The White Sox have entered “listening” mode following a series loss to the Royals this weekend, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The Sox, however, will not tear down their club simply because of a poor 2015 season and will not trade Chris Sale, he hears. Chicago views 2015 as the first of a potential three-year window and, as such, is not likely to trade long-term assets. Jeff Samardzija is the most likely candidate to go due to his status as the team’s most notable free agent, according to Rosenthal.
Samardzija, 30, was acquired from the A’s this winter in exchange for Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley, Chris Bassitt and Rangel Ravelo. He’s earning $9.8MM this season — of which about $4.12MM is still owed to him — and will be a free agent following the 2015 campaign.
The Sox acquired Samardzija with the hope that he’d be a co-ace atop their rotation alongside Sale, but the bottom line results have been something less than that. Through 132 1/3 innings this year, Samardzija has a 4.08 ERA with 7.1 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and a 40.2 percent ground-ball rate. Certainly, he hasn’t been helped at all by the Chicago defense, which ranks as one of the worst in Major League Baseball, but that’s not the sole reason for his decline, either. Samardzija’s strikeout rate is easily the lowest of his career since becoming a full-time starter, and his ground-ball rate is a career-low as well. The reasoning behind the drop in strikeouts, though, might not be as clear as one would imagine. Samardzija’s velocity has not significantly declined, nor has his swinging-strike rate, and he’s getting ahead of hitters with a first-pitch strike at nearly a 65 percent clip.
Rosenthal also notes that it’s possible for the White Sox to add some pieces. He doesn’t specify the nature of the types of players they’d add, but presumably, given the mention of a three-year window, they’d be interested in acquiring players that can help them as soon as 2016-17. That could mean they’d look at doing something similar to the Red Sox’ 2014 approach of trading Jon Lester for Yoenis Cespedes. It could also mean that the Sox would prioritize MLB-ready assets over a higher-upside prospect that is further away from the Majors.
The White Sox do have a number of long-term pieces in place. The Sox control Sale, Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia through the 2019 season, while Jose Quintana can be controlled through 2020, while Adam Eaton and Carlos Rodon can be controlled through 2021.
Looking around the rest of their roster, a few more incremental moves could potentially be made. Gordon Beckham, Emilio Bonifacio and Geovany Soto are all on one-year deals, and Alexei Ramirez’s option is almost certain to be declined at the end of the year. Adam LaRoche is under contract for 2016, though I’d imagine they’re at least open to moving the remainder of his contract following his diminished production in 2015.