The trade deadline is coming. And with it comes a flood of rumors involving nearly every team in Major League Baseball.
The White Sox are not immune to those figurative waters, and they've popped up as the subject of various reports regarding possible deals.
As discussed numerous times in recent days, this year's deadline is a little different than those of years past for Rick Hahn's front office. The White Sox, thanks in no small part to their 3-11 start to the second half, are not going to be "buying" in the traditional sense in an attempt to chase down a wild-card spot. Of course, they were never going to do that, as Hahn's rebuilding plans don't involve making moves solely for one postseason appearance but rather to set his team up for perennial contention in the years to come.
But because the roster is not rife with players on expiring contracts, the White Sox don't figure to be traditional "sellers" either. While Hahn made a habit of selling off his back-end bullpen pieces in 2017 and 2018, pitchers like Alex Colome, Aaron Bummer and Jace Fry are all under team control for the 2020 season. And while the team isn't playing well right now, a positive-filled first half made it look rather realistic that the White Sox could make their transition from rebuilding mode to contending mode as soon as next season. If they plan on being contenders, a back end of the 'pen featuring Colome, Bummer and Fry would be a valuable asset to have on the South Side, making it seemingly unlikely that those hurlers would be dealt in the coming days.
Of course, there's always the possibility that Hahn could receive an offer that would tip the scales toward moving any of those players or others. Plus, there's the item Hahn has yet to cross off his rebuilding to-do list, acquiring a big-time talent from outside the organization to add to a growing and impressive young core. He tried to land Manny Machado in the offseason, but Machado chose to take his talents to San Diego. The trade deadline presents another opportunity to make such an addition, though it all depends on the players available. Hahn described those in-season opportunities as far less likely to present themselves as ones during the offseason, when free agents are available in addition to trade targets.
With all that, here's a look at some of the recent reports mentioning the White Sox.
Will someone pry a reliever away from the South Side?
Whether because relief pitching is always in high demand at this time of year, because Hahn traded so many relievers during the last two summers or simply because the White Sox have some very good pitchers at the back end of their bullpen, there's been a focus on whether they'll deal Colome, Bummer or Fry.
The Score's Bruce Levine tweeted earlier this week that multiple teams are thinking about being interested in or are interested in Colome and Bummer, specifically mentioning the Atlanta Braves as an interested party.
Braves among numerous teams looking at White Sox bullpen pieces . Alex Colome is on the radar of most clubs. LHP Aaron Bummer has many suitors but Sox look at him as their potential closer .— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) July 23, 2019
MLB Network's Jon Morosi added another NL East club to the mix Friday, saying the Washington Nationals are "showing active interest" in Colome.
So will the White Sox deal Colome? It is 100-percent based on what they can get for him. That might sound obvious, but in years past you've seen the White Sox trade away their closers — David Robertson in 2017 and Joakim Soria in 2018 — in attempt to get something. Robertson was part of the seven-player deal with the New York Yankees that most notably returned Blake Rutherford, still trying to work his way into the team's crowded outfield of the future, and Soria was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for pitching prospect Kodi Medeiros, who's been moved to the bullpen after posting a 6.80 ERA as a starter at Double-A Birmingham.
Those were fine pieces to acquire at the time, but neither Robertson nor Soria were lining up to serve as the closer for a contending White Sox team. That could be Colome's job in 2020 if the White Sox hang onto him now. So the question becomes whether the White Sox can get something in return that would prove equally valuable or more valuable than a dominant, All-Star caliber closer on a contending team a year from now. And given how often contenders are shopping for closers at the trade deadline every year, it would seem that would be a valuable asset indeed.
Now, contending teams have been known to part with highly rated prospects on the verge of the majors in acquiring All-Star type closers in the past. The Cubs traded Gleyber Torres, now a two-time All-Star infielder for the Yankees, to get Aroldis Chapman in 2016. The Cleveland Indians dealt highly touted catching prospect Francisco Mejia in acquiring Brad Hand from the Padres last summer. So there is precedent, and a team could call Hahn up and offer up a potential cornerstone for Colome.
Just remember that Colome could potentially have an awful lot of value to the White Sox, so they might not be eager to part with him.
The other two arms discussed, Bummer and Fry, are younger guys who could be part of this bullpen for multiple seasons to come. Bummer, in particular, has been phenomenal this season and earns high praise from the White Sox. He's a guy that could one day be given a shot at the closer's job, whether that's after Colome departs as a free agent or in the event that the White Sox are offered something big for Colome in the next few days. Either way, constructing a bullpen is not easy, even for contenders, and keeping guys like Bummer and Fry might end up being the better decision.
But, it all comes down to what Hahn could get in any such deal.
Do the White Sox want Nomar Mazara?
With the prospect of being a contending group in 2020, the possibility exists that the White Sox could add at this year's deadline. It would have to be someone who has value to them into the future because they obviously wouldn't be buying for a postseason run in 2019.
