contending bullpen.
In years past, it might’ve been about getting something for players who weren’t part of the team’s future plans. Now the trade candidates people are discussing are part of those plans, making it more unlikely that the White Sox would give them up.
Of course, the contract status alone does not completely eliminate the possibility of a deal getting done before the end of the month. Hahn always talks about the likelihood of such things with the caveat that an offer could come along that would knock his, well, socks off and a previously believed to be unimaginable thing suddenly could become reality.
But unlike being obviously sellers in 2017 and 2018 — two seasons in which they lost a combined 195 games — the White Sox are simply in a different situation now. Things are looking up, even if the win-loss record stands below .500, thanks to the first-half performances of Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez, James McCann and Tim Anderson, not to mention the two relievers who could fill the roles of closer and setup man on a contending White Sox team next season. Add Luis Robert, Michael Kopech and Nick Madrigal to that mix — as well as any outside addition that might arrive this winter — and a potentially contending roster starts to take shape.
And if that’s what Hahn is building for the 2020 season, including Colome and Bummer would be wise, considering the alternative is doing his own round of relief shopping at this time next year.
There are other trade candidates to discuss that live outside the bullpen, but the overarching conclusion remains the same.
Abreu surely would garner the interest of many contenders out there, the first baseman on pace to set new career highs in home runs and RBIs. But he seems to be a big part of the White Sox plans moving forward, even if his current contract status has him heading to free agency at the end of the season. But he loves this team, and this team loves him. Some fans have pitched wild scenarios in which Abreu gets traded for a nice prospect package only to return via free agency this winter. But would those same fans have created similar scenarios involving Mark Buehrle or Paul Konerko? Because it sure seems the White Sox hold Abreu in the same esteem as those franchise icons.
What about someone like Leury Garcia? He’s been a solid presence at the top of the White Sox lineup all year. But he’s under team control past 2019, as well, and his versatility would certainly be a nice addition to Rick Renteria’s 2020 tool chest.
There potentially exist outside chances that a team would want to take a flier on a veteran like Ivan Nova (fresh off a complete game Monday night) or Jon Jay. But how much could reasonably be expected in return for a guy with an ERA north of 5.00 or a guy who’s only played in 20 games this season?
And so while reports of interest predictably generate excitement over potential moves, the White Sox are just not in the same position they’ve been in the last two summers, when moves were a necessity to set up the future. Now, the future is coming and coming quickly and it’s coming whether players on the current major league roster are traded or not. In fact, some of these trade candidates are part of the reason the future is coming as fast as it is.
The trade deadline always has surprises in store, so don’t completely sleep on Hahn and his front office. But don’t expect the same kind of moves we saw in 2017 and 2018.