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White Sox can't shake sameness at trade deadline

A third straight underwhelming window for front office makes it easy to be resigned to mediocrity

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox didn’t trade Chris Sale or Jose Quintana on Monday, and that’s probably a good thing.

It’s not a good thing that 1) I have to say that, and 2) I’m not entirely certain. Usually fans should want to keep the players who are the most enjoyable to watch, or at least they shouldn't accept anything lower than exceptional value in return. They certainly shouldn’t want a deal done for novelty if nothing else, but reading the 1,000+ comments on deadline day that ended up with nothing to show for them, there’s a sizable faction of the fan base that wants the establishment at 35th and Shields to serve something besides all-you-can-eat ennui, even if it stands a chance at making them sicker. Resignation hangs heavy over the franchise, except nobody’s actually resigning.

I thought BillyKochFanClub’s comment best identified why fans were ready for a seismic event, even if it’s more uncertain than ever. He lined up Hahn’s statements the last three windows of opportunity, starting when the Sox stood past last deadline ...

"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."

... to SoxFest, when they hadn’t made the second big move they needed over the winter ...

"It’s frustrating from the standpoint in that we haven’t been able to convert on any targets," Hahn said.

... against his statement on Monday:

"This was one opportunity to put ourselves on that path," Hahn said. "Other than the Zach Duke deal, nothing else presented itself that we felt helped continue us on a path where we wanted to get this club."

Since mid-May, we’ve heard that the coaching staff and executives aren’t the ones throwing and swinging at pitches, so their influence is limited. The trade deadline was the opportunity for the front office to flex its muscle in the fight against mediocrity. It’s true the Sox did something, but dealing an affordable veteran left-handed reliever barely registers a degree of difficulty. More ambitious moves failed to appear before them, and while it could very well be true that suitors wouldn't budge on making packages worth pursuing this time around, it’s now part of a larger problem in which the big moves just don’t get done. This reaction is what it looks like when there’s no benefit of the doubt.

This reaction is also what it looks like when fans are faced with the prospect of two more meaningless months of baseball. There’s little different to watch after the deadline. Assuming the incumbents can’t reverse their descents, we’re counting a little too much on Charlie Tilson and a rejuvenated Hawk Harrelson.

It’s confusing, because even if you count on some of the veterans contributing toward 2017, there are others who were primarily attained for the 2016 push, yet James Shields is still here.

It’s also depressing, because when you see a player what a reliever like Andrew Miller yields in a trade, it implies that teams aren’t that impressed by David Robertson.

On Monday morning, I thought it was uncharitable, yet not unreasonable, to expect the Sox to move nobody else but Duke. With another flat deadline, the expectations slide even lower. It’s similar to the offense, which has found a way to make fans apprehensive about bases-loaded-nobody-out situations. Square up this deadline to that scenario, and Duke-for-Tilson feels like coming away with just one run, and it was on a wild pitch. Either way, it’s failing to convert.