When discussing that possibility in the past, ideas centered around finding a big-time player who could be added to the core and have the kind of impact Machado might have had he decided to come to the South Side.
Or maybe it could be Texas Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara? According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the White Sox have been one of a couple teams "watching" Mazara, the 24-year-old outfielder in his fourth major league season.
While Mazara has upside, he's hardly of the big-time class you'd put players like Machado or Charlie Blackmon or Zack Greinke in. He'd be an addition to provide outfield depth, you'd have to assume. Mazara isn't exactly blowing the doors off the 2019 season, either, slashing .255/.307/.438 with 14 homers. Those numbers aren't the type that would excite a fan base.
That being said, right field looks like a definite need for the White Sox at the moment. Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert figure to have left field and center field spoken for for years to come. But what looked like a crowded group of prospects vying for the long-term job in right has since been dotted with question marks. The White Sox have a ton of outfield prospects, but almost all of them have had disappointing 2019 seasons due to underperformance or injury. Micker Adolfo is out for the season. Luis Basabe has a .235 batting average in only 47 games this season. Rutherford has a .656 OPS. Steele Walker's batting average is .100 points lower at Class A Winston-Salem than it was at Class A Kannapolis. Luis Gonzalez is slashing .234/.295/.334.
All those players could turn things around, sure, but it's enough to make you wonder how high acquiring a right fielder is on Hahn's to-do list ahead of the 2020 season. Depending on what he'd have to give up to get Mazara, it's possible that the current Ranger would be worth a flier for a two-month audition. We'll see.
Is there a surprise trade candidate on the White Sox roster?
Colome and the relievers have been mentioned a bunch for the various reasons described above. But what about elsewhere on the roster? The White Sox might not be particularly motivated to break up a group that manager Rick Renteria described thusly: "This group in particular, it's a pretty good group. I think they respect each other, love each other. I think they play alongside of each other very, very well."
MLB Trade Rumors took a look at whether Ivan Nova could be dealt before the deadline, mentioning an MLB.com report that teams have been "looking" at Nova. Contending teams often look to give themselves starting-rotation depth, and they've only got one shot to do it this season with the elimination of waiver deals in August. So maybe Nova could be of use to a team or two out there. The numbers would say otherwise, as Nova owns a 5.49 ERA even after his complete-game effort against the Miami Marlins on Monday night. But he's a veteran and has a track record and could be worth a flier for a contending team.
And so the same calculus pops up should a team come calling looking for a Nova trade. Nova, unlike Colome and Bummer and Fry, does not figure to be a part of the White Sox plans past the 2019 season, which could make a "get something for him" deal more likely. That being said, however, he was brought in to eat up innings and help mentor young pitchers, specifically Reynaldo Lopez. He's certainly done the latter, as he chronicled during an interview Thursday. And though his production has not been what the White Sox hoped it would be, the starting rotation has been thin all season and taking another pitcher out of it leaves a lot of innings to soak up in the remainder of the season, something that could overly tax the bullpen. So maybe Nova isn't a "trade him just to get anything" type of veteran.
Jon Jay is in a similar situation, leading to similar speculation. He's not expected to be a part of things past the end of this season. Unlike Nova, Jay has been productive in the short time since his return from a months-long stay on the injured list. Jay would figure to have value to contending teams, and perhaps it makes him the most likely to be dealt. But as for how much the White Sox could get in return, it wouldn't figure to be much.
Leury Garcia is someone who could attract the interest of clubs. But he's also under team control for next season, and his combination of defensive versatility and offensive production would figure to be mighty valuable coming off the bench for a contending White Sox team in 2020.
And then there's Jose Abreu, who I only bring up because of a seemingly constant stream of Twitter suggestions that the White Sox should exploit Abreu's love for the South Side by trading him away for a prospect package this summer only to re-sign him to a free-agent contract this winter. I bring it up also to point out it is a silly suggestion.
Abreu loves playing for the White Sox, and the White Sox love having Abreu play for them. In addition to his consistent production — he's on pace to set new career highs in homers and RBIs in this, his age-32 season — he is remarkably valuable inside the clubhouse, where he's been a guiding force to young core pieces like Yoan Moncada and Jimenez. He figures to play a similar role for his countryman Robert once the latter is called up to the big leagues. Why would the White Sox want to rob those young players of Abreu's mentorship during critical developmental time for them at the major league level?
The White Sox seem to hold Abreu in a similar esteem to the players with retired numbers and statues at Guaranteed Rate Field. Would fans make this same suggestion about Paul Konerko or Mark Buehrle?
You can hardly ever say "never" in baseball, and perhaps it's risky to do so here, too, but it seems there's a near zero-percent chance of the White Sox parting with Abreu in the coming days, particularly as he's constantly talking about how much he wants to stick around past the end of the 2019 season, which seems like something that is likely to happen.