The White Sox as buyers: Looking at the rental market

Josh Reddick - Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

With the White Sox holding the best record in the American League and a six-game lead in the AL Central, I think it's pretty safe to say they're in the thick of contention. We've gotten word that Rick Hahn is already aggressively pursuing reinforcements, so if it isn't too early for him, it isn't too early for me.

Of course, we don't know how the market will shape up over the next couple of months, but there are several teams whose postseason hopes have already begun to fade. Much as the Sox are thinking about buying, these teams have started to think about selling, and most of them have some short-term players who would be of value to teams looking to make a run. In order to get an idea of who might be available at the White Sox's positions of need, I looked at the teams with slim chances of making the playoffs and all of their players whose contracts end this year or next.

Right now, I'm only including teams whose playoff odds have fallen below 10 percent, using the average of the numbers from Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and FiveThirtyEight. There are some other teams that are in early trouble, like the Yankees, Astros, and Diamondbacks, but I think it's a little early to count them out, so looking closely at their players seems a bit premature. Maybe I'll reassess a little further down the line, but right now, the sellers list looks like this:

Again, this analysis is only going to focus on rental players (2016-2017 and 2017-2018 free agents) from the above teams. We can talk about some wacky trade ideas for bigger contracts (e.g., Ryan Braun) some other time.

As is clear from the list below, this is a really uninspiring group of players so far. We've seem some huge trades at the deadline in the last couple of years, but it's looking increasingly unlikely that that kind of star power will be on the move again. Still, there are some places where upgrades are possible.


While there are some other less interesting options out there (A.J. Pierzynski, Carlos Ruiz), the Avila-Navarro tandem seems to be working decently enough that Hahn and Co. would only make a change at catcher if it's a big change. Lucroy is just about the only player who fits that bill, and the Brewers have reached the point in his contract that they have to seriously consider trading him. He's off to a torrid start at the plate (.324/.389/.500), and has graded out okay behind it, so he could be in very high demand.

Outfield/Designated Hitter

It's no secret that the Sox are looking for a left-handed bat, and the outfield is just about the only place to find one. Whether they favor Gonzalez or Reddick might come down to whether they prefer to give up prospects or cash. Reddick is playing on a highly affordable $6.575 million salary, and trading for him means committing only for this year. That might make him the more attractive option on the market, and being the highest bidder for his services might mean sending off a good prospect or two.

CarGo, on the other hand, will cost a portion of his $17 million salary this year and all of $20 million next year. He's been above average with the bat thus far, but hasn't been good enough to make his pricey contract look all that attractive. Given that the White Sox still have the LaRoche money in their pockets, they could be more willing than most teams to fork over the dough and hope for the best.

Bruce is off to another ugly start (91 wRC+, -0.6 WAR), but probably won't cost much more than salary relief because of that. His 2017 option can be bought out for $1 million, so he could provide a low-cost opportunity to try to buy some dingers, especially if he plays in a strict platoon.

Jay might be a good fit as a fourth outfielder, as he bats from the left side and can play all three outfield positions (though he's not very good in center). He's having a resurgent year offensively, but it's been fueled largely by a .376 BABIP.

Starting Pitching

One would think the White Sox have more pressing needs than bolstering the rotation, but solidifying the fifth starter spot—or buying insurance for Mat Latos fading in the second half—might not be the worst idea. Unfortunately, there are very few interesting starters out there, and other buyers with weaker rotations are far more likely to go after them. Hill and Chacin are having strong comeback performances on short contracts, while Santiago and Alvarez (who's about to return from shoulder surgery) are more middling options.

Right-Handed Relievers

Again, the Sox have gotten particularly strong performance from their right-handers. But if a hole opens up, or if they want to stack the bullpen a bit deeper, there are plenty of capable, if unspectacular, arms out there. The Phillies have a trio of quality pitchers, including closer Jeanmar Gomez, and Fernando Rodriguez has pitched very well for the A's, even if he doesn't have the high-leverage work to show for it.

Left-Handed Relievers

The state of the Sox's left-handed relief isn't quite as solid as the rest of the staff. Zach Duke has looked a bit more reliable lately, but seems best suited to pitching full innings, and Dan Jennings has mostly been relegated to mop-up duty. Suffice it to say that a certified LOOGY or more would make a very good bullpen even better.

It's very possible that the prize of the relief market hasn't entered it just yet. Aroldis Chapman is a few months from free agency, and if the Yankees fall out of contention he could net them a huge return. Still, there are two southpaws out there who could provide an upgrade.

One is our old friend Boone Logan, whose beard game has greatly improved since his time with the White Sox:


He's in the middle of his fifth straight season of striking out 11 or more batters per 9 innings, and he's been doing a better job of limiting home runs since a rough first year at Coors Field. The other, Abad, has given up zero hits and one walk to 17 left-handed hitters this year. However, he had reverse splits in each of the last three seasons, so it's all sort of weird.

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I'm not going to waste my time rosterbating, particularly since a lot can happen in the next 2.5 months. Surely other teams will fall out of contention and make their players available. Maybe one or more of these teams will get hot and decide not to sell. Maybe (Pig forbid) a Sox player will suffer an injury and need to be replaced. This is meant to serve mostly as a watch list of players that could help out midseason. Of course, if you think any are missing, feel free to say so.

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