To the chagrin of many, the Chicago White Sox neither bought nor sold at the trade deadline.
Rick Hahn said it wasn't for a lack of trying:
"We were fairly aggressive on multiple fronts, and there wasn't that type of deal for us to do," Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "Frankly, it's a little frustrating. We were optimistic we were going to get something done. Ultimately, the cost just didn't justify the return."
But I never saw standing pat as the worst possible outcome, because the other courses weren't simple enough to make inaction intrinsically wrong.
The Sox could have sold ... but they only had one player other teams really wanted, and the Sox might want Jeff Samardzija just as much as anybody else. If that's the case, it's a helluva lot easier to retain him when they can slap the qualifying offer on him.
They could have doubled down ... but position players were in shorter supply than pitchers. The only deal that struck me as beatable was the trade the Orioles made for Gerardo Parra (Zack Davies, who seems kinda like a more advanced Tyler Danish).
Otherwise, Yoenis Cespedes cost the Mets the equivalent of Frankie Montas+, and a divisional opponent would have significant strings attached. Justin Upton didn't go anywhere (no Padres did, for that matter). And those rentals demanded a fairly high price at a time when the White Sox still had only an outside-at-best chance at making the playoffs.
The team I keep coming back to is the Toronto Blue Jays. Like the White Sox, they won the winter two years ago, only to scuffle to the same damn record they always have. The Jays lived with the temporary embarrassment, but they kept adding -- Josh Donaldson and Devon Travis over the winter, and, with their odds close to break-even in July, made a major push with Troy Tulowitzki and David Price.
That seems like a more effective use of prospects. The Jays tied with the Orioles sitting one game behind Minnesota for the second wild card spot, and they have the league's best run differential. There's a potential wrecking ball there, and the addition of a front-line pitcher and a blue-chip (albeit banged-up) shortstop might be just the things to help them unleash it.
That's not the case with the White Sox, as many more positions involve finger-crossing. They probably would've needed to string together multiple moves to better ensure an impact in such a short amount of time. If that's the case, it's easy to see an isolated move an hour before the deadline as something that only spreads your resources thinner when the dust settles.
Waiting until that second summer is not without its risks, as it requires the pitching staff to hang together as a top-flight unit for another year. But adding, subtracting or neither, we still would see plenty of the guys who haven't been fun to watch.
Sox need Adam LaRoche to be the added bat. Has been virtually nonexistent. Ventura telling him forget first 4 months, make it happen now.— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) July 31, 2015
It's easy to laugh about that, because it brings to mind the pact that Adam Dunn and Alex Rios made to lead the team to glory during the second half of 2011. But it's kinda true. If the White Sox added a Parra, they would still need somebody like LaRoche to wake up and offset potential slides from elsewhere on the depth chart (third base, the corner outfield spots, etc.). If LaRoche's role were somehow minimized by a one-shot addition, other underachievers like Avisail Garcia and Alexei Ramirez would still have to blast their ways out of their down years to make up for the true holes (third base, second base, catcher).
I can see how the Sox didn't see conditions conducive for sea changes; something like Hahn saying, "If we need these guys to be good, then we may as well see if they have it in them."
If that's the case, then it requires careful managing and evaluation to both stay in the race while making key decisions that would allow them to not waste months of next season. Besides replacing or just platooning LaRoche, such tugs of war include:
Avisail Garcia vs. throwing random combinations out there: The Sox were expecting an impact player, but he looks less dangerous at the plate with every passing game. It was intriguing when he had the option of shooting the ball to right field always available to him. It's far less impressive when shooting the ball to right field is the best he can do.
John Danks vs. Erik Johnson: Danks offers some measure of certainty, in that he can pitch reasonably deep into games, even if the overall line isn't good. Johnson hasn't shown MLB hitters the kind of stuff that can make six innings more often than not. At some point, though, it seems like Johnson will need to start in order for the Sox to understand how much rotation depth they truly have.
The common theme is knowing true talent levels, individually and departmentally. Without new players infringing on playing time, we're going to learn a lot about the incumbents, including one who was supposed to be around for a while. It may not be pretty, but it should result in less false hope for the offseason, which, in turn, will make future deadline philosophies less reliant on wishcasting.