The White Sox are potentially lined up to be sellers at the deadline, though exactly how much they commit to that task remains to be seen. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that, as of right now, they might only be willing to move impending free agents. Those plans could always change as discussions take place, but it’s a noteworthy stance at the moment. The trade deadline is August 1.
At this point, it’s not even necessarily a lock that the White Sox will be sellers at all. Despite their poor 30-40 record, they are only 5.5 games back of the Twins in the weak American League Central division. But the Wild Card race is much stronger, putting them 9.5 games out of a spot there.
A hot streak could get them right back in the divisional race but those have been hard to come by this season and the front office needs to at least consider the possibility that they stay on the outside looking in. Like all clubs, the players on the roster have varied contractual situations that affect the trade calculus. It seems that the club is currently leaning towards trading players on expiring contracts but keeping players with more control in order to take another shot at contending next year.
Even by limiting themselves to a softer sell, they would still have plenty of players to discuss in trade talks. Lucas Giolito, Mike Clevinger, Yasmani Grandal, Elvis Andrus, Reynaldo López and Keynan Middleton are all set to reach free agency this winter and would be the club’s best trade chips. Clevinger’s deal has a mutual option for 2024 but those are rarely picked up by both parties.
Giolito would be one of the top names on the market this summer if he were available, having established himself as a reliable and effective starter in recent years. In each season from 2019 to 2021, he had an ERA between 3.41 and 3.53. That figure jumped to 4.90 last year, but that coincided with his batting average on balls in play jumping to .340, well above any of his previous seasons. This year, he’s dropped his ERA right back down to his norm as he’s at 3.54 through 14 starts.
Now 28 years old, Giolito has gone year-to-year in arbitration. He’s now in his third and final arb year, making $10.4MM. By the time the deadline rolls around, there will be roughly $3.5MM left to be paid out.
Just about every contender will be looking to bolster their rotation for the final months of the season and the playoffs, which should give Giolito widespread interest. Even teams on the lower end of the spending spectrum could fit that salary figure onto their books, meaning few clubs would be eliminated from the list of logical suitors. That makes Giolito the White Sox’ best chance at recouping some future value from what could end up being a disappointing season.
Some of those other names may have some appeal as well. Clevinger has a 3.88 ERA but with subpar peripherals, striking out 19.3% of opponents while walking 9.5%. A .275 batting average on balls in play and 81.2% strand rate are helping him out, with his 4.89 FIP and 5.07 SIERA less optimistic. He’s making a salary of $8MM this year but has a $4MM buyout on his mutual option. He has a bit of an uncertain health outlook at the moment, as he was removed from his most recent start due to biceps soreness. It seems there’s no structural damage, per Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times, but he might still land on the injured list.
Grandal struggled last year but is having a decent bounce back, hitting .271/.330/.410 so far this year for a wRC+ of 106. Trading catchers at midseason can be tricky since they would then have to learn an entirely new pitching staff on the fly. However, Grandal is 34 years old and hits well enough that it could make sense for him to factor into a club’s designated hitter mix, especially since he’s a switch-hitter. The final year of his four-year deal pays him $18.25MM annually.
Andrus is also an impending free agent but his interest will surely be muted as he’s hitting .196/.277/.247 this year. López has a 5.10 ERA but his 28.3% strikeout rate will surely lead to some intrigue. Middleton’s 1.93 ERA is buoyed by an unsustainable 96.3% strand rate but he is striking out 31.9% of opponents and getting grounders at a 54.5% clip. All three of these players are making modest salaries of less than $4MM this year.
There are also a couple of borderline cases who could be considered rentals. The Sox have an $18MM option on Lance Lynn for next year with a $1MM buyout. His 6.75 ERA this year makes it less likely that gets picked up but it also diminishes his trade appeal. Joe Kelly is in a somewhat similar situation as he can be kept around for 2024 via a $9.5MM club option with a $1MM buyout. He has a 4.57 ERA but strong peripherals and a 53.7% strand rate, leading to a 2.86 FIP and 2.80 SIERA.
The club also has a $15MM option on Liam Hendriks, though with a $15MM buyout. The only difference is that triggering the buyout would allow them to spread the payment out over 10 years instead of just in 2024. He’s been floated as a trade candidate this summer but he’s currently on the injured list due to inflammation in his pitching elbow. Given the injury, the PR hit of trading him away after his feel-good return from cancer and that buyout, it seems likely that he’s with the Sox again next year.
If the Sox ultimately stick to their plan of only trading rentals, that would mean that other speculative trade candidates are off the table. Many observers have wondered if the club would consider moving shortstop Tim Anderson, who can be retained for 2024 via a $14MM club option with a $1MM buyout. Trading him now would be a difficult decision because it would hurt the club’s chances of returning to contention in 2024 and the return would surely be diminished since he’s hitting just .251/.290/.296 this year. Instead of trading him when his value is at a low ebb, there would be sense in the club hanging onto him and hoping for a return to form next year.
Dylan Cease has also been suggested as a trade candidate but that would require the club to really commit to a lengthier rebuild. He still has two more passes through arbitration to go and isn’t slated for free agency until after 2025. His ERA has almost doubled from last year’s 2.20 to this year’s 4.31 figure, but he’s still getting strikeouts at an above-average 26.2% rate. They would surely get a huge haul for him if they decided to move him, but it doesn’t seem as though that’s on the table right now.