On Wednesday alone, the White Sox saw 2016 first-round draft pick Zack Burdi blown up in his Double-A debut, walking four batters without getting a single out. Spencer Adams, the best combination of prospect shine and expendability in their organization, injured his ankle and left after two innings. Carson Fulmer, who is significantly less expendable, probably looked more like a potentially helpful major league reliever, and continued his trend of piling up strikeouts while otherwise struggling with control and laboring through innings.
These are minor blips in the minor leagues, but the Sox could use some major boosts, and this was not a good day.
I’m a borderline Sox optimist at this point. They are a home series victory against a horrible Braves team from entering the All-Star break four games over .500, and a sweep away from being the thick of the moshpit for the second Wild Card spot. Given the pre-season outlook and some of the holes they broke camp with, this is a good result. They are within striking distance at the trade deadline, which is what they sought to be.
For the most part, it seems like they would rather not go to such lengths.
They have been waiting out the worst slump of Avisail Garcia‘s career (he has two extra-base hits since June 1, and hasn’t homered over 120 plate appearances) to replace him with the ultra inexpensive 35-year-old Justin Morneau coming off of surgery.
They have already waited out nearly a month of Austin Jackson‘s projected six-week recovery timeline from knee surgery with J.B. Shuck–who has at least managed to randomly slug .480 since Jackson went down–even though both have offensive profiles a more aggressive team would probably look to upgrade.
And they will almost surely will wait out Alex Avila‘s second hamstring pull, since his mid-season offensive revival will give them something to point to as help on the way.
Their bullpen however, is currently David Robertson, Nate Jones, Zach Duke and then just hopes and prayers on any day where those three need rest. Given the state of Burdi, Zach Putnam playing catch with his wounded elbow, and a now thinned out crop from which to trade for help, the Sox appear set to turn to Fulmer for relief help, but with Dan Jennings, Michael Ynoa, Chris Beck and Matt Albers all floating around replacement-level performance or, in Albers’ case, worse, they’ll run out of internal options well before they run out of need, and their willingness to make another move, and in turn, take on more salary will be tested, or their lack of willingness will be exposed.
The White Sox cannot be straight-up accused of apathy, or inflexibility. James Shields is a bigger move than many contenders will swing all season, regardless of whether not their league scouts botched the assessment or not. Adam LaRoche was at least supposed to offer another half-viable option to toggle between beyond just watching Garcia’s career go in the tank, but the Sox still left their intriguing turnover and transformation of the roster so unfinished, with so many spots that had the potential to need mid-year adjustments, so that it was always going to necessitate a wealth of activity to patch things up, let alone land a major bat like Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Braun, or even a resurgent Jay Bruce that would vault them above the pack competing for the second Wild Card.
One of the amusing elements of watching the Bulls stagger confusedly through free agency, is the constant conspiracy theorizing from their fans that money and resources are being siphoned off to lavish on the White Sox. It’s like they’re inmates in a prison whose only windows face that of another identical prison across the street, and can only rationalize their hardships by speculating how much better it must be on the other side. It helps that the average Bulls fan doesn’t watch the Sox.
In reality, both are stubbornly avoidant of utterly fan-murdering, but focused rebuilding efforts, while also being adverse to outspending the field. And for both, building a mid-tier contender for cheap and remaining flexible for upgrades at the peak of the win cycle seems promising until that flexibility is never used, the throttle is never really pushed all the way down, and we’re left wondering if the general manager was unable to recognize their needs and seize a major opportunity to improve, or wasn’t allowed to.
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