After dropping five of the last six at the end of a bad month (8-13) the Chicago White Sox are at a crossroads in their season. Should they look to build for the future or try to compete in a lackluster division? One thing is for certain, after drafting Rodon three, Chris Sale’s continued dominance, and the emergence of Jose Abreu, the team’s future has never looked brighter. But as I see it, the White Sox have three options going forward.
1) Pack it in. Build for a team to succeed in 1-3 years.
The White Sox are no strangers to unloading at the trade deadline as the team moved both Jake Peavy and Alex Rios at the end of last summer after a disappointing 2013 campaign. While 2014 has given the White Sox and their fans a future to look forward to, the team’s record has seen little improvement (35-41) today compared to this time last year (35-41), only slightly bettering their chances to compete come September.
Sale and Abreu may be two of the best young players in baseball, but at this stage in the rebuilding process the Sox have proven to be an incomplete team. The rotation isn’t very deep, the bats are inconsistent, and the defense has been uninspiring at best. But, at 25 and 27, respectively, Chicago still has time to put the pieces together to build a legitimate top-to-bottom contender around their two stars in 2-3 years time.
First thing’s first, trade the players not a part of the three-year plan.
Players that could be moved before the deadline : Adam Dunn, Alexei Ramirez, John Danks, Gordon Beckham, and/or Alejandro De Aza
A division that has been dominated by the Detroit Tigers since 2010 will have a new balance of power by 2017, making a sell-now plan the most practical and profitable strategy for Chicago to explore. With a developing farm system and stars to build around, the White Sox are undeniably improved from this time last year, but at 7.5 games behind Detroit in the standings, the team should be realistic about their chances to compete in 2014.
2) Stay put. See what happens.
Knowing Kenny Williams this is probably the least likely scenario. Staying put is simple enough but remains the most uncharacteristic solution for Chicago as the team is always among the most active at trade deadline.
2013: Chicago White Sox trade Matt Thornton, Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, and Jesse Crain
2012: Chicago White Sox trade for Brett Myers, Francisco Liriano, and Kevin Youkilis
2011: Chicago White Sox trade Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen to Toronto Blue Jays for Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart
Trades have been the team’s bread and butter in the past several seasons and I don’t predict the trend to stop in 2014. Whether they are buyers or sellers over the next few weeks, you can be sure the team will move around a few players to ensure a better roster at some point.
3) Make a serious trade to help win the division in 2014
The firm grip the Detroit Tigers have had on the division over the past five seasons appears to be loosening as the team looks as vulnerable as ever with their current core group of players.
Justin Verlander doesn’t look like Justin Verlander. The back of the rotation and bullpen have struggled. The lineup has been up-and-down, and a team with the fifth highest payroll in the MLB seems to be extremely pedestrian as the Tigers have hovered around .500 for most of the season. If ever there was one, now is the time for the White Sox to strike.
The White Sox surprised everyone by trading for Jake Peavy in 2009, and the team could make a similar move in 2014 as David Price remains on the open market. Despite not having the best assets to acquire the 2012 AL Cy Young winner, the White Sox have continued to show their prowess and aggressiveness at the trade deadline, and thus should never be counted out of the running. With Sale and Price, the team would undoubtedly have the best one-two punch of starting pitchers in the division, instantly putting them back into contention.