The White Sox have finally made a trade–per the White Sox’ official Twitter account, Zach Duke has been traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for 23-year-old AAA outfielder Charlie Tilson. After somewhat disappointing 2015, Duke has had a nice bounce back year and has been roughly what was hoped for when he was initially signed to a 3-year deal, although his platoon splits have grown significantly this year.
Tilson is a Chicago-area kid who was drafted out of New Trier High School in Winnetka by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2011 draft. Tilson is of the “super fast 4th outfielder” phylum of player. He can legitimately play good defense in center field, although evidently his throwing arm is underwhelming, and he steals plenty of bases. But, he’s also posting a .750 OPS in the hitter-paradise PCL.
To put it lightly, the White Sox have struggled to produce solid depth options internally for a long time now. To that end, Tilson does offer useful, legitimate major league skills–defense at a premium position and speed–which is more than I can say for a lot of players the White Sox have employed in recent memory.
Some public evaluators praise Tilson’s ability to make contact and draw walks, which are certainly the most important things you can do with his skill set. So there is also a non-zero chance that his bat plays enough where he can replicate the contributions that, say, Austin Jackson was making.
While it has been clear that the White Sox would not be buyers to compete for 2016 for weeks now, this move still doesn’t necessarily shed any light on the grand direction of the team. Duke is one of the players I suggested could be flipped without compromising the ability to compete in 2017. But, trading away veteran relievers is also consistent with a total teardown. Thus this trade doesn’t really move the needle in revealing the organization’s larger plans.
Rather, it was a sensible decision to trade Duke away under either framework. A modest piece was traded for a modest return, who may be a bench contributor as soon as next year. It also frees up $5.5 million for 2017, which would normally be an amount that isn’t worth taking into consideration, but then again, that’s more than the White Sox spent on any free agents last offseason.
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