On this past Monday's Effectively Wild podcast, Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller discussed the benefits of baseball teams hiring a philosopher on to their staff. The goal of doing so is to help determine what would be considered a team successful in a given season. Sure, everyone wants to win the World Series and pre-Spring Training press conferences with general managers spouting about the desire to win a championship. Often, those are empty words as many within the game know who are the contenders and the pretenders. Yes, some years team's do come out of nowhere to be incredibly lucky (Hello, 2005 Chicago White Sox). If a team were to drill down on their goals for the season, it would help with the decision-making process.
For example, the Los Angeles Dodgers. This franchise spends more money than everyone else. That type of cash comes with lofty expectations such as winning the National League West division, then the NL Pennant, and making it to the World Series. At the moment, they are 5.5 games back of their rival, the San Francisco Giants, and it doesn't appear with the current roster that Los Angeles has a chance to catch them. However, they do have a strong grasp of a wild card spot being 2.5 games ahead of New York Mets and Miami Marlins, and 3.5 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals. Should the Dodgers, who have already acquired pitcher Bud Norris mid-season, package several of their to prospects in trades hoping to catch the Giants? Who would they need to deal for to make that happen, and is it worth the cost? If the team actually believes anything can happen in the playoffs, wouldn't it be best to stand pat and see how it plays out? Is making the playoffs in any manner considered a success this season? Or, does this team need to win the pennant to achieve that mark?
Those are tough questions for a team like the Dodgers and many other teams right now 15 days away from the trade deadline have to start asking themselves. I find that teams are going to insert themselves into three lanes: the buyers, the sellers, and those who will stand pat.
For the Chicago White Sox, Rick Hahn has already made his share of moves to roster churn. While speaking to reporters, Hahn sounds like the team isn't done yet making deals.
Already this year, you’ve seen us change 40 percent of the rotation, change the shortstop, add various players to the bullpen, and we’re going to continue to operate in that manner.
Would adding players in exchange for the few prospects they have left in the minors a wise move for the White Sox? Just a little more than a week ago, the team was riding high once again winning five series in a row and 12 out of their last 18 games. With a series against the Atlanta Braves before the All-Star break and opening with the Los Angeles Angels after, the Sox should have continued those good vibes against last-place teams that are dead in the water. Instead, they have lost four of their last five games, been shutout three straight games, and are challenging records held by the 1968 White Sox. Now back to .500 with a 45-45 record and 4.5 games back of the wild card, the Sox find themselves on the edge of the playoff race.
What should the White Sox do?
They Should Buy
If you are one who believes that this season would only be considered a success after starting the season 23-10 if the team makes the postseason, then obviously you want Hahn to be a buyer. I don't think anyone could make a strong case how the current makeup can suddenly leapfrog five teams in the remaining 72 games. They may not have much left in the pipeline, but it's been a long eight years since the magic of Game 163, and I can understand fans wanting to empty the farm system to get that taste back.
Not to muddy the waters too much, but if were to consider 2016 a success if the team finished the year at or above 81 wins and thought 2017 would be a season the Sox could make the postseason, buying at the deadline may help with that future goal. The upcoming free agency market is weak, and the best way teams will be able to make significant upgrades is by making a deal. Hahn could make a move within the next couple of weeks that would set the Sox up better in 2017 than help enhance the team's chances of winning now.
They Should Sell
If Drew Pomeranz netted Anderson Espinoza, I wonder what the Oakland Athletics are going to get for Rich Hill? Many playoff contenders are starving for starting pitching and with the Red Sox somewhat setting the price for left-handed starting pitching with a top-25 prospect in Espinoza; the A's should be able to capitalize moving Hill and corner the market.
Now imagine what would happen to the sellers market if the White Sox made Chris Sale and Jose Quintana available.
The White Sox would corner the market, and teams that are rich in prospects such as the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, and the Chicago Cubs would come calling in a hurry. A weak farm system could receive a much-needed boost, and the White Sox future forecast would be a lot brighter. Moving Sale and Quintana would pretty much mean punting 2017 and 2018, and raises the question of why even hold onto Jose Abreu, David Robertson, or Todd Frazier? Might as well move them, too. Begin dreaming of happier times in 2019.
They Should Stand Pat
A core of players that includes Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, and Melky Cabrera is a strong start. Mixing in young talent such as Carlos Rodon, Tim Anderson, and perhaps Carson Fulmer gives one hope that this team's fortunes can turn around as soon as next season. The true talent of this ballclub is where they are today at .500, and if they can achieve that mark without making a move, then why sacrifice the future for small gains today? Since the 99-loss season in 2013, this franchise has taken steps, albeit small one's, to get back to being a winning baseball club. The momentum of finishing above .500 could lead the front office to be more aggressive in the offseason, and maybe the fortunes will turn around with a new manager. If the Sox struggle in 2017, they still can sell off Sale and Quintana. It's worth giving this core one more shot.
No matter which of the three lanes Rick Hahn chooses, the present play isn't making things any easier. After today, its 11-games against the Seattle Mariners, Detroit Tigers, and the Chicago Cubs. That stretch will firmly decide if the Sox are still a playoff contender.