4:34pm: GM Rick Hahn acknowledged that his club will not be pursuing short-term upgrades to the MLB roster, as Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago was among those to tweet. He added that the Sox will be willing to consider all other transactions.
Those comments don’t squarely paint Chicago as a seller, but certainly lean as strongly in that direction as might be expected in a public statement. Hahn bemoaned the fact that, as he put it, the team is “mired in mediocrity,” so it certainly appears that the organization is ready to shake things up.
1:20pm: The White Sox appear to have reversed course in the midst of a significant slump, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the club is now open to selling off veteran pieces this summer (Twitter link). The Sox intend to keep their rotation intact — taking Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and presumably Carson Fulmer and Carlos Rodon off the table, much to the chagrin of interested parties — and are intent on holding onto top shortstop prospect Tim Anderson as well. Other than that, however, Nightengale suggests that the rest of the roster is “in play.”
Optimistic fans will likely take the report and try to come up with ways in which the potentially selling Sox could be overwhelmed to part with Sale or Quintana, but FOX’s Ken Rosenthal emphasizes (via Twitter) that Sale won’t be moved, reporting that an unnamed team is said to have offered Chicago a “king’s ransom” for its ace within the past 48 hours, only to be met with a flat “no.” Another rival executive tells Rosenthal that teams have been asking for Quintana in trades for years, and the Sox have steadfastly refused (Twitter link).
Nightengale’s report is fairly surprising in that it suggests that Sox will at least entertain the notion of trading outfielder Adam Eaton, who has become one of baseball’s biggest bargains thanks to his elite all-around play and affordable contract. (I’d have pegged him to be among the “untouchable” group.) Eaton is hitting .271/.353/.393 with five homers, 11 steals and exceptional defense in right field, and he’s guaranteed just $21MM through the 2019 season (plus two options valued at $9.5MM and $10.5MM for the 2020 and 2021 campaigns). FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported earlier this morning that the Sox have already been receiving calls on Eaton, although I have to imagine that the asking price on him would be exorbitant.
Slugging first baseman Jose Abreu, too, would be a consideration under such criteria. He’s had a bit of a down season overall, slashing .266/.323/.423 but has turned things around at the plate dating back to June 1 (.299/.349/.478). He’s owed $38.04MM through the end of the 2019 season, including the remainder of this year’s salary, though his contract allows him to opt into arbitration following the 2016 season if he wishes.
Heyman also reported this morning that closer David Robertson is receiving quite a bit of attention on the trade market as clubs look to acquire impact relievers. While Robertson’s 4.03 ERA on this season is a departure from his normal excellence, he’s been clobbered for 10 of his 17 earned runs in just two of his 37 appearances this season but has been largely effective outside of those hiccups. He’s owed $29.45MM through the end of the 2018 season and is still averaging 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings, though he’s also averaging 4.9 walks in that same stretch as well. Both Nate Jones and Dan Jennings are having strong seasons and come with three-plus years affordable control (Jones via a three-year, $8MM extension with a pair of club options and Jennings via arbitration). Jones’ strong season and considerable control could make him tough to surrender, though.
Beyond those long-term assets, the South Siders have several other short-term and mid-term assets that are controllable through the end of the 2017 campaign as well as a few rentals. Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera and Zach Duke are each free agents at the end of the 2017 season, while Dioner Navarro, Alex Avila and Justin Morneau are free agents following the current season. Frazier is tied for the Major League lead with 28 homers and is due an arbitration raise on his $8.25MM salary, while Lawrie has been about league-average at the plate and will get a bump from his $4.125MM salary. Cabrera has quietly been quite solid at the plate dating back to June 1 of last season, hitting .294/.338/.456 with 20 homers in 827 plate appearances, but the remaining $20.66MM on his deal is fairly steep. Duke is owed about $7.52MM from now through the end of his own contract and has logged a 2.97 ERA with 10.5 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 58.1 percent ground-ball rate this year.
The change in course is a fairly surprising turn of events for a White Sox team that just last month proactively sprung to add James Shields in a trade with the Padres (Shields has righted the ship after a pair of early implosions with Chicago) and also added Justin Morneau while shedding Jimmy Rollins to open shortstop for Anderson. That series of win-now moves hasn’t changed the club’s fortunes, though, leading to a potentially uncharacteristic sell-off from a Sox club that is typically loath to do so. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf has long been said to be against such sales, and indeed, the Sox chose to hold onto the majority of their pieces last summer in spite of an opportunity to ship out veteran pieces, most notably Jeff Samardzija.
It remains, of course, far from clear that the Sox will clean house in any way. The very fact that they’re insistent in holding onto Sale, Quintana, etc. suggests they intend to aim for better results as soon as the 2017 season. As such, major dealings shouldn’t necessarily be the expectation, but the very fact that the Sox are open to the idea represents a rather significant philosophical change from where the team stood four to six weeks ago.