TCS Roundtable: What lies ahead

The day after the All Star Game is always so brutal as a baseball fan. No games — not even a home run derby to entertain us. We aren’t close enough to the trade deadline to see any deals, and so the only option seems to do a general assessment of what the second half has in store.

Frankie Montas is going to be called up.

It was announced this afternoon that Frankie Montas — the fireballing, stocky piece received in the Jake Peavy trade — would get the call up from Double-A to join the team as the likely 26th man for the Royals doubleheader on Friday.

James: I’m naturally excited because Montas is a huge hoss and will touch 102 mph, but I rather doubt he’s ready to do much and would be fine with seeing him go back down soon and keep starting until September. He hasn’t worked out of the pen all year, and is likely pretty far away on command refinement to do much beyond having interesting garbage-time experiences.

Nick: They haven’t made any official, clear announcements about what the plan is for this call-up that I’ve seen, although the most likely possibility is that he’s the emergency arm on hand for the doubleheader if everything goes horribly. One would think if they wanted a spot start they would use Erik Johnson (see below).

Baseball America also made reference to him doing a better job of keeping his emotions under control this year…? Which is the first I’ve heard of that. I’m not saying they’re making it up, I just don’t know what that means.

Collin: Motion to keep calling him Francellis until someone makes us stop.

James: We specifically nagged Mau Rubio to ask him at the Futures Game and he confirmed it’s Frankie. But maybe you can call out his full name like you’re his dad when he gives up a dinger and upsets you.

Predictions for Second Half?

Samardzija Trade?

James: The Sox are weird enough to clutch onto him past July 31, tell everyone they’re holding onto him for leverage, wait out a big offer that never meets their expectations, and spin a compensation pick and signing a cheaper veteran SP as a win.

But they could also definitely just trade him for Avisail or Matt Davidson Part 2.

Nick: Given that I am all aboard the Spencer Adams train, the idea of a comp pick in what’s supposed to be a deep draft has its appeal. Another element is that they wouldn’t have to surrender a pick to re-sign Samardzija. I don’t know if they could wind up waiting him out and seeing if they can get a Shields deal out of him if the market isn’t as good as he’d hoped.

What’s frustrating about trying to predict something like this isn’t just that the White Sox are weird, but the market for SP rentals has been pretty low lately. I know people like Willy Adames now or whatever, but I feel like at least some of that enthusiasm comes by virtue of the fact that he was traded for Price.

So what are teams actually willing to give up for Samardzija? Unclear to me. There are still a ton of fits in terms of potential buyers, but there are also several other options (but Kazmir getting hurt helps, I suppose).

James: Not trying to count chickens, but do they need Samardzija? I’d sure like to see some Erik soon to find out. But if Sale-Q-Rodon-Johnson looks like a decent top-4…

Nick: It does seem like the wrong place for them to allocate their funds. Presumably they are counting on Carson Fulmer, and they do also haveTyler  Danish and Montas as not-ridiculous rotation options moving forward.

Obviously you shouldn’t spend money just to spend it, but I’m not quite clear on where they buy bats that fit their roster. I don’t think it’s crazy to say LF and CF belong to Eaton and Melky going forward and that that’s probably fine. I am open to them trying to replace Avisail, but I imagine they’ll give him enough rope to hang himself and then still do some lasso tricks afterward. Otherwise I’d be fine with them spending ~$100 million on Jason Heyward and telling Avisail to have fun trying to force his way into the lineup.

The only 2B free agents who look Not Horrible are Howie Kendrick and Ben Zobrist., is David Freese the best option there? I don’t see cash just being able to fix this. I really wish they had signed Hector Olivera.

Collin: This is the same organization that gave Dayan Viciedo nearly 1,800 plate appearances over five years to try to figure it out (Viciedo is currently putting up terrible numbers for Oakland’ Triple-A affiliate), so I don’t think they’re going to give up on Avisal any time soon. I know nobody’s particularly high on him anymore, but he DID just turn 24. Not saying, just saying.

