Not that any reasonable White Sox fan didn’t already know it, but the lovely four game sweep at the hand of the Minnesota Twins this past week should have made it obvious to everyone watching: the 2014 White Sox are not going to contend. Sure, it was fun to pretend that things were going well and we might sneak into that second Wild Card slot back in late May, but a .368 win percentage in June pulled the mask off a .500 May that saw the Sox outscored by 19 runs.
The early season magic that carried Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo, and Alexei Ramirez has all but worn off completely and now we’re left with the grim specter of consecutive losing seasons, something we haven’t seen this millennium. There is good news though. We do still have Chris Sale and Jose Quintana anchoring the rotation and one of the best power hitters in baseball in his prime. The farm system is also no longer the gaping abyss it was only a few mere seasons ago.
It could still use improvement though, and that’s why Rick Hahn needs to do the right thing over the next five or six weeks and sell off the parts that won’t be helping the team in 2015 and beyond. Who do you ship out though? It would be nice if John Danks could be packaged away with money to offset his contract, but then what happens to the rotation? Without Danks eating his share innings, you’re guaranteed more starts from Andre Rienzo and no one wants that. Before the season, Alejandro de Aza would have been a decent enough trade chit but he needs to bounce back from the hole he dug himself in April and May before we can even discuss getting players above A-ball for him. There are currently three players the Sox could realistically get something out of trading this July.
Though he’s cooled off, Alexei has had a pretty damn nice season to date. I don’t know many teams that would be unhappy about a .299/.331/.418 line from short, especially with 12 stolen bases at an 80% success rate thrown in for good measure. He still plays great defense too, all adding up to 2.4 bWAR before Independence Day. He’s currently on pace for his best season since 2010. So why trade him?
Simple, he’s our best trade chit. Ramirez is only making $9.5MM this season. He gets $10MM in 2015 and has a $10MM team option for 2016 (with a $1MM buyout). He’s already produced surplus value this season and should at least earn his contract next year as well. Unless aging completely catches up to him. A 32-year-old shortstop is kind of like a firecracker whose fuse burned through to the end but didn’t explode yet: you handle with extreme caution and get rid of it as quickly as possible.
Middle infield is actually a position of strength in the farm system and it might be time to give Carlos Sanchez his chance (.292/.357/.415 in Charlotte). If Hahn and Co. don’t believe he’s ready yet, Leury Garcia can at least hold down the fort until September call-ups. In the American League, the A’s, the Yankees, and the Tigers could all use an upgrade at shortstop, but aren’t realistic targets for varying reasons. The A’s have uber-prospect Addison Russell waiting down in AA, the Yankees aren’t going to replace Derek Jeter in his farewell season, and the Tigers aren’t going to pick up Ramirez for just one season. No, if Alexei gets traded he is likely heading to the National League and probably the Eastern Time Zone.
The Reds, the Pirates, and the Marlins have received the 19th, 21st, and 24th best production at short this season. All three teams are currently hovering around .500 and in need of improvement if they want to actually snag one of the Wild Card spots. While Zack Cozart is an absolute wizard defensivly, he’s an even worse hitter than Jack Wilson was. Cincinnati is struggling mightily to score runs and his .264 wOBA is not helping matters. The Pirates are essentially in the exact same boat. Jordy Mercer is almost on Ramirez’s level defensively, but is currently sporting a .269 wOBA. The Marlins were supposed to have an all glove, no hit shortstop in Adeiny Hechavarria, but he’s only lived up to the no hit part. He’s an average defender with a .280 wOBA.
Adding Ramirez to any of these teams could potentially be a 2-3 win swing for any of their seasons, and that could mean the difference between playoff revenue and sitting at home. The Sox could even throw in some money to get more or better prospects and still come out looking great. I’d miss the Missle, but he’ll bring home the best return.
