The best revenge is living well. But perhaps an even more strategic form of revenge is living just poorly enough to lure your opponent into false notions of themselves. The Tigers probably didn't appreciate getting handed their 11th loss in 16 games Monday night, but now that they have lured the Sox within 3.5 games of the division lead.
In a Chicago Sports newscycle that's desperate to find something worth following before Bears training camp opens, that's enough to spark curiosity on the Sox short-term abilities. And there's some arguments to be had there.
The Sox have arrived at a 32-33 record at this point of the season without overcoming significant turmoil. Chris Sale missed a month. Adam Eaton had a DL stint and has been most broken since returning, Jose Abreu sat out two weeks, amd however shaky the Sox rotation is now, it's going better than them spending April figuring out that Erik Johnson and Felipe Paulino are broken.
On the flip side, we're talking about a team that has a -17 run differential; 25 worse than the Tigers and roughly 50 out from either of the Wild Card teams. The numbers would suggest the Sox are just not particularly good; several games worse than their already mediocre win-loss total indicates.
They're also doing pretty blatant win later things like carrying Paul Konerko out of respect, carrying Adrian Nieto for prospect-hoarding, just tolerating Alejandro De Aza and rolling with a rotation that at least would replace Andre Rienzo if it could, and a bullpen they actively avoided splurging on. If they're going for it, there's a lot to re-work.
The Sox are also 3.5 games behind in the division race. They're not choosing whether to continue pursuing a playoff berth that's seemingly been handed to them, but likely facing a situation where they need to buy aggressively at the deadline to make themselves four games better than the Tigers. To do that not only would likely require a shot for the moon like trading for David Price, but require the Sox to rifle their minors to create a package that doesn't draw away from the MLB team's immediate abilities. As such, it would likely have to include Micah Johnson, Carlos Sanchez, Matt Davidson, or Tyler Danish to create any ripples.
Beyond it being hard to stomach such a loss of prospects and depth, such a move would eliminate most of the White Sox ability to improve from within in 2015, which previously seemed like a far more important target year. With Avisail Garcia back, Adam Dunn's contract either entirely gone or likely reduced, and something resembling rotation improvement--though the best of that may not arrive until 2016--they could potentially be spurning better opportunities for playoff contention to pursue the mediocre one laying before them.
However, if the Sox aren't going for it, it pushes forward an uncomfortable conversation. Mostly, it adds a tinge to Gordon Beckham's recent hot streak.
The second basemen is hitting .298/.337/.429, and would have a career-best 111 wRC+ if he finished the year at this level. That career, however, already contains over 2600 plate appearances and suggests the Sox would be selling high if they looked to move Beckham. While Alexei Ramirez is getting older and may need replacing himself soon, the relative success of Micah Johnson and Carlos Sanchez in Triple-A (.302/.373/.413), as well as the presence of Marcus Semien, offer the Sox a rare opportunity to deal from infield depth.
If Matt Davidson hadn't spent so much of this season doing an impression of a wet sponge in Triple-A Charlotte, I'd have more energy about shopping Conor Gillaspie too.
The season allows for another month and change of the White Sox enjoying their in-between status before making a hard commitment either way, and their love of trying to do two things at once might keep them from making one past July 31st, but they could wind up not putting their best foot forward for 2014 or 2015 if they don't make their pick soon.
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