As has been commonplace around these parts in recent years, the White Sox enter the final few days leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline in flux, with nobody quite sure whether they are set to buy, sell or stand pat.
Buying, at least in the win-now sense, has been off the table for a few weeks now, but selling has been a subject of debate yet again, with many wondering if the White Sox will receive offers significant enough to convince them to part ways with centerpiece pitchers Chris Sale and/or Jose Quintana. Deals involving those two would signal that the franchise is ready for a long-term rebuild.
Likewise, smart people like our own Nick Schaefer make convincing arguments for why the White Sox shouldn’t be sellers, and should instead keep all their important pieces around with an eye toward contending in 2017.
I’m not here to argue which direction is more logical, but regardless of whether or not the White Sox intend to contend in 2017 or go with a long-term rebuild, the one thing the White Sox should absolutely cash-in on this weekend is their bullpen.
Since a hot start that had the unit ranking among the best in all of baseball through the first month-plus, the bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster. Injuries to Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka haven’t helped, but David Robertson is having the worst statistical season of his career, Matt Albers turned into a pumpkin and the hodgepodge of characters used to fill in the holes haven’t done the trick.
Investing a significant amount of money or other assets to build a solid bullpen is always a risky proposition, but it’s one good teams can justify. From a baseball perspective, it made sense for the Cubs to trade for Aroldis Chapman as he could prove vital in their quest to win the World Series.
To teams not in contention, a good and/or expensive bullpen is about as useful as (insert pun about useless things here). [Ed. suggestion: “Hope! Hope is useless”]
The White Sox are paying Robertson $11 million this year, and he’s due $25 million more over the next two seasons. Duke is making $5 million this year and another $5.5 million next season.
In baseball terms, these are not egregious sums of money, but given the fungible nature of relievers and the penny-pinching tendencies of White Sox management, they are sums of money best spent elsewhere. Offloading Robertson and Duke would, conceivably, allow the White Sox to go in the offseason with additional money they can use to improve the club elsewhere while also acquiring young players to help revitalize the farm system.
OR, given the fact that teams may be hesitant to acquire Robertson and the $25 million-plus owed to him, they could eat some of that contract in exchange for an even more highly-regarded prospect or two, something the Sox were not willing to do in 2013 when they ate only $1 million of the ~$25 million owed to Alex Rios in shipping him to Texas for Leury Garcia.
But, you might argue, if they White Sox trade their few good bullpen arms in only a semi-sell off while eyes remain on contention in 2017, how on earth will they be able to contend without anyone worth a damn in the bullpen?
This is a legitimate concern, but, again, relievers are fungible, and the White Sox have a reputation for their keen ability to identify and develop talent in the bullpen. And given their financial limitations, the reward of giving the farm system a jolt and increasing spending flexibility is worth the risk of having to rebuild the bullpen from scratch.
This is not a perfect solution to all the White Sox problems. Maybe a fire sale is worth it, maybe they should stand pat. But, regardless of which direction they go, cashing in on their expensive bullpen arms seems as worthy a venture as any.
Lead photo credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports