BP South Side has a house style that involves linking player names to their Baseball Prospectus player pages, and it’s necessary to make all of these links manually, so know that I am definitely not intentionally embellishing this list of still tradable players on the White Sox major league roster.
Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, Nate Jones, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, Brett Lawrie. Zach Putnam is really good but needs to show that he’s healthy and productive again unless the Sox just want to give him away out of the goodness of their heart.
That segues well into a discussion of Abreu. Teams are smart enough to know his ability to hit for average gives him a higher floor for performance than boppers like Mike Napoli, Chris Carter, Pedro Alvarez, or even Mike Trumbo, so there could definitely be a buyer for him, but this is obviously not the peak time for his market given the sag in his performance and a bevy of cheap options. It depends on where Abreu and the Sox fall on the question of whether he’s a great ambassador they would like to have around for the clubhouse and the community, or whether they would like to give him the chance to join a winner and not have to deal with a fractured roster going nowhere. The former seems like a false goal; even if they would like him and Yoan Moncada to play together, a 30-year-old Abreu is unlikely to fit on their timeline. Having a conversation with Abreu about his wishes would be good way of determining how to go forward.
Frazier, Lawrie and Cabrera are more obviously do not fit on the Sox contention timeline, since they are all free agents after 2017. The Dodgers are a fun catch-all for proposed trades, because they have a mix of top-end to mid-tier prospects and sort of need everything the Sox have. They are currently empty at third base, second base, and probably would accept a full new bullpen if it was feasible. That makes them an easy landing spot for Frazier and Lawrie, but that dries up if the Dodgers re-sign Justin Turner (highly possible), or trade for Brian Dozier (possibly but unlikely).
After that, options get iffy for either of them, because they cannot offer much more than league average (Even BP’s power-favoring True Average metric had Frazier at a slightly above-average .266 last year). They represent solid options if you’re a team like the 2016 White Sox, who would have a sinkhole otherwise. But the Giants have Eduardo Nunez, and as laughable as that seems he wasn’t significantly worse than Frazier other than his inability to stay on the field. The Cardinals could certainly use another corner infield bat to save from having to rely on bouncebacks from Jhonny Peralta or Kolten Wong, but could just easily slide Jedd Gyorko to third and not sweat it. The Red Sox have Pablo Sandoval, who is probably toast, but well-paid enough to get a shot, though Frazier could provide insurance and a right-handed complement to Mitch Moreland at first. Contending teams rarely regret having an extra competent power bat on hand, or someone who can cover multiple infield positions like Lawrie–who could also save the Diamondbacks from relying on Chris Owings–but sometimes have to reach a midseason point of desperation to pay for it.
Similarly, Cabrera is a switch-hitter who posted a .270 TAv last year, but his derided defense makes him an uncompelling full-season option, and lacks upside at 32, which might explain why the Diamondbacks–who are in a weird spot given their win-now pieces and new management–might go forward with Brandon Drury and Yasmany Tomas, and why the Blue Jays might give a chance for Melvin Upton and Ezequiel Carrera, not to mention that they have to figure out what they are doing with Jose Bautista first.
There are less murky futures for the rest. Quintana’s price is enormous, and there’s some perception that talks with the Astros are at some sort of standstill, and maybe Chris Archer‘s higher ceiling could be tempting, and maybe Danny Duffy could be a less costly option. But the free agent market is truly abysmal. The best free agent pitcher available is 34-years-old and got left off his old team’s playoff roster. There is no one with anything beyond No. 3 starter upside on the market, and 33-year-old Edinson Volquez, coming off an awful season, just got two years, $22 million. There are too few meaningful avenues for upgrading starting pitching for no one to match Quintana’s price.
One step down is the delirium of the relief market, where elite options like Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are fetching over five years of commitment and possibly $16 million annually. Robertson already has come up in rumors and clearly has a market, but Jones, coming off a dominant season and under contract for as many as four more years for as little as $17 million, is an asset that could pull as high as a top-50 prospect.
Pitching demand is insane and the White Sox are as rich in it as usual, but all the Sox hitters are rental hitters fringy and will need to be shopped aggressively if much value is going to be wrung out of them. That should be unsurprising, because if they weren’t fringy, the team wouldn’t be rebuilding. The Sox are a Quintana package away from having the best farm system in the sport, and have already had to hawk a generational talent for prospects, so try not to get wrapped up in whether they recoup value from Cabrera, Frazier and Lawrie deals that pursued a short-term reward that never came.
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