Typically, August 31 is not a frenzied rush of trades, but when it comes to trading half-useful veterans to contenders with part-time roles to fill, the White Sox were all over it, moving both Alejandro De Aza and Adam Dunn for minor league arms within the same 24-hour period.
The results are rather strange.
For Adam Dunn, a pure and expensive one-month rental of a platoon DH for whom the Sox had lost anything resembling leverage, they got Nolan Sanburn, a 23-year-old former second round pick with late-inning potential, if nothing else (and we've lost our ability to sneeze at that). Alejandro De Aza, an unremarkable spare outfielder who is eminently playable against right-handed pitching (107 wRC+ this season), and one year of arbitration left, returned org depth.
In both cases, the timing seems to suggest that the Sox just decided to get these guys out of here while they still could get something back, even if all they did was boost Winston-Salem and Birmingham's playoff hopes for next season.
The White Sox have never seemed super motivated to move Dunn at any point, but they are simultaneously famously good at containing leaks, and since Hahn has been in charge, they have gained a reputation for holding out for their preferred price. So it's possible they were exploring the idea well before August, but underwhelming waiver deals after the deadline has passed are becoming a pattern of their own.
There definitely wasn't much coming from below pushing the Sox to move these two out. Dunn's departure clears the way to give Andy Wilkins a shot, but until the last few weeks, that never even seemed like something worth doing. Moises Sierra and Dayan Viciedo will likely play a lot in De Aza's absence. Sierra has been DFA'd this year and DL'd to avoid a DFA once after that, and Viciedo is probably only around because trading him is as difficult as we imagined. That his pursuit of the worst 20 home run season in history can continue, is a small, sardonic reward.
The real motivation for moving De Aza and Dunn seems to be their absence. Anyone who has sat through the past several White Sox seasons knows not to disregard players who can hang around and scratch average, but the Sox apparently have grander plans for two of the easiest positions to find offensive help. Dunn, stuck in decline and seemingly disinterested in following it any further, is no longer being entertained to provide a steady bat for the 2015 run. De Aza's utility had been on the brink since Adam Eaton arrived, he gets in the way if someone else is going to be brought in to take the majority of the at-bats in left field and will run expensive in arbitration to be the fourth outfielder.
With their leaving, Alexei Ramirez will be the only remaining positional starter held over from 2012's last gasp of Kenny Williams' aging core. Even when you move out everything that's not nailed down, a plus-fielding shortstops with a non-terrible bat is usually nailed down.
The odd nature of this rebuild make this trade peculiar. On the north side, De Aza and Dunn likely would have been fenced sooner than later in 2013, their position left to dregs and cast-offs until a permanent solution could be found. Instead, the Sox have had members of their core burning through their primes years, youngsters learning on the job, and relics of the old regime playing all at once. It's a strange collection and hasn't even been reliable for providing a better record than tanking teams, but they say it will be faster.
It makes sense if you assume De Aza and Dunn were never going to be hanging around on the theoretical Next Good White Sox team, but the optics or purging non-awful veterans right as the Sox look to be filling their gaps in the offseason are a little odd. They needed to address left field and what their plan for the designated hitter slot in the offseason, but now they're removed their safety nets. In doing so, they have removed any notion that their 2015 plan to compete is trying to steal any dance moves from 2012, where loading up nearly the same aging offense from the year before produced better results. The Sox are pursuing new solutions, which should be enough encouragement for a while.
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