TCS Morning 10: Winining streak dies as ambitions swell

1. In sum, Thursday was not a good day for the White Sox, but it takes a lot of context to understand why. Let's recap!

Like any tragedy, it began with a surge of belief in the self. Emboldened by a seven-game winning streak that brought them within a game of .500, the Sox abandoned all plans to sell. After a brief moment of resting in that delirium, it was realized that continuing to shoot for the playoffs for 2015 would be fruitless if they did not bolster this still quite cruddy offense that still quite frequently has Avisail Garcia and Adam LaRoche in the middle of the order.


If the Sox are going to limit themselves to cheap rentals--eating CarGo's contract might be a hard thing to warm Jer-Bear up to in just 48 hours--those are the two to target, and the Sox  seemed to be sticking to a good price demand too!

Tim Anderson is a prospect who gets flipped for a long-term plus bat, not two months of one. There's a crop full of fringy pitching prospects for something like this! Frankie Montas and/or Tyler Danish for Justin Upton? Let's get it. 

Jay Bruce is actually signed through next season with a 2017 option, so who knows what the actual price would settle around for that. He certainly won't drive away memories of Adam Dunn and LaRoche. On the flip side, Will Venable is a two month rental without much upside, who would cost next to nothing to still improve over Avisail by simply being a competent major league outfielder.

2. Ahh the possibilities that lied ahead! Such promise! We wake with fortune and go to bed with prosperity!

Ah, darn.

Remember  worrying about other teams instead of just mulling the Sox incompetence? Well, it's back! The Blue Jays are the primary competition for the final Wild Card spot and they've acquired Troy Tulowitzki and David Price in the last week. If the Sox are trying to beef up their squad along with the other contenders, they're now woefully behind. 

Hey, maybe the 'over their heads' Astros will fall back to Earth...and open that other spot up.

3. Well, at least the Sox can keep winning and try to control their own future. They had Chris Sale going against knuckleballer Steven Wright and the last place Red Sox on Thursday and Jose Abreu homered in the first inning and things were looking pretty great...

Until Sale was struck by a liner in his front leg by Xander Boegarts, the second hitter he faced on the night. While he was mostly effective during his first trip through the order, his lack of control and the absence of anything resembling his best slider made him uncharacteristically vulnerable to lefties all night (David Ortiz nailed him for three hits, Jackie Bradley Jr. nailed for a single hit, which was possibly more disturbing). Those legit shortcoming combined with bad night-worthy batted ball luck combined for a truly dismal five-inning, 12-hit (!!!), seven-run night, and his sixth loss of the year.

4. Meanwhile, Boston's 30-year-old Steven Wright spun a career night, throwing a career-high seven innings with a career-high eight strikeouts. The Sox have been through far too much of this crap all season to get the benefit of the doubt on a journeyman having a career night on them, but Wright's knuckleball looked legitimately vicious all game. When he was pulled for the night it felt like a favor. Around six innings into this disaster, the broadcast showed Wright talking with Tim Wakefield before the game, making Tim Wakefield the new greatest enemy of this franchise.

So now the Sox have entered into this fray where they are likely outgunned, and immediately stepped away from being their oddly dominant form that inspired such lunacy. It's discouraging, but decisions on the direction of the season need to be able to survive a single day of setbacks. Might as well get it out of the way.


Justin Upton - 27 years-old, .251/.327/.440, 116 wRC+, 18 HR, 17 of 18 stealing bases. Upton has been increasingly all-or-nothing in the three seasons since leaving Grit Town, regularly striking out in one out of every four at-bats, and teasing at 30-home run power. He started 2015 in San Diego like a house of fire, but entered into a deep slump as the weather warmed, and is still under a .600 OPS since June 1.

That sounds terrible, but he's a streaky guy these days and seems to be coming out of it, having homered three times in his last four games, including a back-breaking three-run bomb through the rain in the ninth inning at Citi Field on Thursday. He's not as associated with athleticism as the next guy on the list, but was once lauded as a five-tool talent, and has been an excellent base thief all season.

6. Yoenis Cespedes - 29 years-old, .293/.323/.506, 126 wRC+, 18 HR. Cespedes is having a big contract year in Detroit after two seasons where his lack of plate discipline or ability to do much beyond wail on awful mistake pitches got exposed. He logically should be just as subject to long slumps as Upton, but has been steady all year so far. One thing to note is he has shown reverse splits this year, but he's too good in the field to be splitting much time with LaRoche anyway.

Cespedes is insanely athletic, has good range in a corner outfield spot, and possibly the best throwing arm of any outfielder in baseball. Despite their varying levels of flash, he has a good relationship with Jose Abreu, but probably would stop short of weird Moises Sierra stuff.

A small concern here: Between their return for the David Price trade, flipping Joakim Soria, and whatever they might ultimately get for Cespedes, the Tigers are gonna mess around and squeeze another couple of competitive years out of Miguel Cabrera's prime, and maybe Rick Hahn doesn't care to be party to that.

7. Jay Bruce - 28 years-old, .257/.341/.486, 17 HR, 124 wRC+. He's recovering nicely from a god-awful 2014, thanks to a very welcome reduction in his strikeout rate. Despite his K's now being down to a level below even Upton and Cespedes, this is traditionally a three true outcomes guy who has exceeded 30 home runs three times, but never rode the wave to an elite offensive season. This current year is pretty much the ideal Jay Bruce year.

He's not a notorious butcher or anything, but Bruce lacks the athleticism of his counterparts here on defense.

The curious thing, is that Bruce is under team control through next season, with a similarly priced option for 2017. He is not a rental by any means, and while his talent level is below Upton, Cespedes, and the previously discussed Carlos Gonzalez, the Sox hesitance to include Tim Anderson--however justified--does make me wonder how they fill out a package for Bruce. There is significant division on how good of an idea it would be to commit to Bruce's next two-and-a-half years.


8. Will Venable, Gerardo Parra, Alejandro De Aza are all pending free agents who could offer improvements just by hitting the league average and playing competent defense (well, who knows with De Aza, and half the fanbase would die if he came back, so maybe forget about him). Career stats might have Parra floating with this group, but he's having a career-year (.328/.369/.517, 140 wRC+), so his demand could vastly outstrip what it would take to get someone like Venable.

Now is probably a good time to mention that Avisail has not homered in about 175 plate appearances. and has not been compensating with like, 15 doubles per month or anything in the mean time.

9. The White DID make a deal Thursday, but for Triple-A shortstop Justin Sellers from the Pirates organization. Sellers was acquired almost purely because the previous Triple-A shortstop, Leury Garcia, got promoted and the Knights are living in chaos without him. Sellers, 29, cannot hit.

10. The White Sox start a three-game set at U.S. Cellular against the AL East-leading Yankees Friday night, who are probably too far ahead to completely collapse out of the playoff picture and give the Blue Jays the division, but the Sox should try to get that process started all the same. A-Rod's renaissance doesn't seem like such a funny story anymore, does it?

Nate Eovaldi squares off against Carlos Rodon for the opener. Eovaldi can throw in the high-90's all day but can't strike people out, and traditionally carries an ERA half a run higher than his FIP. Rodon has elite stuff that he throws to purely random locations. This pitching matchup will be like watching two lions struggle to open a can of beans.