MLB: Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs

South Side Morning 5: Melky Traded, Walk-Off Victory

1.  The biggest news from the weekend came on Sunday when Melky Cabrera was traded to the Kansas City Royals for a pair of minor league pitchers, A.J. Puckett and Andre Davis. Just last week, Collin and I had discussed on the podcast how well Melky would fit on the Royals as they have feasted on the White Sox and Tigers en route to winning 10 of their last 11 games and vaulting back into playoff contention.

Melky looks to take at bats away from Alex Gordon (.202/.296/.303) and Brandon Moss (.210/.289/.410), which means a pretty clear upgrade at both spots.  The Royals and White Sox will essentially split the $5.2 million he is owed for the remainder of 2017 before he becomes a free agent this winter.

As might be anticipated given Edwin Encarnacion’s surprisingly tepid free agency this past offseason, and the underwhelming price for J.D. Martinez, the White Sox’ return for the veteran left fielder was modest.  Still, there is plenty to like about the arms coming to Chicago in the deal given the circumstances wherein it wasn’t clear what the demand would be for Melky’s services, if any.  Puckett is a 6’4” RHP who was drafted in the second round out of Pepperdine in 2016.  He’s a low ceiling guy, in that he sits in the low 90s, topping out at 94, with his best offspeed pitch being a change up.  Whether he is a starter or a reliever seems to hinge upon if he can get his curveball up to major league caliber to go with his first two offerings.  You can find a more detailed write-up on Puckett here.

Davis is almost 24-years-old and is only pitching okay in Low-A at the moment, however, he is 6’6” and left-handed—although he doesn’t throw much harder than 92—and perhaps he’s a project the White Sox think might turn into a reliever down the road.

It’s hard to imagine the White Sox have much left to trade unless they feel like parting with Jose Abreu, which seems extremely unlikely. Maybe someone is encouraged by a healthy-looking Jake Petricka, given that every decent reliever seems valuable at this stage?

2.  Talking about the on-the-field impact of the Melky Cabrera trade seems to be missing the point. Although it makes sense for the organization—and gives Melky a chance to make the playoffs—I would be remiss if I didn’t stop to highlight what a joy Cabrera has been to watch in his almost-three-years with the White Sox.  His personality absolutely shone through in his playing style, as his sense of humor was palpable in the way he played the outfield, ran the bases, and interacted with his teammates.  By all accounts, Cabrera was popular in the clubhouse as well, and his presence will be missed.

3.  The Cabrera trade freed up space for the return of Leury Garcia, who wound up missing six weeks for a finger injury that initially seemed minor. Garcia wasted little time resuming his startlingly good, breakout 2017 campaign, as he broke up what was then a no-hitter and shut out in the sixth inning by ripping a home run to right-center.  The diminutive, speedy switch-hitter who can play both shortstop and center field raised his line to .297/.343/.470, and the remainder of the season should provide plenty of opportunities for the White Sox to figure out just what kind of player he will be moving forward.

4.  Carlos Rodon dominated on Sunday, with a performance that statistically outshone his opus in Oakland, but wasn’t quite as visually impressive. Regardless, Rodon only walked two and threw first pitch strikes in over 60% of the batters he faced, which was a point of emphasis of Don Cooper’s dating back to last year. Given Rodon’s arsenal, particularly his wipeout slider, getting ahead of hitters is absolutely crucial.  Rodon is so important to the future of the organization and his performance moving forward is another aspect of the team that bears watching as the White Sox play out the string.

5.  Sunday’s 3-1 walk-off win against Cleveland was a delight to watch on a beautiful summer afternoon, as was seeing the joyous celebration of Matt Davidson, Jose Abreu et al. as Davidson came to home following his ferocious 2-run homer in the bottom of the ninth. Some White Sox fans complained that this would cost the team the number one overall pick.  I have already addressed this issue at length as has Patrick Nolan of South Side Sox.

But even after Sunday’s game—where despite the loss of Melky Cabrera, a several young players performed admirably and the team pulled out a nail biter against one of the best teams in the league—White Sox fans were upset that they had won.

It was the White Sox second win in their last fifteen games.  During that same time they have traded away seven of their best major league players.  They are now jockeying with the Phillies and Giants for the number one pick. They are going to pick in the top five and are steadily gaining on number one.  Rodon and Leury Garcia performing well means a lot more to the future of this organization than win number forty hurts it.

Lead Image Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports.

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