MAY 23: On the heels of last week’s comments about exploring the trade market early this season, Hahn said in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM that his team has “had a lot of discussions” as he looks to strengthen the White Sox’ playoff hopes (links to Twitter). “You’re so much better served getting that guy in early June than late July,” said Hahn, adding that his team “could always use additional pitching” and “could probably use another left-handed hitter to balance the lineup.” Hoping to make a trade and actually striking an agreement, however, are two different stories, and Hahn implied that at this point, there appears to be a lack of motivated sellers: “…but unless we can find a dance partner, then nothing will come to fruition.”
It’s not surprising that few clubs are anxious to sell of pieces just yet. As things stand, all but a few teams around the league are within reasonable striking distance of a Wild Card spot, if not a division lead. And, for the few teams that look like they’ll be definitive sellers in two months’ time, there’s some merit to the idea of hanging onto their top chips for the time being, until there’s a greater market of buyers, which could drive up the price or at least present a wider array of young talent from which to choose.
MAY 19: The White Sox are ready to make a significant upgrade this summer if the opportunity presents itself, writes Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago. Sox GM Rick Hahn appeared on WSCR’s “Inside the Clubhouse” show earlier this week, Levine notes, and expressed an aggressive approach toward improving his roster. “We are prepared to make a big move today if it presents itself,” said Hahn. “Our timing may not line up with the other 29 clubs just yet. It is a little early in the process. A lot of clubs don’t make those moves until June or July. We are having conversations right now hoping it comes together more quickly than that.” Hahn did acknowledge that it may take another three to four weeks before clubs begin warming to the idea of moving players.
Levine writes that the Sox will be looking to upgrade the fourth and fifth spots in their rotation, behind lefties Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon. Having already designated John Danks for assignment and having seen Mat Latos struggle to a 7.84 ERA over his four most recent starts, it’s not exactly a surprise to hear the Sox connected to pitching upgrades. While there may be some optimism that Latos can right the ship to some extent, his strong start — 0.74 ERA through his first 24 1/3 innings — was largely fueled by a .167 BABIP, and his continually declining strikeout rate and velocity don’t paint an optimistic picture moving forward.
The Sox have some internal options to cycle through for the time being, including right-handers Miguel Gonzalez, Erik Johnson, Anthony Ranaudo, Chris Beck and Scott Carroll. However, Beck is entirely untested at the big league level, and the others have not enjoyed much in the way of recent success. Last year’s first-round pick, Carson Fulmer, has been a source of hope for some Sox fans, but he got off to a rough start to the season at Double-A Birmingham, and while his ERA has improved of late, Fulmer has also walked 13 batters in his past nine innings (two starts), making it something of a stretch to anticipate that he’d be equipped to step into the Major League rotation anytime soon.
While the back of the rotation is a clear area of current need, Levine suggests that it should at least be considered that the Sox would look to upgrade the back of their bullpen as well, despite a strong performance from the current relief corps. Levine lists James Shields, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman as possible targets, though it’s not entirely clear how much of their inclusion is speculative in nature. The Yankees, after all, haven’t made a habit of selling off veteran pieces in the past and, for all their struggles, are within a reasonable distance of the division lead (7.5 games) and a Wild Card spot (4 games). If anything, I’d imagine they fall firmly into the mix of clubs that’ll be waiting (at least) four weeks or so before making any kind of decision as to their direction on the summer trade market. As for Shields, he’s a difficult trade target to assess; his 3.12 ERA looks impressive, but his secondary stats don’t support that mark, and the $44MM remaining on his contract after this season, if he does not exercise his upcoming opt-out clause, is a lot to stomach for an 34-year-old pitcher that has not looked as sharp in San Diego as he did in Kansas City.