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White Sox shouldn't fear trading within the division

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Concerns are overblown to begin with, but trade chits like Dayan Viciedo won't be "the one who got away"

David Banks

Jayson Stark's latest "Rumblings & Grumblings" column for ESPN.com focuses mostly on David Price and the Phillies, but the lone reference to the White Sox raises an interesting thought:

Teams that have talked to the Royals say they have called on just about every right-handed hitter who might be available. But they're mostly focused on right fielders, which means their options essentially come down to Byrd, Alex Rios, Dayan Viciedo, Chris Denorfia and possibly Zobrist. But the White Sox would want an extra return to deal Viciedo in the division. And it's doubtful the Royals would see Denorfia's one homer and .612 OPS as much of an upgrade. So other clubs expect the Royals to zero in on Byrd and Rios in the next week and make the best deal they can make.

Would they? Given the flimsy nature of trade rumors, we can't know if this is actually a potential deal, much less a potential deal-breaker, but we can approach it as a philosophical hypothetical.

The reluctance to trade within the division is a real thing. Buster Olney and Keith Law talked about that very subject on the "Baseball Tonight" podcast, ultimately saying that while they understand why it gives teams pause, they should have more faith in the process that determines the best offer instead of worrying about the worst-case scenario.

But risk aversion is risk aversion, and sure enough, the Sox have mostly avoided dealing with AL Central teams. They went 25 years without trading with the Twins before the Francisco Liriano swap, and it's been a score or more since the last trade with the Indians (1994) or Tigers (1989).

(On Twitter, @itguy84 asked whether the three-team deal with the Tigers and Red Sox counted as intradivision. Since Jake Peavy went to Boston and the White Sox didn't have to worry about their old player being used against them by an AL Central team, the divisional repercussions don't apply to them.)

The Royals, though? That wall fell years ago, as they snapped a 14-year drought by making four trades from 2006 to 2009. Granted, none of those deals were worth remembering for either team:

  • July 24, 2006: Tyler Lumsden and Dan Cortes for Mike MacDougal
  • Dec. 16, 2006: Ross Gload for Andrew Sisco
  • Aug. 9, 2008: Paulo Orlando for Horacio Ramirez
  • Nov. 6, 2009: Josh Fields and Chris Getz for Mark Teahen

Given the complete forgettability of these deals, it seems odd that Viciedo would be the guy who necessitates the reconstruction of Checkpoint Charlie. Viciedo's bat speed always puts him on the verge of a breakthrough season, but since the Tank keeps rolling backwards -- he almost bounced into a triple play on Thursday night -- it'd be hard to say the Sox gave up on him too soon. The same can be said for Gordon Beckham and the rest of the crew, none of whom figure to suddenly outperform their salaries with a change of scenery.

The concerns might be overblown even if Viciedo managed to salvage his career. Looking back at the Liriano trade, the Twins got the better end of the deal -- the Sox missed the postseason, while Eduardo Escobar is putting together a nice season at short for Minnesota this season. Escobar would look good in a Sox uniform in the role occupied by Leury Garcia, but with Alexei Ramirez playing every day and several second basemen to sort through, the Sox have reason to look ahead instead of ruing that day.

What's funny about the idea of Viciedo in royal blue is that his season line looks an awful lot like a former Kansas City right fielder's:

  • 2014 Dayan Viciedo: .233/.283/.395
  • 2012 Jeff Francoeur: .235/.287/.378

The Royals' devotion to Francouer was one of a few unnecessary decisions that suppressed their turnaround. Frenchy received 603 plate appearances that year en route to a -2.5 WAR season, and while Viciedo's not that far gone right now, he's on that kind of career path.

When you look at it that way, you can see an alternate approach to viewing intradivision trades -- a chance to tie up another team's resources with a player you believe to be a lost cause. Of course, maybe that's exactly what Kenny Williams and Dayton Moore were doing to each other over a four-year period, and both were really good at it.

Then you look at Francouer's 2012 game log and see the White Sox intentionally walked him four times, including twice in one game. Maybe Viciedo is the exact kind of player they would fear the most.