1. If the Sox win: They're turning it around!
If they lose: Thank goodness they didn't buy at the deadline! They're dreadful!
This weekend has provided a lot of validation for the Sox staying out of the bidding for Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton and the like, as the starting pitching that propped up their torrid sprint back into the Wild Card field mostly took the weekend off against the Yankee offense, unfrozen 2010 John Danks aside.
The Sox are in a place where one or two wins can drastically change the optics of a situation, but now the Sox are 3.5 games back of a spot, with six teams in front of them, including not only the supercharged Blue Jays, but the Texas Rangers, and the aggressively selling Detroit Tigers. The upcoming series against the Rays (also in front) is winnable, but it's followed by the Royals, Angels and Cubs, and no real opportunity to beat up on anyone until the last week of August.
2. I would chide the Sox canceling any 2015 plans for the likes of Frankie Montas, Tyler Danish, Erik Johnson, or really anyone in their system not named Tim Anderson (and even that would just be about getting the right haul) but in sum, they have wound up saving the pitching depth that will likely let them absorb the loss of Samardzija to free agency and keep on throwing money into the neverending quest to form a non-awful lineup. Or they could use the money on Samardzija, and flip Quintana for bats, and allow for the depth to absorb Quintana.
I don't have enough confidence in Shark going forward to really endorse a big investment in him, but free agency bonanzas formed a lot of this current offense, so yeah.
And just a reminder, a reason to go for it this year is that odds are, this is the best season David Robertson, Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche were going to provide under their contracts. It's a three-year plan supposedly, and their deals mean they get more than one bite at the apple, but let's not pretend you sign a $46 million closer in the 2014 winter to compete in 2016.
3. The Old Danks Game was the most fascinating start of the weekend, even if it was kind of a mess (four walks is out of character) and he couldn't even scratch out six innings. The velocity is what's jumping out at everyone — 91.5 mph average with reports of him touching 94 mph —but it's the middle of the year with temperatures regularly in the 90's. His August velocity average right now is only one mile faster than his August average for last season, and it's not that interesting statistically until he repeats it in different conditions and at different parks.
What makes it feel more real, is that it was accompanied by vintage Danks stuff, which he freely stated was up there with the best of his career. There was the best version of his changeup, with solidly above-average depth and fade, and a cutter that jammed up righties like I haven't seen since before the surgeries. The pitched he tied up Mark Teixiera with was simply unholy, and it's been a long time since anyone looked that uncomfortable vs. Danks. The second half stats have looked good for a while, but another outing that looks like that would be something.
4. You could say this about Jeff Samardzija, and to some extent about Chris Sale, but Carlos Rodon: their best outings prove they are among the most talented arms in the game, but the blow-up outings have dragged their overall stats below what we would project they needed to provide for a good Sox season. In Rodon's case, his numbers are now down to a pretty darn bad 4.84 ERA in 80 innings, including a 7.09 ERA over his last eight times out, with 24 walks in 39.1 innings.
Rodon has the much higher ceiling, but it's fair to ask if Erik Johnson could outperform him over the short term, provided short-term success is still being pursued, and also could provide Rodon the break that the Sox claimed they would be seeking for him when he was first placed in the rotation. While I loath to think of ways to get his bat (126 wRC+) out of the lineup, it's also worth asking whether the rookie pitcher with control problems should be working with a smoother receiver than Geovany Soto. It's a question of scouting where they think Rodon is at, and ultimately one to be answered by Don Cooper, so I immediately digress and move on.
5. Now that Tyler Saladino has slumped to .244/.292/.366, the Sox can probably find ways to express their enthusiasm for him, and their endorsement of him starting over Somehow Worse Than Ever Gordon Beckham, in ways other than batting him second in the lineup. He's not some sort of elite talent, and dumping so much responsibility on his bat is not going to magically zap him into being someone else.
Candidates to replace him would be: Jose Abreu from that experiment that never actually backfired, a seemingly alive again Alexei Ramirez, Geovany Soto when he's actually playing, or Adam LaRoche, for all I care, since he still soaks up pitches and takes walks, if nothing else.
6. Centerfielder (calling him this until I can't) Trayce Thompson is on his way to the big leagues as a replacement for the injured J.B. Shuck. Thompson, 24, has plus natural power, speed, athleticism and even a good arm, but has always had trouble putting the actual bat on the ball, which really detracts from how much attention you can pay to the other stuff. His second year in Triple-A has seen him slash his strikeout rate to under 20%, but at the expense of the standout power production that would make him an interesting option to start. More of the issue, is that familiarity and comfort with Triple-A pitching is no guarantee that his meager hit tool is going to stand up to MLB pitching.
Given how we've seen life go for many of these contact-starved toolsy Sox outfield farmhands, Trayce making it to the bigs is nice work, and having a fourth outfielder who looks smooth doing everything and will occasionally run into a 450-foot bomb will be fun, and it be nice if he had an explosive first two weeks like Saladino before the league starts spamming him with breaking balls and we all get intense Shuck Separation Anxiety (patent pending).
7. Dayan Viciedo is back in the fold, signed to a minor league deal and already appearing in games for the Charlotte Knights. Dayan, once the moon of my life and the sun and the stars, couldn't stay on with the Blue Jays or A's farm system already this year, and lost his friggin roster spot with the Nashville Sounds to Brent Morel for crissakes (Fallen White Sox Third Base Prospect Unite!), so suffice it to say he has been personally humbled even if his plate approach never will be.
There's no such thing as a bad minor league deal, and as long as Ventura remains hesitant to use his backup catcher aggressively as his best bench bat, the Sox have a need for someone to come in and provide a deterrent against using lefty relievers. The problem is that Viciedo hasn't recently shown himself to be a better candidate to do that than Matt Tuiasosopo. To that end, it sounds like Danny Valencia is also a possibility.
8. Melky Cabrera Most Extreme Arbitrary Endpoint Alert
We all understand that he's hot, so this is not to provide a misleading data set, I just want to pick a sample that represent how extreme his turnaround is. After cratering to a .226/.263/.258 batting line after an 0-4 night on June 7, Cabrera has hit .361/.401/.579 in 202 plate appearances (with a .414 BABIP). In that time he has as many RBI (36) as strikeouts. That hot streak has provided plenty of writing about him, including a loving Jose Abreu quote on how he's the happiest, most positive teammate, and a separate article on all the Sox hitting celebrations, and we still lack a fundamental understanding of at least half of Melky's post-hit gestures. What's the scarecrow/airplane mean? What's the big cape/huge butt/fart/'I have very wide hips' thing mean? How do we find situations to use these in the office?
9. Jose Abreu fouled a ball off his shin in the first inning Sunday, hobbled around like an old man for the rest of the day, but never came out of the game. Given his propensity to collect dings, he should probably be DH'ing more often than not, and that's going to continue if he's going to stay in the lineup.
10. Jose Quintana starts for the Sox as they kick off a very important series against the Rays. He's been in a good place of recent.
This three-game set will allow the Sox to firmly kick another Wild Card contender behind them, and starts off with Quintana and Sale to boot. This situation is often described as "an opportunity."
11. Getting a bat at the deadline would have been fun, but remember that there are always pitfalls.