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Key White Sox fueled key winning streak

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7-1 road trip made possible by players who needed to prove they could be counted upon in rebuiding effort

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

With the White Sox in the hunt for a power hitter along the lines of a Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton, there's a very good chance whatever I write below won't be what everybody wants to talk about before lunch rolls around.

At this point in the rumor cycle, the most popular question is whether trading from the farm for a rental player is a sound idea, and just like everything else, nobody can really say until we know the demands.

As long as the prospect isn't Tim Anderson, the Sox can probably use one of their significant bullets without feeling the loss, especially on the pitching side. From that point on, it depends on the combination of players to sense the impact on the farm system.

And not all players are created equal -- not just in terms of performance or track record, but contracts as well. Cespedes' situation is unfriendlier than most, since the team is required to release him five days after the World Series:

A team cannot extend a qualifying offer to a released player under the collective-bargaining agreement. Nor can it re-sign him as a free agent until after May 15 of the following year.

In other words, the Tigers hold exclusive negotiating rights with Cespedes only through the five-day window at the end of the World Series. After that, they would be at a disadvantage unless he was willing to sit out until May 15.

While Ken Rosenthal wrote that with the Tigers in mind, it would apply to whichever team traded for him. And in this case, if the Tigers wanted to re-sign Cespedes, the team trading for him would be doing Detroit a favor -- which might be hard for a divisional opponent to stomach.

Looking past any player-specific issues, though, the idea of a rental player is fine. The White Sox were supposed to contend in earnest starting in 2016 based on the talent on hand. They then accelerated the timetable with this past offseason, trying to barge into the wild card race, if nothing else. So a moderate rental investment is consistent with that aim.

It also doesn't hurt to generate excitement, both inside and outside the organization. I'm not talking about headlines for the sake of headlines, because we saw what winning the offseason accomplished in and of itself -- a brief burst of excitement that needed substance behind it.

It took three months, but that substance arrived thanks to a 7-1 road trip featuring smarter and more entertaining baseball. So it seems smart to hold those gains with some reinforcement and keep everybody invested in the final two months, after which the Sox can make further targeted investments.

Such talk wouldn't be possible if the Sox' surge took the wrong shape. Fortunately, the sustained offensive outburst over the road trip was largely due to four players who factor heavily into Rick Hahn's plans for 2016 and beyond.

Melky Cabrera

PA R H 2B 3B HR BB K BA OBP SLG
Before 390 36 93 14 1 4 22 50 .260 .301 .338
During 38 10 18 8 1 2 2 11 .500 .526 .944
Now 428 46 111 22 2 6 24 61 .282 .321 .393

Listening to the Boston radio feed on the way back from the Interpol show on Wednesday night, announcer Joe Castiglione prefaced Cabrera's last plate appearance of the day by saying the Red Sox had to be "tired of his act."

It's easy to see why. During the road trip, the White Sox noted that Cabrera was the first player in club history to record multiple hits and at least one RBI in seven straight games. He's driven in 22 runs over 25 July games, so he's been at the center of these fun times.

The only reason for pause: Cabrera struck out three times in each of the last two games, and struck out five times in nine tries against left-handed pitching. He's narrowed the gap between his splits after an abysmal start against lefties, but he's a smaller reason why some right-handed help would be appreciated.

Nevertheless, his OPS+ is over 100, and Baseball-Reference.com pegs him at 1.5 WAR. FanGraphs is still doubting him (0.3 WAR) because UZR hates his defense, but I wouldn't consider him a concern at this point.

Adam Eaton

PA R H 2B 3B HR BB K BA OBP SLG
Before 387 50 86 14 7 7 31 69 .249 .323 .390
During 35 10 13
1
1 2 3
6
.433 .517 .629
Now 422 60 99
15
8
9
34
75
.263 .339 .418

The offense ground to a halt against Steven Wright on Thursday, but not for a lack of a leadoff man. Eaton continued his string of quality at-bats, going 2-for-3 with a walk.

His OBP since May 1? .360.

His OBP last year, when everybody was thrilled the Sox finally found their leadoff man? .362.

He's still shaky on fly balls in front of him, but he's added value elsewhere by raising his isolated power by 50 points, and he's picked his spots to steal, with five successes in his last six attempts. Maybe center field isn't his ideal long-term home, but he's back on track in terms of living up to that extension regardless.

Carlos Sanchez

PA R H 2B 3B HR BB K BA OBP SLG
Before 197 13
37
8
1
0
5
40
.200 .236 .254
During 32 6
13
5
0
2
1
8
.419 .438 .774
Now 229 19
50
13
1
2
6
48
.231
.264 .329

Before going 0-for-4 on Thursday, Sanchez not only maintained a 12-game hitting, streak, but he also raised his average in all 12 games:

.181
.189
.190
.192
.193
.200
.202
.204
.210
.221
.225
.227
.236

It finally reversed course for a day, but this little run bought himself some time/credibility, especially with the two 400-foot homers against Cleveland that came out of nowhere.

Granted, Sanchez not really outracing anybody anymore. Gordon Beckham keeps turning into a worse version of himself, and Micah Johnson just went on the DL with a strain of the same hamstring that hamstrung him last year. With Tyler Saladino taking ownership of third base somehow, Sanchez has the rest of the season to firm up his resume before the next offseason brings potential solutions.

It still may be prudent to upgrade the position over Sanchez in 2016, but it'd help if Sanchez pushed such a decision more toward luxury than necessity. The start to his second half is a healthy start to an actual future.

Jose Abreu

PA R H 2B 3B HR BB K BA OBP SLG
Before 371 50 99 15 3 14 17 77 .287 .337 .470
During 36 8
12
2
0
3
4
6
.387 .472 .741
Now 407 58 111 17 3 17 21 83 .295 .349 .492

Whether it's a hand issue he didn't want to publicly acknowledge, the lack of offensive support or a combination of the two, Abreu looked as beaten down as the fastballs he pounded into the ground at an unwelcome rate.

After the trip to Cleveland and Boston, however, he looks like a man unburdened, with the exit velocities to match. The fact that he remained mildly productive despite the power outage is a testament to his talent, but baseball's better when he's swatting balls over the fences.