TCS Morning 5: Build your new Sox contender

Because I can't talk to Mau & Ethan for an hour and a half and then write 10 points.

1. Other than psychic relief, there's no huge benefit to making Adam LaRoche sit under the bench for the last week, other than keeping the path clear for Trayce Thompson playing time, but you can give rest to Melky Cabrera, or possibly the hopeless Avisail Garcia for that. Unless the Sox are simply purging LaRoche, eating all the money, and not trying anything else, they have reasons for trying to see if he can do something remotely positive.

So they're playing the hell out of him to give him some sort of good feeling to close the year. God bless him, best of luck, and I'll bet hard on a ~.250 OBP with no extra-base hits.

I don't want to kick more dirt, and getting rid of him is not easy, but I don't see what kind of sound plan can commit heavy work to LaRoche. He's going to be 36, his power and contact rates eroded into dust, and knee injuries aren't quickly shrugged off at his age. I'd bet more on Avisail Garcia's success than his after all this.

2. I try my hardest to watch the league as much as I can, and avoid fan tunnel vision, but this data still knocked me on my butt. Not only do the White Sox lead the entire sport in average pitches per start, they lead the MLB going away, and are the only team that averages over 100 pitches per start. Not only that, there are multiple teams that average under 90.

I would have never thought this. Heck, I would have never thought the Sox were as low as 102 per. Any good start from Sox pitching seemingly has at least 110+ pitches of rope, and extreme undershooting of this total doesn't seem common. 

This table is shocking, but it certainly isn't damning. Sox starters are throwing all these pitches, but the rotation has not had anyone miss any time with an arm injury all season, and the lead the AL in quality starts. By these standards, the Sox are pushing their starters to go longer and harder into games than anyone else, getting better results than anyone else, and completely avoiding injury.


3. Tyler Saladino replacing Alexei Ramirez doesn't feel very in line with a competitive window. It's betting on Ramirez having another garbage season at the plate, making the offensive difference between the two negligible, and also betting on the complete evaporation of Ramirez's once plus-plus range to make Saladino's relative sure-handedness a break-even factor. 

So Saladino could be the worst-case scenario performance for Ramirez, but over $9 million cheaper. Is $9 million the difference in securing a top-flight free agent who adds enough value to cover the lost value of playing a bad shortstop on an everyday basis? Does Ramirez in a trade package pull in another big target? Maybe on the latter, but the Sox are probably screwed if they're bean-counting to the degree where they have to create other holes to land a meaningful FA target.

Most troubling, if the Sox are using Saladino as a bridge for Tim Anderson, the shoddiness of said bridge could push them to rush the very raw Anderson before he can do anything but struggle to stay afloat at the MLB level.

4. Is Trayce Thompson more worth a shot than Avisail Garcia at this point? Despite being frustrating for a while, Garcia is actually still the younger of the two, but Thompson's running and ability to defend his position smoothly and even cover center field, give him a higher floor than Garcia, who is hurting you if he isn't a solidly plus hitter.

Let's say, toss Thompson's 111 plate appearances aside, the flashes of plate discipline, the ability to use his raw power and pull the ball out to left field, the ok contact rate; then these are a pair of toolsy lottery tickets with low probabilities to coalesce into above-average hitters. At that starting point, Thompson both has the advantage, and allows the Sox to defensively accommodate a major bat addition (Justin Upton, etc) who could split time with Melky in the field or at DH, or completely push Trayce to a bench role where he would still be useful. Garcia, teasing average at many trades but mastering none, has little-to-no bench utility.

5. I got into this already a bit yesterday, but dealing Quintana for offensive help, while the best way to find a long-term solution like Gregory Polanco or similar, would really require a starting rotation countermove for a competitive 2016. Erik Johnson and John Danks are true No. 4 and No. 5 starters, and that becomes a below-average rotation if they slide up, and the Sox have to pitch someone like Chris Beck with regularity. Carson Fulmer will not be ready by Opening Day 2016, let alone ready to be reliable.

Now, because of both the market for bats, and the Sox own natural resources, it's much more feasible for them to acquire No. 3 starter production on the open market for a short period of time while their prospects cook than fix their offense for years to come. Mark Buehrle would be a fun reunion, but you could squeeze good years out of Scott Kazmir or even Ian Kennedy if they think they would adapt well to the White Sox approach.*

*As in the opposite of how Samardzija dealt with it.