I have made myself clear on what I think the White Sox should be doing to the point where people are probably sick of hearing it. Briefly, my opinion is that they don’t have that many holes, but rather, the holes they have are just really, really bad ones. Therefore, it should be easy to make significant improvements and cheaply–if you accept that they’re somehow broke–and you can make one more run at it in 2017. If they fail, the Sox can still sell pretty much as well as you can now — you’ll still have 2-2.5 years left of Chris Sale, depending on when you get eliminated, 3-3.5 of Jose Quintana, etc.
But everything we’re hearing indicates the White Sox do not agree with me. I’d question myself more as a result of that if this regime had come out ahead of me more often in my past criticisms, but let’s just take their plan for what it is. From what we know, they are dead set on trading away Sale.
However, even accepting that they seem to have adopted a plan I disagree with, they are also executing it badly. One of the “nice” things about shopping Sale had been that they didn’t have to trade him if they didn’t feel like it. This isn’t a situation where Sale is coming up on the very end of his deal and everyone knows they can’t re-sign him. Trade partners can hold sellers like that over a barrel because they know they’re going to have to sell to someone. Sale has three very affordable years left on his contract. In that situation, the Sox can talk with other teams and say, “If you don’t meet our demands we’re perfectly happy keeping him.”
Unsurprisingly, though, the White Sox have somehow put themselves over a barrel instead. If the information we’re receiving is correct, the front office intends to do everything it can to trade Sale away before doing anything else. That means they’re committed to selling, and when someone has to sell something they lose power in negotiations. So, if they stick to what I perceive to be the plan and someone doesn’t meet their price, that means one of two things:
1) The White Sox have to lower their price, which is really bad; or
2) They realize nobody will meet their price, at which point all of the pieces that could have helped them are scooped up and they enter 2017 with the same roster they abandoned and declared dead in the middle of 2016 that everybody is so sick of that they want to trade away Chris Sale.
They still don’t absolutely have to trade him this offseason. Getting less than maximum value for a chip like this is a career-defining thing and not in a good way, but if the 2017 opens with the team once again not having sold or bought in any meaningful way for the umpteenth time…well, I wouldn’t envy the marketing team in that scenario.
We’ve seen from Zach Duke that the problem isn’t necessarily getting mid-tier free agents to solve problems. The problem is when you do it badly. When you do it right, you get a player who is useful and if you fall out of contention you can trade them for future value, turning your fungible cash investment into talent that helps in the short term and can be converted into talent that helps in the long term as a fallback.
That’s why I think even if you decide to trade Sale you should probably be buying some things. Sure, if the first day of the winter meetings an opposing GM approaches Rick Hahn and offers him an absolute embarrassment of riches for Sale then this point is moot–and perhaps everything has just been on hold for mostly everyone while the CBA was resolved, although we’ve seen some pretty big moves already–but if that doesn’t look likely, you need to shore up your leverage.
Acquire a stopgap piece for center field and maybe a platoon DH that can be flipped at the deadline. Add a competent defensive catcher to help your young pitchers out. Sign a few relievers–especially a lefty–you think Don Cooper can fix up. We saw Cleveland succeed doing just that last year, and even if it doesn’t work, you’re no worse off. And, if the Sox wait too long, all those options will be gone and they will truly be left selling Sale for pennies on the dollar.
James is not wrong in his excellent analogy found at the end of this piece. They are dangling an incredibly enticing piece to a whole lot of teams and they’re waiting for one to snap and bite hard. The problem is that even when they try to do something different, they do the same thing, because these are the same people making the same decisions. This has been the White Sox’ M.O. for almost a decade now: a highly questionable Plan A that is largely contingent on hope more than anything else, and no Plan B. We’ve seen how it’s worked out so far, so please forgive me if I don’t expect it to work out this time either.
Lead Image Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski // USA Today Sports Images