The last two days encapsulate the tug-of-war in which the White Sox front office -- and those watching their moves — are permanently trapped. The offense socked some dingers for an effective Jose Quintana on Tuesday after David Robertson blew it for Chris Sale on Monday. One day, you can see how the White Sox can win. The next day, the White Sox show why they haven’t with any regularity over the last 3½ years.
This cycle has led the Chicago Tribune to stump for a course of action via creative sports-page design.
Likewise, Grant Brisbee makes a case, even though he eventually ties himself in knots and suggests a milder course.
The White Sox are, quite possibly, a lousy team. Chris Sale and Jose Quintana should start Games 1 and 2 of a World Series in a perfect world, but like the old tautology goes, "When Melky Cabrera is the best hitter on the team, Melky Cabrera is the best hitter on your team." The fast start from Adam Eaton has faded. Todd Frazier is back to his old self, ostensibly, which is a great way to remind everyone that he was only pretty good in the first place. Jose Abreu just might be special again, but that’s not going to carry a lineup. Even considering the upward trend of his last four starts, James Shields isn’t missing bats, and that’s going to be a problem at U.S. Cellular.
According to expected record, the White Sox should be 43-49. Back to that first sentence, then. The White Sox are, quite possibly, a lousy team.
The idea of trading Sale and/or Quintana -- and Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu to a lesser extent -- has long been an abstract expression of frustration rather than a workable idea. There’d be no way to recoup their value in a trade because they provided star production for the price of a Jeff Keppinger, and that’s the kind of head start from which great rosters benefit.
At least that’s the theory. It hasn’t worked out that easily in practice. Now each player is getting more expensive, but that’s still not the problem. The problem is that this 25-man roster falls apart like a baked cod if you stick a fork in it. The Sox surrounded their core with one- and two-year deals, leaving a relatively blank slate for 2018 and beyond, which is the last two years the Sox have tied their top two pitchers together (Quintana has an option for 2020).
If you can’t see a legit above-.500 team without wishcasting by 2018, that’s when it makes sense to scrap it. The Sox aren’t yet there by default, but it no longer takes doomsday-grade pessimism to make up the gap. The skepticism Sox fans have in the front office’s ability to identify talent is well-founded.
In Tuesday’s discussion, roster churn enthusiast Striker advocated a midseason plan project akin to our offseason project. Giving it some thought, I don’t know if it’s worth a project because there aren’t that many sets of decisions. The offseason has the non-tender deadline, multiple markets and a larger payroll framework to consider, plus the convenience of the postseason, which allows fans to consider the task without the environment changing drastically in a day. A three-game losing streak shifts the odds, and one trade can undermine an approach even further.
So in order to expedite the thought processes, the midseason undertaking comes down to one question: "Which players do you trade, and what kind of return do you think they're worth?" This applies to Chris Sale trades just as much as it applies to Spencer Adams or Avisail Garcia trades. Throw in a little explanation for how it all benefits the Sox in your foreseeable future, and that’s about all you can be expected to do at this point.
Two, four, six, eight, it’s time for South Side Sox to rosterbate.