July is tradin' season, and the White Sox once again serve to provide reinforcements to contending clubs by trading from their major league roster in return for prospects and projects. This trading deadline won't be as exciting as last year's, when the Sox dealt Jose Quintana, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Anthony Swarzak and others for a boatload of prospects. Still, there are deals to be made, and we'll look at some of the biggest players that could be on the move.
The rankings you see below are based on (1) demand around the league for the player, (2) surplus value relative to contract and (3) likelihood of being traded. Consider this a priority list of players to watch this month as the deadline draws closer.
Honorable Mention: Nate Jones, Bruce Rondón, José Abreu
You can bet Rick Hahn is willing to deal pretty much anyone out of his bullpen — it’s just that these guys are probably not as sought after. Jones still doesn't look like the pitcher he did before 21 elbow surgeries, although his three club options through 2021 provide some additional value. Rondón is throwing heat but struggling with control, as evidenced by his 7.3 walks per nine innings. He's controllable through 2020 via arbitration.
The biggest obstacle in the way of an Abreu deal might be his performance this season. After hitting .301 from 2014-17, his average is down to .271 this year, with no signs of bad BABIP luck. Combine that with his below-average defense at first base, and he’s got only 0.6 fWAR to his name after half a season. Between that, his high price tag, and the love for him in the clubhouse and front office, maybe he’ll continue to stick around.
5. Avisaíl García
.277/.287/.479 | 107 wRC+ | 0.1 fWAR, 0.4 rWAR
$6.7M (2019: Arbitration-4)
García figured to be a prime midseason trade candidate, especially if he continued some semblance of his 2017 performance. Now, having missed two months and taken a while to return to form, major league scouts will likely be watching his July very closely. If Avi looks somewhat like the four-win player he was last year, he could provide a significant offensive boost to a team in need of another bat.
4. Luis Avilán
24⅔ IP | 3.19 FIP | 0.5 fWAR, -0.1 rWAR
$2.45M (2019: Arbitration-4)
No one in baseball has made more appearances while pitching fewer innings than Avilán. In that sense, he’s a true LOOGY; he’s only pitched a full inning 12 times in 2018. He usually comes in just to face a couple batters at a time, because he’s death to lefties (.208/.260/.319) but highly vulnerable to righties (.327/.411/.510). In the hands of a manager who actually knows how to use a LOOGY, Avilan’s 10 strikeouts per nine innings can play up. However, the return the Sox could get for him would be minimal.
3. Xavier Cedeño
9⅔ IP | 2.28 FIP | 0.2 fWAR, 0.5 rWAR
$1.05M (2019: Arbitration-2; 2020: Arbitration-3)
Cedeño made his way back to the major leagues by posting a 1.25 ERA across 21⅔ innings in Charlotte, with 25 strikeouts to just four walks. He just gave up his first major league run of the season on Sunday, in his 12th appearance. Cedeño and Avilán aren’t that far apart in terms of value, but the former’s early dominance (despite being non-tendered after a disastrous 2017) combined with his extra year of team control might give him the edge. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them both shipped off to give Jace Fry and Aaron Bummer full control of lefty situations.
2. James Shields
113⅔ IP | 4.53 FIP | 1.0 fWAR, 1.3 rWAR
$10M (2019: Club Option—$16M/$2M)
Shields arrived in Chicago in 2016 as the formerly 23-10 Sox were taking on water and trying desperately to plug holes. He pitched to an unfathomable 6.77 ERA in 22 starts and very quickly went from "rotation stabilizer" to "dead, expensive duck.” Never mind who the Sox gave up to get him.
Now, however, Shields has righted the ship and found new life with his reduced velocity. He's proven over a large enough sample that 2016 Shields is gone, and 2018 Shields is a perfectly adequate No. 4 starter and innings eater. That's a valuable player to a contending team with a thin rotation, even if there’s $5.5 million or so remaining on his contract.
Shields’s consistency this year makes him an attractive trade target, but his limited upside keeps him from being the White Sox’s top trade chip. That title goes to their newly acquired closer.
1. Joakim Soria
31⅔ IP | 2.32 FIP | 1.0 fWAR, 0.7 rWAR
$9M (2019: Mutual Option—$10M/$1M)
The White Sox acquired Soria to help stabilize the back end of their bullpen after trading basically everybody last year. After a bit of a rocky start, Soria has delivered time and time again, and he’s taken over the closer role by becoming the most reliable pitcher in the pen. Oh yeah, he also hasn’t allowed an earned run since May 18.
Soria is rocking a sterling 6.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has given up just two home runs all season. Contending teams will surely take notice of Soria's resurgence, and quality relievers are always in demand. The $10 million mutual option for 2019 is pricey, but with the way things are going, maybe it’s not totally crazy.
So there you have it. The Sox probably won’t be adding to their top prospect ranks with the veterans they have available, but some depth here and some lottery tickets there can still be important parts of the rebuilding process. Keep an eye on the short-term players in July (and maybe August), and we’ll see where they go from here.