With the White Sox stumbling badly out of the gate in the second half, the direction of the team should be clear at this year's trade deadline. It's time to sell, sell, sell!
Though the Sox don't have a glut of attractive major league pieces to trade, there's going to be some roster shakeup in the coming months. Here's a look at the players that could be on the move, in descending order of how likely they are to be traded or claimed by another team before the season is over. My personal guess at the percentage chance that each player will find a new home via trade or waiver claim (assuming no injury) is in parentheses.
1. Geovany Soto (99%)
Soto has had a very successful season in limited time as the backup catcher for the White Sox, as he's clubbed a home run once for about every 20 plate appearances. It's hard to find competent catchers, and Soto is currently one of the best backups in the league. He should be an attractive trade piece that can be had for cheap.
Unlike, say, Jeff Samardzija, Soto is obviously nowhere near valuable enough to justify a qualifying offer after the season. The White Sox will therefore receive nothing for him if he departs via free agency after the year. Since the Sox are now resigned to giving up on 2015, there's no need to have a very good backup catcher hanging around for the last two months, and he should be traded for absolutely whatever the Sox can get for him. The only reason that I didn't put "100 percent" for Soto is my own personal paranoia about the lack of certainties in baseball.
2. Gordon Beckham (90%)
You may have noticed that you haven't seen much of Beckham lately, and that's because given Beckham's play, the current standings, and the presence of Tyler Saladino, he doesn't really have a purpose. Like Soto, Beckham is worthless to a team that isn't going to compete because there's no growth left in him and he's only signed for one year. The most likely scenario for Beckham is for him to clear waivers and be acquired by another team close to the August 31 deadline as a defensive replacement once rosters expand. The only real reason for him to not wind up elsewhere is if every team in contention feels that Beckham wouldn't be any notable defensive upgrade over internal options, which is unlikely. Beckham has a glove and arm that can help a team in a limited role.
3. Jeff Samardzija (85%)
The White Sox could hold onto Smarch until the end of the year and make him a qualifying offer for 2016, which Samardzija will reject. This will give the Sox one of two future benefits. One possibility is that Shark will sign elsewhere, which will give the White Sox a compensatory draft pick after the first round of next year's draft. The other possibility is that the Sox will attempt to re-sign him after he hits free agency. Unlike the White Sox, other teams bidding on Samardzija would have to forfeit a draft pick to sign him. This gives the Sox a competitive advantage in the bidding because if all teams value Samardzija equally, the White Sox should theoretically be willing to make the highest offer.
However, it's likely the return the White Sox could get by trading Samardzija would outweigh either of these benefits. In addition to the players the White Sox might receive in trade, they'd get roughly $3.3 million in salary relief (unless cash is included in the deal) by dealing him prior to July 31. The returns from pitchers on the last year of their deal traded at this point last year paint an encouraging picture:
- Jon Lester (with Jonny Gomes and cash) returned control of Yoenis Cespedes through 2015 for the Red Sox
- Justin Masterson returned James Ramsey for the Indians
- Jake Peavy (and cash) returned Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree for the Red Sox
- Brandon McCarthy (and cash) returned Vidal Nuno for the Diamondbacks
5. Emilio Bonifacio (15%)