The trade market for a designated hitter is obviously less robust than that for a shortstop, but there are still teams in dire need for an upgrade in production. With Dunn entering the last year of his contract, he might be an attractive enough option for a few AL contenders. He’s hitting .231/.360/.444 with 12 homeruns, good enough for a .355 wOBA. That’s pretty good production, especially from a left-handed bat.
Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York have all received sub-.300 wOBAs from their DHs. That is completely unacceptable for three teams that should be contending all season. The Mariners are scoring the 4th fewest runs per game in the American League. The team leader in homeruns is Kyle Seager with a whopping ten. They have an AL worst team OBP of .298. Dunn would make the lineup a bit lefty heavy, but a team relying on Stefen Romero and Jesus Montero until Corey Hart (who hasn’t been producing) comes off the DL can’t be choosy.
The Angels have been relying on a platoon of C.J. Cron and Raul Ibanez. The right-handed Cron is doing well (.367 wOBA), but this is 2014 and Raul Ibanez is seriously being used as the left-handed half of a platoon. It’s not going well (.243 wOBA) and Ibanez has since been released. The Yankees started the year using Alfonso Soriano, but decided his .279 wOBA wasn’t good enough for full time duty. So now they’re relying on Carlos Beltran full time and his … .299 wOBA. Beltran is making just as much money as Dunn this season.
Not one of these three teams is hurting for money, so there is no reason that Dunn’s contract would block a trade. The White Sox will still have to likely send cash wherever Dunn ends up, but they won’t have to eat the entire contract to get something like a B- prospect back. So long as Adam doesn’t completely cool off, there will be a market for him.
Gordon Beckham is finally on pace to at least tie the value he had as a rookie third baseman in 2009. What marvelous times! But in all seriousness, Beckham developing into a slightly above league average hitter could not have come at a better time for the Sox. At least five contenders across the two leagues are struggling mightily for production from the keystone and Marcus Semien is ready to be an everyday player. With Gordon about to hit his most expensive season next year and his replacement ready to move in, this is the perfect time to say goodbye.
We’ll start with the National League. The Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants are both currently living with versions of past-Beckham. Danny Espinosa and Brandon Hicks are both fine defensive second basemen, but both are lacking any presence at the plate. Hicks is 28 and had never spent more than 22 games in the majors in a season before this year. Espinosa is about to hit arbitration after this year and his offense has been on the decline since 2011. Beckham wouldn’t be a game changer for either team, but he would represent a decent improvement.
Where Beckham truly shines is in comparison to any of the second basemen he’d be replacing in the American League. The Blue Jays came into the season with a black hole at second base, something they’ve managed to mask by shifting Brett Lawrie over from the hot corner to cover. His replacement at third has been Juan Francisco. Francisco had a torrid May, making it look as though Toronto managed their “washed up former 3B prospect into a power monster” alchemy yet again, though his struggles in June may say otherwise. Either way, Francisco is an absolute butcher defensively and unless he’s cranking out homeruns at what looked to be an unsustainable rate, he’s an all-around liability. Trading for Beckham solves the issue at second base and allows Lawrie to return to third.
When the Yankees let Robinson Cano sign with the Mariners this winter, most assumed they had some sort of plan for replacing their massive loss. They signed Brian Roberts. The same Brian Roberts that hasn’t played more than 59 games in a season since 2009. He’s 36-years-old now. Roberts has a .304 wOBA, which isn’t terrible, but his defense is atrocious and it’s only a matter of time before he gets hurt. Oakland somehow has the best record in the American League despite using a platoon of Nick Punto (.291 wOBA) and Eric Sogard (.235). They’re scoring more runs per game than any other team in the league and doing so while completely punting at one position. Neither Punto nor Sogard should be receiving regular at bats on a contending team.
While Beckham doesn’t shine above his competition the way Ramirez and Dunn do, the Sox benefit from more teams needing to upgrade at second base potentially helping to inflate his value on the market. At least one of these three players should end their season on another team other than Chicago. Keep the restocking going.