Rebuilding is not just selling off present pieces for future ones, although obviously when you’re trading cornerstone players like Chris Sale and Adam Eaton it is absolutely crucial to make sure you get the best return you can. And yes, that makes the major league team worse, so your draft position goes up. But there are other ways not trying to win in the immediate term allows you to add talent.
Reclamation projects and high risk prospects are no longer risky and desperate attempts to patch up holes on a would-be contender. Instead, they’re low cost fixer-upper investments that may be flipped in baseball’s version of a buy-low-sell-high. James already detailed many of these players while looking at candidates for the bullpen.
Dylan Covey is perhaps my favorite example from that piece of this effect, given that as a Rule 5 pick he must be kept on the major league roster all year. For most teams, you know, normal ones who need to win every single game, if a Rule 5 pick is terrible then you are likely to lose him, because you can’t afford to let him keep damaging your playoff hopes if he fails. But the 2017 White Sox are not the White Sox teams of recent vintage–extras in a disaster movie desperately clinging to a cliff with every ounce of their strength before falling to their deaths, while stronger, better looking heroes and heroines gallop off to safety and box office success.
Those weak, nameless cautionary tales are gone. Instead, the 2017 White Sox will be Brad Pitt deliberately and gleefully getting his face pummeled into the concrete in “Fight Club,” shrieking his victory with every haymaker to the nose. They are Viking warriors of old who seek a glorious death in battle.
So while there is still hope that Covey reaches his potential with health, work with Don Cooper, and regular innings, the White Sox can afford to let him take his lumps. If it’s July 1st and Covey’s ERA is 5.50? We fear not death. Let it ride. And besides, someone needs to pitch those innings, especially if Jose Quintana or even Miguel Gonzalez get traded.
Every year there are players who get scooped off the scrap heap and reclaim former lost promise, or finally get healthy. Jonathan Villar posted a .291 TAv while playing serviceable shortstop all for the price of Cy Sneed because Houston felt they didn’t have room for him. The Rays salvaged an above-average major leaguer out of Logan Forsythe. Robbie Grossman is a butcher in the field, but Minnesota’s 103-loss team was the perfect place to find out that he has a solid enough bat. The Twins have way too many guys at DH to need Grossman, but if he’s still getting on base at a .386 clip at the deadline next year someone is going to want him, and Minnesota will recoup something for their investment of…the league minimum salary they gave Grossman in free agency.
There’s going to be a lot of bad baseball ahead. Lots and lots and lots, as a greater percentage of the roster gets made up of the types of players that killed their past “contenders.” But there is a freedom in not caring whether you win or lose, because you can afford to take risks that other teams can’t–or won’t.
Lead Image Credit: Benny Sieu // USA Today Sports Images