The White Sox could be one of the most interesting sellers of this year’s deadline. Chicago lost their last two heading into the All-Star Break and sit 16 games under .500 at 38-54. They’ve fallen eight games back of Cleveland in the AL Central, in which they now occupy fourth place.
Chicago has a number of players who are relatively close to free agency whom they could market in trade. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports the Sox are prepared to seriously consider offers on all but four players: center fielder Luis Robert Jr., ace Dylan Cease, first baseman Andrew Vaughn and left fielder Eloy Jiménez. Heyman suggests that while no one on the roster might be categorically untouchable, Chicago’s “clear intention” is to retain those four players.
Last month, Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic wrote that Chicago was telling rival clubs they were focused on retaining players under control beyond this season. Genuinely considering offers on everyone aside from Cease, Robert, Vaughn and Jiménez would represent a change in direction, although the Sox would still resist moving any of their most valuable long-term assets.
Chicago has a number of likely impending free agents who are apparent trade candidates. Starter Lucas Giolito and relievers Keynan Middleton and Reynaldo López are pure rentals; all three appeared among MLBTR’s top 20 trade candidates last week. So did starter Lance Lynn, whose contract contains an $18MM team option that appears likely to be bought out for $1MM. Reliever Joe Kelly, controllable for next season via $9.5MM club option ($1MM buyout), also ranked highly on that list.
The Sox have a few more players with relatively pricy 2024 options. Closer Liam Hendriks has a $15MM option that comes with a matching buyout figure. That seems likely to be exercised, as buying Hendriks out would only allow the Sox to defer that payment over a 10-year span. Tim Anderson’s deal contains a $14MM team option or a $1MM buyout. Anderson is having a terrible season (.223/.259/.263 over 290 plate appearances) that could at least force the organization to reconsider an option that looked like an easy call a few months ago. The Mike Clevinger deal contains a $12MM mutual provision which the club will probably buy out for $4MM.
Yasmani Grandal and Elvis Andrus are the other impending free agents on the roster. Grandal is hitting at a decent .251/.317/.374 clip, but trades of catchers midseason are fairly rare and he’s making an $18.25MM salary that’d be difficult to move. Andrus isn’t producing, hitting .208/.286/.266.
The White Sox considering offers on anyone in that group isn’t too surprising. The majority are unlikely to be on the South Side beyond this season. It’d be an inopportune time to deal Anderson or Hendriks (currently on the injured list with elbow inflammation), although the front office could look into it if they’re contemplating declining next year’s option on either player.
Giolito, in particular, seems all but assured to change uniforms. MLBTR’s #1 trade candidate has tossed 112 1/3 innings of 3.45 ERA ball across 19 starts. He’s striking out over a quarter of opponents and looks the part of a durable #2/3 starter on a playoff team. He’s on track for a nine-figure contract that’d be larger than any in White Sox’s franchise history. Chicago should get more in trade this summer than the value of the draft choice they’d receive if they allow him to depart in free agency after declining a qualifying offer.
Heyman suggests the Reds and Rangers could check in Giolito. Cincinnati GM Nick Krall has gone on record about a desire to add pitching. The NL Central-leading club is very likely to upgrade a starting staff that’s presently without Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo. Texas has gotten strong results out of their rotation but could look to add depth as they try to maintain a two-game lead in the AL West. They’ve reportedly checked in on Lynn as well, though Giolito would be the more impactful and costlier (in terms of prospect capital) addition.
One controllable player whom the Sox seem at least somewhat willing to consider moving: starter Michael Kopech. Heyman writes the Sox would be more amenable to relinquishing Kopech than anyone from the Robert, Cease, Vaughn, Jiménez group.
While the 6’3″ right-hander is only in his second full season as a big league starter, he’s not all that far off free agency. Kopech will soon surpass four years of MLB service and is eligible for arbitration through the 2025 campaign — the same control window as Cease. He’s playing this season on a $2.05MM salary.
Kopech landed on the 15-day injured list last week with inflammation in his throwing shoulder. He’s generally expected back not long after the Break, however, so he could have multiple starts before the August 1 deadline. If he’s in form, he’d surely generate interest.
Through 16 starts and 86 innings, Kopech has worked to a 4.08 ERA. He’s striking out 26% of opponents on a solid 11.4% swinging strike percentage while averaging over 95 MPH on his fastball. There’s clearly plenty of promise with the 27-year-old righty, but he has not yet established himself as the top-of-the-rotation arm some evaluators had envisioned. That’s largely due to spotty control, as his 13.1% walk rate is the highest of any pitcher with at least 15 starts.
There’s obviously far less urgency for general manager Rick Hahn and his staff to move Kopech than with any of the impending free agents. Chicago isn’t going to embark on a full teardown and rebuild, so they figure to hold firm to a lofty asking price on their controllable mid-rotation starter. Still, the front office seems more amenable than they were a few weeks ago to consider moving players besides their collection of talented rentals.