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White Sox offseason plan roundup: Trade Sale? Quintana? Both? Neither?

It’s the question of the winter, and the survey is split

San Diego Padres v Chicago White Sox Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Most years, I want the World Series to go seven games in order to create the shortest distance between two points — the end of one season and the start of another. With the Cubs winning on Sunday, I’m guessing this one will go the distance, because who ever said ending a drought was easy?

(The 2005 White Sox don’t count because they don’t exist.)

Due to media fatigue and an impatience to see which course the White Sox choose, I wanted the Indians to take Game 5 and start the hot stove season ASAP.

It’s the most popular P.O. Sox question -- are the Sox selling or buying? — and one I don’t have an answer for, beyond my own assessment of the matter.

The question boils down to “Are the White Sox trading Chris Sale and Jose Quintana?” I don’t have an answer to that one either, except that if they’re going to deal one, they should probably deal both. Trading one is robbing Peter to pay Paul. OK, maybe Rick Hahn comes away with the baseball version of the Louisiana Purchase for Sale, but it’s more likely the kind of serving-two-masters thinking that has led the White Sox into the mystery room they’re trying to claw out of.

After Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu hit the ground running during their one winter of long-term thinking, they spent the next two trying to accelerate the process with short-to-medium commitments.

  • One year: Jeff Samardzija, Alex Avila, Dioner Navarro, Mat Latos, Jimmy Rollins, Austin Jackson.
  • Two years: Adam LaRoche, Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie.
  • Three years: Melky Cabrera, Zach Duke.
  • Four years: David Robertson.

And while most of these cost mere money, the Samardzija (Marcus Semien), Frazier (Trayce Thompson) and Lawrie (Zack Erwin) acquisitions did cost the kind of organizational ballast that can help a roster stay modular in case of injuries. This is not to bemoan the loss of Erwin in particular, because he didn’t show much with Oakland in 2016. Rather, his absence contributes to a cumulative shortage of extra starters in the system, although Jace Fry’s second Tommy John surgery dealt the greater blow.

Moreover, two of their three longest contracts are relievers, and one of them is already gone. This strategy required them to convert on more of these deals than not, but as Larry noted back in June, Hahn and Kenny Williams would have been better off sitting on their hands after the Eaton trade three years ago. Instead, they burned a few tomorrow players on today’s vision, half of which is already yesterday.

That’s why I don’t see a way for the Sox to buy their way out of this. The best time for a major commitment was last year, when the market fit the Sox’ needs and an investment gave the Sox two cracks at competing. If it didn’t work out, the farm system remained intact, the bulk of the payroll would crumble apart within a few years, and the team would only have to work around one onerous contract. Now, unless the Sox can find another Eaton or Abreu -- a mid-20s player delivering an instant impact — any kind of major move looks destined to be another Ryugyong Hotel.

That’s why trading Sale and Quintana now registers in a way it didn’t before. The Sox need a bold course no matter what, and this one appears to be the easier one to shape into a discernible future beyond lightning-in-a-bottle.

Nevertheless, I anticipated that our offseason plans would be heavier on buying than selling, if only because buying is easier to visualize, involving known players and a more solid context for cost. But as we start taking cross-sections of these plans -- and you can still submit yours — I was most interested to see how the sellers went about hawking their wares.

Using Mike’s spreadsheet -- which is updated through 85 plans — here’s how they split:

  • Only Sale traded: 21
  • Only Quintana traded: 4
  • Both traded: 11
  • Neither traded: 37

I’m not surprised to see “neither” being a more popular option than the rest of the field combined, but I am a little surprised to see trading one pitcher being more than twice as popular as trading both.

But reading through some of the plans, I am sympathetic to the view of holding onto Quintana until the trade deadline depending on the return of Sale, since his contract runs a year longer. I’d still expect the most successful course involving both shipped out within the same window, but given the flare-ups between Sale and White Sox management over the last few seasons, I suppose you couldn’t rule out the Ewing Theory altering the course.