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Post-deadline deals paying dividends for White Sox

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They shouldn’t make a habit of waiting for the waiver wire, but history shows they can still salvage assets

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox rebuild is starting to find its stride, which kinda resembles a boozy stumble on the field. They’ve lost five in a row, and Rick Renteria’s postgame quotes reflected a reckoning of sorts:

"In general, I thought we were just a little tired, a little lethargic," Renteria said. "Some of our actions were a little slow today.

“They're not trying to make mistakes, they're not trying to boot balls, they're not trying to get picked off. They're not trying to do all those things. They're not trying to miss executing on bunts. But it's something that we have to really learn from, because clubs that want to have success have to play clean baseball."

(I assume they’re not trying to botch bunts, either, but I wouldn’t fault them if it were a form of quiet protest. Be the change you wish to see in the world and whatnot.)

Now that the losses are bunching up, White Sox fans are starting to see why rooting for defeat is ill-advised: There’s plenty of collateral damage. The Sox wouldn’t be seven games under .500 if they didn’t get disappointing performances from players they might be hoping to trade. In order of significance:

  • Jose Quintana: 5.60 ERA, 4.36 DRA, 10 homers in 64 13 innings
  • Nate Jones: On the disabled list with neuritis in his right elbow
  • Todd Frazier: .195/.306/.380, 0.9 bWAR
  • Miguel Gonzalez: 4.83 ERA, 6.48 DRA, 11 homers over 69 innings
  • Melky Cabrera: .259/.308/.380, 0.2 bWAR

The ramifications of Quintana’s down year are well understood, at least when it comes to the White Sox’ high asking price (perhaps the valuation gap accounted for teams anticipating a potentially bumpy performance). Jones’ contract would make him the most desirable White Sox reliever if his health issues weren’t the main reason he signed such a contract. The Red Sox and Yankees could both use a third baseman, but Frazier has spent just one of 47 games this season above the Mendoza Line.

I’d draw a line there, and put Gonzalez and Cabrera a tier below. I was skeptical of Gonzalez’s trade value before the season since he’s somebody who can’t be counted upon to go to the post 30 times. I had thought more of Cabrera’s potential value — a contact-oriented switch-hitter who can hit for average and stand in an outfield corner -- but even with just one year remaining on his deal, there wasn’t much in the way of reported interest over the winter.

Since Gonzalez is drawing only a $5.9 million salary, he’d only need a good month to restore his value at the deadline (and the same can be said for Derek Holland). With Cabrera, his $14 million salary makes me think he’s more likely to be traded in August than before it.

That might sound like a disappointing development on its face, but the White Sox managed to stay afloat through May despite a staggering amount of injuries precisely because a couple of sleepy August waiver-wire trades came to fruition.

Aug. 11, 2013: White Sox trade Alex Rios to Texas for Leury Garcia.

The Rangers claimed Rios on waivers, which meant that Rick Hahn could have just dumped the remainder of the remaining $17 million on Texas’ payroll. Instead, he dumped $16 million of that remaining $17 million on Texas’ payroll, and for that $1 million, he received Garcia in return. (While Jon Daniels held more leverage than Hahn as the only guy with whom Hahn could discuss a Rios trade, Nelson Cruz had just been suspended for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, so the Rangers needed an outfielder.)

It took a few years for Garcia to make enough contact to allow his versatility to play, but now he’s hitting .296/.343/.469, and his biggest problem is making too many hero throws from center field, where he’s been the surprisingly valuable everyday starter. If the White Sox can find other options for the position without destroying their entire outfield depth chart, Garcia might be a trade candidate himself this time around.

Aug. 21, 2014: White Sox trade Gordon Beckham to Angels for Yency Almonte.

The White Sox originally dealt Beckham for a player to be named later, which was confirmed as Almonte the following February. It was amusing to note that the White Sox had already reacquired Beckham by then, at least if you were amused that the White Sox had reacquired Beckham. Many weren’t.

Almonte was struggling in A-ball at the time, but his backstory was intriguing enough — a former 17th-overall pick who couldn’t stay healthy, but was just 20 years old. Sure enough, the White Sox were able to keep him healthy across 24 games between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, and he responded with a 3.41 ERA with the peripherals to support it over 137 innings.

Having restored some of Almonte’s value, the White Sox flipped him to the Colorado Rockies after the 2015 season for Tommy Kahnle, who has turned into one of the best pitchers on the planet in his second year in the organization. Now Kahnle has shaped himself into a potentially dynamic deadline possibility for teams seeking bullpen help, although I like the idea of trying to extend him while liquidating the rest of the relief corps (Jones, David Robertson, Anthony Swarzak).

Even better, the White Sox would have been in decent shape even if they retained Almonte, as he boasts a 1.78 ERA with 36 strikeouts over 3513 innings for the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats this season. FanGraphs’ David Laurila talked to him recently, and while I don’t think Almonte is throwing shade at Beckham, one can take ‘OK’ and put that kind of tone on it:

An interesting aspect of Almonte’s development has been his path to Double-A. Originally drafted out of high school by the Los Angeles Angels, the 2012 17th-round pick was subsequently swapped to Chicago, and then, in November 2015, to Colorado. In each instance, he was traded for a big leaguer.

“The first time, it was for Gordon Beckham,” recalled Almonte, who gets high marks for his character and makeup. “I was like, ‘OK.’ The second time it was for Tommy Kahnle, and I felt like I must have been doing something right. I had a good year (in the White Sox organization) and opened some eyes up. Now I’m with the Rockies, and hopefully I’ll stay here.”

The idea of trading Beckham went from “can’t win” to “couldn’t lose,” although perhaps maybe that’s more because you can’t spell “Yency Almonte” without “Latency Money.” Whatever the case, it’s a reminder that post-deadline deals can serve a purpose, even if they’re far from ideal. It’d be a disappointment if somebody like Frazier couldn’t be dealt in June or July, what with reliable defense and 40 homers in his very recent past. For guys like Cabrera, the White Sox will have to take what they can get, and sometimes that’s more than originally thought.