During the 2016 season there were many who begged for the White Sox to start their rebuilding process and trade their most valuable chip in ace Chris Sale. However, instead of trading Sale in-season the Sox opted to wait, opening up the bidding to everyone this offseason and not just those in contention. Seeing the Braves as the team in the hottest pursuit of Sale is the perfect example of why it was beneficial for the Sox to wait until the offseason to entertain offers. However, are the Sox seriously considering trading Sale? Quotes from Rick Hahn, suggest otherwise:
“You can’t say you’re going to trade Player X before we do anything else because it might not be the right time to get proper value on a given player,” Hahn said. “We’re in a position right now where we have a few players who are under control only for another year, so there’s a bit of a clock on them. Guys who are controllable longer than that, there’s not necessarily any urgency to make a move until you feel like you have peaked out on value and it makes the most sense for the long-term benefit of the club.”
“It’s a matter of taking this premium core and being able to fill in around them both at the big-league level as well as from a depth standpoint,” Hahn said. “How much does that cost? How available is such talent either via trade or free agency? Or, (are we) taking a step back and using that premium talent to build a more balanced and sustainable, successful roster?”
Everything Hahn says here is well thought out and makes sense from an organizational standpoint. The only problem is that this is the White Sox organization we’re talking about. While Hahn sounds like he would potentially be interested in trading Sale, those quotes sound more like a GM who is searching for a way to continue to be competitive with this current roster, which is the exact strategy that has put the Sox in this vicious cycle of being “mired in mediocracy” as Hahn so eloquently put it over the summer.
At the same time, credit is due to the White Sox for shopping their players with just one year left on their contract such as Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie. The problem is that I am skeptical that the White Sox will be happy enough with the offers they receive for those players. Lawrie and Cabrera have both averaged just over one win above replacement over the past three years, and although Frazier has one of the better power bats in the league, his below average defense and contact skills brought his WAR down to just 2.4 fWAR in 2016 despite hitting 40 long balls.
Unless the Sox go the route of a total rebuild, it really doesn’t make sense to trade players such as Cabrera and Lawrie, or even Frazier for that matter this offseason. The return on Cabrera and Lawrie at this point is going to be so low that it makes more sense to start the season with them and hope to be competitive. If the team falls out of contention, the hope would then be that Lawrie capitalizes on his potential and that Cabrera continues to show a steady veteran presence. For a team looking for an extra bat at the deadline, the White Sox are likely to get just as good if not a better return than if they were to trade either player this offseason.
If only Rick Hahn would simply blow it up and start fresh. Trade Jose Abreu, Sale, Quintana and everyone else not named Tim Anderson. This team needs a total reboot and to build around their budding star shortstop of the future. The last thing the White Sox need is to think of their best players as “this premium core” as Hahn put it. The years are running out on these contracts, which means their value on the open market is diminishing. If Rick Hahn wants to make his mark on this team he will tear it down and build it back from the ground up. I’ll believe it when I see it.