As for Samardzija, the appeal as a fan of them trading him is that you get a shiny, new toy to look at and fawn over. I feel like there are two extremes as a general manager. There’s the guy who is going to trade his impending free agents no matter what (like, say, Andrew Freidman when he was still in Tampa), and there’s the guy who seemingly will not trade anyone no matter how much it makes sense (hi, Ruben Amaro). I think Hahn, thankfully, is somewhere in the middle. He knows it makes sense to trade Samardzija before July 31, but he’s not going to do it just because. If he can’t get what he believes to be good value for him, he’ll let him hit free agency and either A) try to re-sign him or B) get the comp pick. Despite this franchise’s failings over the past few years, I still feel confident in trusting Hahn to make the right call.

James: Retracing my own steps on Samardzija, if you're going to be crap hitters, maybe a concerted effort to field the No. 1 pitching staff in baseball--by a damn mile--is appropriate.

Soto Trade?

James: Flipping a veteran catcher who rehabbed his value on a minor league deal for a live-arm, near pro-ready relief prospect would be the type of fine, simple work that shouldn’t take a long process of sussing out bids. Twins, Rays, Cubs, all could use a catcher.

Nick: There was a random Twitter buzz this morning about the Mariners shopping around for catchers. I’m surprised that they waited this long, especially seeing as they already bafflingly acquired Trumbo — who plays like, the one position they didn’t need to upgrade. Soto is probably better than anybody they have, but there are many other catchers that fit that description, and the Mariners are probably dead already.

Then again, Jack Z is desperate — or should be, if he isn’t — and I feel confident about the White Sox being able to extract value from that org.

James: The Mariners are behind the Sox in the standings! When the team in front of you is selling--and the Sox are in this hypothetical scenario--isn’t that the ‘Come to Jesus’ moment?

Nick: It should be, but I feel like Hahn should have a billion times the job security Jack Z does, for a multitude of reasons, and Jack Z has spent a TON of money trying to win now. Every year Cano, Felix, and Nelson Cruz age without them making the playoffs … and they were so close last year! And ZIPs or whatever loved them!

DFA for Bonifacio?

James: Maybe it’s just the order the signings were made in, but the way the season is playing out; they signed a $4 million super-sub with no real avenues, nor desire, to get him any playing time (they had disastrous returns in two infield positions and still never handed him either role for even a whole series at a time). In return, he’s looked absolutely terrible in his disparate opportunities. What a disaster. Except for the part where he makes $4 million.

Nick: Was it Mau who said that Bonifacio is basically one of those ‘essentially a coach’ type dudes in the clubhouse? I always feel like that’s a colossal waste of a roster spot. Even more damning is that Bonifacio has failed on bunt attempts and in some key baserunning situations as well … leading one to wonder what exactly he brings to the table.

They’ve already paid him half of the $4 million given that we’re halfway through the season, certainly makes it more palatable to cut bait. They were willing to pay Keppinger to not play for them also.

This is a reminder that $4 million is a pretty trivial amount of money to take a one-year flyer on a guy like this, and also that for forever the White Sox absolutely refused to spend like, $1-2 million more to make their drafts not suck. This is perspective.

James: Bonifacio is only 30 years-old. His type ages quickly, but he’s pretty young to be basically Joe McEwing. Keppinger not so much as working a day with another MLB organization since getting released speaks to how extreme that situation was.

Nick: Color me unsurprised when he gets signed on a minor league deal by like Kansas City or Detroit next year and winds up being the bench bat they hoped he’d be this year.

Oh! No wait — he will go to Minnesota and have 50 hits all year but 40 of them will be against the White Sox.

James: In response, the Sox sign Lew Ford.

Nick: In response, the White Sox sign Torii Hunter. You know it’s going to happen.

Collin: God dammit.

