As I argued last week, it really doesn't seem like the Sox are in position to do much other than rebuild. But who should they swap? And who can they expect to get in return? Neither question can really be answered definitively as there's just too much uncertainty. We do know that Jerry Reinsdorf has said he always budgets his team to break even.
That may not be enough considering the substantial losses from last season, but at a minimum they'll go that far and I'd wager they're not there yet. Even with Buehrle gone, Cot's has payroll at $93M and that doesn't include Danks, Quentin and a handful of league minimum salaries. Add those in and payroll is in the neighborhood of $110M. That would qualify for the 3rd highest payroll in White Sox history, odd for a team Kenny Williams has admitted is rebuilding.
For comparison, in 2010 the Sox were set to break even with an opening day payroll of around $105M. That team won 88 games, probably pretty near the club's in-house projections. If I had to put a figure on it, I'd say $100M. That means at least one of John Danks or Carlos Quentin and perhaps one of the veteran relievers. So who should go?
That still takes some speculation, since there's just some stuff only the Sox front office knows. We do know that after Buehrle's departure and Sale drew into the starting rotation, the Sox were left without a legitimate 6th starter. Danks' replacement will be Zach Stewart or some similar option. That's a 3-4 win drop off. If the fans can't tell the difference between a 78 and 82 win team, he might as well go.
That's where the front office projections come into play and we're left guessing. But if Danks isn't bringing enough to the table to merit a spot in the rotation, Quentin certainly doesn't need to be around either. He's not nearly as valuable but he'll make almost as much money as Danks in 2012. In fact, Q should be gone no matter what. With Viciedo ready to take over, Carlos' absence shouldn't be too noticeable. From there, trading one of Crain, Frasor or Thornton gets the budget under $100M.
The question of what we'll get in return is a whole other ball of complicated wax. In a trade, there are a few considerations. For one, why not just buy a free agent? If you can get the exact same player at the exact same salary, why lose talent on top of it? Unfortunately for the Sox, Quentin makes almost what he'd get as a free agent. Unless Kenny can find a team that just can't live without him, I'd guess he'll end up in a package deal to help keep any negative press to a minimum. Any of the veteran relievers are in the same boat, so don't be surprised if Thornton/Quentin are exchanged for a couple nobodies.
Danks, on the other hand, is due a serious raise once he hits the open market. In his last year of arbitration, he'll be making in the vicinity of $10M less than he's worth. That missing money is all savings that the Sox need to make back in the trade. In trading for prospects, you get more young players who, as long as they make the big leagues, are paid dirt cheap and replace Danks' savings sometime in the future. If that's confusing to you, it could be worse.
Specifically, someone along the lines of Nestor Molina or, as has been reported, Manny Banuelos. If Kenny somehow wrangles a package bigger than an above average (but not elite) pitching prospect, be very happy indeed. Hopefully that'll be the extent of the trading necessary to offset the Dunn/Rios/Peavy damage. The same way that Danks is substantially underpaid and is worth prospects as a result means that in order to ditch any of the Dastardly Trio, the Sox would have to send prospects to match the amount Dunn/Rios/Peavy are overpaid. By my calculation, the Sox could send Dunn and Dayan Viciedo to a team and actually deserve nothing in return.
Sorry, just thought I'd throw that tidbit out there in case someone forgot why we're rebuilding in the first place.