The Chicago White Sox have a .500 record at the moment, which by itself would seem to leave them in an ambiguous spot regarding the immediate future. Sure, their run differential indicates they “should” only be 32-36, but we aren’t here to talk about the past. The standings are a bit less ambiguous, with the White Sox five-and-a-half games behind the first place Twins, and three back of the second place Tigers.
Buy or Sell?
Although in principle the White Sox are close enough that “anything could happen,” it seems pretty clear to me that the White Sox should be selling (and recent comments by General Manager Kenny Williams seem to indicate that he thinks so, too). Yes, they have some good players, but, well, the 2010 Astros didn’t happen overnight. This isn’t to say that the 2011 White Sox are going to be the worst team in baseball if something isn’t done, but it’s a possibility. Some painful choices need to be made, and the sooner that happens, the sooner the White Sox can be back in the mix, and the odds of them making them playoffs this season are too slim to take the chance.
The White Sox do have some dead weight on their roster. Juan Pierre wouldn’t bring much of anything in a trade even if the White Sox paid what they owe on his salary (only part of it, since the Dodgers are picking up the rest). Even if Mark Teahen were healthy at the moment, he’s owed the prorated remainder of $14 million dollars through 2012, and is working on his third season in a row of replacement-level performance.
If the White Sox act on their more valuable veterans now, they don’t necessarily have to move their good young pitchers. Gavin Floyd might have some decent value on the trade market, and John Danks certainly would, but although the White Sox should listen on all of their players, they don’t necessarily have to move these two valuable pieces if they start getting good value for the older players.
The key to getting value back for many of their veterans will be a willingness for the White Sox to send along money, since these players do not have much surplus value beyond their contracts. I am surprised that A.J. Pierzynski is still on the team, given that his no trade rights only recently vested. He’s had a terrible season so far, but his projected performance indicates a player who could help many teams. Paul Konerko is having an excellent season in the last year of his contract — again, the White Sox would probably have to send along a large chunk of money to get some value back, but he should certainly be on the block. Mark Buehrle is signed through 2011 at $14 million dollars, and although he’s slowing down, the Sox could probably get something back for him if they sent along a chunk of his salary.
There are various good bullpen pitchers on the Sox roster that could be discussed: Bobby Jenks and Matt Thornton come to mind, but in the space I have hear, it’s worth going over two harder cases. First, Jake Peavy is still a good pitcher, and the White Sox paid a lot to get him. But he’s been struggling a bit with injury concerns, and they might want to wait and see how he plays a bit more and find out whether he might be part of their future or to show other teams he’s worth looking into. Alex Rios is a different case: as I’ve discussed before, he’s proving to be worth every bit of the money he’s owed through 2014. The problem is that he probably won’t be worth much more than that, and other teams may be hesitant to take on enough salary for his trade value to be worth it to the White Sox. In any case, if they do things right with the other players, he might be part of a future contender anyway. They should keep their ears open, though.
Andruw Jones has come back to earth and probably wouldn’t bring back more than a trinket, but Alexei Ramirez has flown under the radar so far this season. No, he hasn’t hit well so far this season, but ZiPS RoS sees it as a temporary condition, and he fields well at shortstop. He’s signed for only $1.1 million dollars through 2011, a great value for the Sox, but if they don’t think they’ll contend in 2011, a league-average shortstop making $1.1 million dollars could bring back a very good return from the right team.
On the Farm
The White Sox’ farm system was 26th in Beyond the Box Score’s aggregate farm system rankings, having been depleted through trades and less-than-inspired drafting. There is some talent there that could help soon: Daniel Hudson is a good pitcher, Tyler Flowers a promising offensive catcher, and between Dayan Viciedo and Brent Morel a third baseman should be in there somewhere. There are other helpful players, but not enough in either upside or depth. That is why the older players on the major league roster need to be traded — in order for these few good prospects to potentially have some company on a White Sox team that has a chance to contend.
According to Cot’s, the White Sox Opening Day payroll this season was $103 million dollars. They aren’t shy about spending, but as I’ve written above, that willingness to pay should, for now, go into willingness to pay sizable chunks of the salaries for veterans that they trade away in order to get back a decent return.
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