Bold Predictions? e.g. Trading Zach Duke

James: They really should. The ERA is currently shiny, everyone needs lefties. Maybe I’m spoiled but that slider is not a wipeout offering that plays well to both sides of the plate and his fastball is pretty … um … I don’t want to say garbage, and I don’t want to say average. Between those two.

Collin: I would be on board with this. Hell, I would also be on board with shopping David Robertson. It’s depressing as hell considering they gave up a draft pick for him, but teams always seem to overpay for relievers around the deadline and they could get a ton of value. For the record, I don’t think there’s any way in hell this actually happens. But Duke is more likely.


Nick: I actually think Alexei Ramirez will drag his line back up to the land of playable. On the one hand this is a lame prediction, but given how limp his bat has been all year I feel like it requires some amount of bravery. Eaton and Melky looked horrid for months but the improvement did come eventually. Barring some massive change — trading for Segura or something? — I expect Alexei to be back at SS for 2016.

I’m also hoping that a rested Jose Abreu goes back to destroying baseballs with reckless abandon like 2014 instead of the “Good Player” mode he’s been in this year.

James: I put this section in expressly for the purpose of Abreu optimism, Here’s hoping a week off, or maybe a DL stint at some point brings back God mode, even for just a month.


Nick: Sadly, there aren’t really any players performing well enough to even be deemed to be playing above their heads — I assume that regression here doesn’t include positive ones, because that would seem to fall under rebounds.

James: Avisail could continue regressing after his first two months. Surrendering to the rule that all Sox hitters who can fail, will fail, I guess it’s mostly likely he continues to flop around league average or worse with defense that’s bad between moments of greatness. A more generous interpretation is that the second half is put-up or shut-up time to show he can make an adjustment at the plate.

Things To Look Out For Moving Forward

Erik Johnson

Nick: Even with his huge bounceback year in Triple-A this season, Johnson continues to be weird. We were never really given an explanation as to why he was abysmal last season, or why his stuff and command mysteriously returned this year. He also had a start skipped in the leadup to the Triple-A All Star Game, which he will be starting. Maybe it was just to move up the rest he would have gotten if he weren’t pitching there?

Anyway, the presumption has been that he is next in line for the rotation when Danks inevitably gets demoted or Samardzija possibly (probably?) gets traded. Do we dare hope that the mysterious suckiness from last year is gone for good?

Micah Johnson? Saladino?

James: I’m somewhat convinced Micah’s defense put Alexei in an existential funk and wonder how much really could have been done to fix it in this time. If Saladino can tread water offensively in the way we hoped Carlos Sanchez would, I wouldn’t mind giving him burn while Micah terrorizes games I don’t have to watch.

Nick: I’ve always liked Saladino as a general proposition. If Micah just needs a bunch more reps at 2B defensively, then right, let him get them at Triple-A. I also find it hard to believe that Saladino can’t at least match the Tony Pena Jr.-esque production they’ve gotten from Beckham and Sanchez so far.

Micah Johnson is in a bit of an awkward spot, because I don’t think he can play on the dirt, and they don’t really have anywhere to play him in the outfield. I wouldn’t mind if they converted him to CF in Triple-A and then shopped him around to some other team in a deal.

Collin: The fact that people on Twitter and elsewhere are calling for Micah to get a second chance already is frustrating. For one, it’s never good for a prospect who supposedly is part of a franchise’s future plans to keep bouncing around between Triple-A and the majors, for another, Sanchez’s struggles bring out proclamations like “Micah can’t be any worse! His defense has looked better since being sent down!” Now, I haven’t watched Micah in Charlotte, but I have a hard time believing he’s magically flipped a switch and become a competent second baseman in the 2 ½ months he’s spent in Charlotte. I’m OK with letting him finish out the year in Triple-A — he still hasn’t even played a season’s worth of games there! — and, as Nick said, maybe use him as trade bait if they don’t think there’s a reasonably fit for him in the lineup going forward.