Saturday morning I found myself, as I often do, out on my bike, playing GM in my head, running the White Sox roster through my head and neatly placing each player on the Sox roster into neatly defined categories. It was almost exactly 6 weeks before the trade deadline, the Sox had just come off ugly back-to-back losses to sub-.500 NL clubs, and it felt, at least for that morning, like time to figure out who should stay and who should go.
It's begun to feel a little grim around here, with most of us doing our best JRE impersonations and only Tdogg to cheer us up with some rays of statistical sunshine. So I imagine most of us would be selling if given the chance to play GM for a day... or month. Thankfully, none of us are stuck with the task as tough as the one that's ahead of Kenny Williams, but I prepared my scorecard anyway in case you wanted to try your hand.
A.J. Pierzynski, Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, Carlos Quentin, Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Matt Thornton, Scott Linebrink,
Let's call this group the core, with some untradables trown in for good measure. Konerko, Thome and Pierzynski, the slow, aged core, aren't going anywhere. Those three along with Buerhle have become the Sox clubhouse leaders and are, at least in some small measure, responsible for the Nick Swisher trade/debacle. They also have varying degrees of no-trade clauses and contracts large enough to make other clubs take a pass.
Then you've got the "Next core," Beckham, Ramirez, Quentin, Danks and Floyd; young guys with generally advantageous contracts who, with the exception of Beckham, have proved their major league worthiness for an entire season. They'll be paired with the minor league "safes" to form the Sox next serious division title contenders (and by serious, I mean not under .500 with 5+ weeks left before the trade deadline).
Which leaves only Linebrink, who signed a contract that made other clubs gasp, and has now shown that he's unable to throw anything but arrow-straight fastballs when given the call for two days in a row. He's not going anywhere for completely different reasons than the rest of the group.
Rent, Don't Buy
Josh Fields, Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Octavio Dotel, Jermaine Dye
Richard and Poreda's names have already been linked to the now-defunct Jake Peavy trade, and would seem to be available at a price. I can't see both of them being traded in any deal that brings back anything less than a Peavy-type pitching talent. So really, one of them is safe, and it's probably Richard, not because he's a better pitcher, but teams are more likely to be after the higher-ceilinged Poreda.
Josh Fields is a man without a home now that Beckham is starting to get his legs under himself at the plate. He won't have much value, but KW probably won't stand in the way if some other team is willing to give him a shot at 3B.
Dotel and Dye both have contracts set to expire at the end of the season, and both figure to be Type A free agents. Thus these two represent your typical trade-deadline targets for playoff hopefuls. Dye has an option on his contract, so the Sox don't have to trade him, as they might pick up that option at the end of the year, which could also help yield a higher return via trade.
Those not mentioned, your Scott Podsednik's and Jose Contreras' , your Chris Getz' and Brian Anderson's, have little-to-no value on the trade market. Actually, Pods and Count could end up being 11th hour, July 31st trade pieces, but they'll need to maintain their surprising performances for another 5+ weeks to have any buyers.
The one name that I didn't mention who should probably be in the "safe" category, but isn't because he has lots of value, a contract that's going to continue to inflate wildly in the next 2-3 years and, well, because you never can tell with KW at the helm, is Bobby Jenks. He's got another two full seasons before he reaches free agency, but as long as he continues to rack up the saves, he'll be due another record-setting arbitration award. There comes a point when his price tag outstrips his actual value, and it's best for the Sox to get out while their still ahead there.
Trade or get off the pot
A month ago, if I had written this piece it would have been a plea to sell almost any player of value to reinforce the group of young talent the likes of which the Sox haven't seen since the early 90's. And if I had written it after they came back from their wildly-successful road-trip to reach the lofty heights of a .500 record, I might only have written about the prospects that could be turned into hole-fillers on the major league roster. This team, this division, really, has the ability to make any rash decision made by the front office look completely foolish in hindsight. For that reason, and because I'm risk-averse by nature, I would sit on the proverbial pot for as long as possible this year, putting off any future-altering roster decisions until the last possible moment.
And because I can't decide whether it's Everyone Must Go or Sell The Farm time, I'll have the second part of this piece on the minor leaguers of note later tonight (and by tonight, I probably mean morning).