The White Sox have done a lot. They acquired seven prospects in two days time at the start of this month, and I don’t think we’ve even written anything about Victor Diaz yet, other than “the White Sox also acquired Victor Diaz.” He’s a 22-year-old reliever who has only reached A-Ball and has some control issues, but he struck out 63 hitters in 60.1 innings last season and what is a team blog’s purpose other than to write 1,000 words about such guys.
But assessing where the Sox stand and how their system will look like moving forward feels empty with the third major piece of their teardown–and countless secondary ones–still lingering and dangling over our heads for nearly a month now. Both Yoan Moncada and Luis Basabe are going to strike out a ton in 2017 and inspire a bunch of misplaced anxiety, and why worry about it now when there are still sweet, sweet trades to be pulled?
Jon Heyman dropped a big notes column this week, but instead of updates about the Sox selling off the best player on their roster for more prospects, he mentioned them as potential buyers amid a strangely stacked first base market. Specifically, he described them as “eying things from a comfortable distance, with the possibility to jump in.” That would seem to line up with the idea as using up a 1B/DH slot on a veteran reclamation project or trade chip rather than just org filler. If the market is crowded and inexpensive enough, this could be a very nice use of financial resources they won’t be using elsewhere.
For any actual Jose Quintana chatter this week we are left to tweets from the USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, which mostly serves to retroactively reaffirm that there was discussion with the Yankees and Pirates. These kind of leaks can often be posturing, and the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, shot down the idea that the Yankees were trying to get a Quintana and David Robertson together.
As bizarre as it is to consider them on the same plane, the Yankees and Pirates, both are cost-conscious, possible contenders who would be more interested in adding a long-term asset like Quintana than a veteran on an expiring contract, and have the prospect depth to make the deal work (this is also true for the Astros). We’ve already discussed the Pirates triumvirate of Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell, and the Yankees could headline a package with some selections of Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier and Jorge Mateo, but we’re entering 2017 with no clear idea of their willingness to do so. Robertson going to a team that already has Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances always seemed kind of unusual, but can serve as a useful reminders that relief help is coveted pretty much anywhere. Perhaps the most important note in here is mentioning the Sox likely eating money in a Robertson deal. Taking on salary in order to increase the strength of the prospect return is absolutely an advantage to rebuilding they should be utilizing, and again, would have been well-served to do in 2013.
Even if it’s just a repeat of last offseason at this point, crossing over into the new year with markets for major trades and free agents still developing is still surreal. But Quintana and Robertson’s exoduses seem way more imminent than some of the more time-limited Sox assets. When the Dodgers re-signed Justin Turner, it erased the obvious interested party for Todd Frazier‘s likely expensive 2017 services (estimated $13.5 million). Without an obvious third base hole on a contender, Frazier is stuck amid a glut of bats, and coming off a down year. Eating some salary on him seems very necessary to facilitating a pre-season move, but the Dodgers’ reported disinterest in losing prospects even on the level of right-hander Walker Buehler in trades probably was prohibitive for a Sox pursuit of massive prospect returns.
Buzz for Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie has been non-existent, not that they are the type who would be breathlessly reported on at this stage. Cabrera was an above-average switch-hitting bat in 2016, although decidedly below-average defensively, and while Lawrie is hardly a Gold Glove candidate at second base, being able to cover there at all with a near-league average bat means neither of these are toxic assets. A third of the league being obvious rebuilders cuts the legs out of the trade market, and half the league being aghast at the idea of absorbing salary is a further hindrance. Bad money is a bigger anathema than bad product these days.
Jose Abreu has not been mentioned anywhere since some initial conversations with the Rockies that took place before their bizarre signing of Ian Desmond, possibly as a first baseman. The Rockies’ actions being completely inscrutable always means the window is open for a deal, but “the crazy people might do anything” is little comfort.
The lack of action on Nate Jones is probably the most confounding element of this bizarre offseason to me. He outperformed Robertson last year significantly, is vastly less expensive and secured long-term on incredibly team-friendly terms, and if the Sox are fencing Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, and considering dealing Quintana, a reliever over 30 with a Tommy John surgery in his history is the last person they should be clinging to during both a rebuild and a boom in the value of relievers.
This increasingly slow market is due to pick up again once the new year gets started and could make all of these concerns foolish, but most of the hope for a swift teardown, where every Sox asset of value would be easily swapped for a prospect bounty have been left behind in Maryland. It’s too soon to bemoan the Sox notoriously aggressive approach to trade negotiations for prospects, but easier to envision a world where it becomes an issue.
Lead Image Credit: Matt Marton // USA Today Sports Images