There’s a cliché that tends to be floated around on a yearly basis when the trade deadline approaches: You need to give up good players to get good players.
In the case of Chicago, this rings especially true. Lacking a top-tier farm system with blue-chip prospects to pique the interest of selling teams, the White Sox will almost definitely need to part with at least one major-league, or major league-ready, player in order to make an impactful move(s).
Before we dive into the triad of players that the White Sox should make available in trade talks, it is only right to make clear that the following players should not be included in any trade discussions:
There isn’t a single player that could possibly be on the trade block who would be worth parting with Michael Kopech. Kopech had looked as sharp as ever prior to last month’s hamstring injury, and will continue to be a key contributor for the remainder of the season once he returns.
In addition to the value that he brings the 2021 squad, Kopech’s true potential won’t be tapped into until next season, where he’ll likely break spring training with the big-league rotation. It seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be said: Michael Kopech should not and will not be going anywhere.
Although Dylan Cease hasn’t been exactly the highly-touted, top-of-the-rotation arm that the White Sox might’ve envisioned him as a couple years ago, he has made a big jump this season, and has been among the more consistent players on the entire roster.
Will Cease be in the postseason starting rotation? Probably not. However, there are two big reasons why the flamethrowing righty should be kept out of any trade discussions.
- Cease has been excellent against teams below .500 this season. This may not be a wholly valid reason to retain Cease, but given the fact that the White Sox are in the worst division in all of baseball, it’s fairly important to keep guys around that feed off of weak competition. In 10 starts against opponents worse than .500, Cease is 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA, striking out 67 batters in 54 innings.
- Much like Kopech, Cease still hasn’t tapped into his full potential. The upper-90s fastball has always been there, but Cease has made significant strides with his changeup and curveball this season, putting him on pace for a near-200 strikeout season. Give it another offseason working on these secondary pitches with Ethan Katz, and Cease could become a top-line starter for the White Sox next season.
This one will almost certainly be met with backlash, however, there are plenty of reasons why it would serve the White Sox well to hold onto Zack Collins, at least through the 2021 season.
First, the obvious: Collins is currently the backup catcher to Yasmani Grandal, with absolutely nobody waiting in the wings at Triple-A. Dealing Collins would make the White Sox incredibly thin at the catcher position, putting them in a position where an injury to Grandal would be insurmountable. No, Yermín Mercedes is not an option as the No. 2 catcher.
Secondly, Collins has emerged as the preferred catcher for both Lucas Giolito and Carlos Rodón. While this has served as an issue more than a benefit at times this season, maintaining a comfort level for two of the team’s top arms will pay dividends throughout the season, especially in high-leverage games come September.
Finally, the White Sox haven’t done a particularly good job of acclimating Collins to major-league pitching. Although he’s hitting just .226 this season, it is nearly impossible for a hitter as young and inexperienced at the major league level as Collins is to establish a rhythm at the plate when he’s only in the lineup twice per week. This doesn’t necessarily mean Collins should be in the everyday lineup, more so it means that the White Sox should provide Collins with the opportunity to play on a more consistent basis before disregarding him as a legitimate option to replace Grandal after 2022.
Now that we’ve gotten those three out of the way, let’s take a look at three players that the White Sox should make available in trade discussions.
Chicago’s first-round pick in the 2017 draft, infielder Jake Burger has had a rough road to the major leagues.
Burger missed the 2018 season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in spring training before re-tearing the same Achilles tendon just three months later, causing him to miss the 2019 season.
With the 2020 minor league season being cancelled, 2021 is, amazingly, Burger’s first full professional season. Thus far he’s been terrific at the plate, hitting .317 with 10 home runs and 35 runs batted in.
But Burger lacks the versatility to play anywhere except for the two corner infield spots, leaving him without a spot in the Chicago lineup for the foreseeable further. While the White Sox would probably love to see Burger get a shot with the major league team before moving him, they’re in a position where he might not have enough time to make a big league impression before he’s gone.
It was reported by Jon Heyman that the Arizona Diamondbacks are asking for either Burger or Zack Collins in exchange for White Sox trade target Eduardo Escobar, an asking price that the White Sox have supposedly balked at.
Whatever boost Burger could give to the offense this season probably doesn’t exceed the value that a player like Escobar would bring to the White Sox down the stretch of the season. Coupled with his lack of a defined spot on the team for years to come, the White Sox should absolutely be making Jake Burger available in trades.
The second-round pick in last year’s draft, hard-throwing righty Jared Kelley is the top prospect in the White Sox system.
Viewed as a difficult player to sign in the 2020 draft, the White Sox were able to pull Kelley away from his Texas commitment with a $3 million signing bonus.
Kelley has struggled mightily in his first professional season, recording a 9.00 ERA in four starts for Low-A Kannapolis. While this shouldn’t be a reason to trade Kelley, his early struggles should be of concern for a White Sox organization with a tendency to move guys along quickly in the minor leagues.
Kelley’s struggles haven’t been far-pressed enough to where his value has taken a hit, which is surely a good thing for the White Sox. Additionally, Kelley won’t be major-league ready until the end of the 2023 season at the earliest, making him a serious trade candidate for a team with World Series aspirations this season.
Kelley could be the centerpiece of a trade for a player such as Adam Frazier, who would make a sizable impact for many reasons. Kelley’s potential might be high, but he’s not going to help the 2021 team win anything, and by that mentality, Kelley should absolutely be available.
Chicago’s first-round pick in last year’s draft, Garrett Crochet burst onto the scene last September as a surprise call-up. In five appearances, Crochet allowed just three hits, serving as a weapon out of the back end of the bullpen.
This season, Crochet got off to a similar start, allowing just one run in his first 14 appearances of the season. However, Crochet has looked well out of sorts in June, recording a 6.75 ERA in eight appearances.
Crochet was drafted as a starting pitcher and the White Sox have been adamant that Crochet will eventually reach the rotation down the line. This isn’t the first time the White Sox have brought along a young lefty in this manner (see: Chris Sale), but Crochet’s struggles, as well as the fact that he hasn’t really been stretched past an inning thus far in 2021, make that vision a tad bit murkier.
Crochet is one of the most valuable pitchers in the organization, but if there’s anyone around his level of value that is worth parting with, it might just be Crochet. The White Sox likely won’t have an opening in the rotation for him next season, and unless they envision him as a future closer or Andrew Miller/Josh Hader-type stopper, there’s no reason in hanging onto him.
Crochet’s contributions to the current bullpen would be missed, but the White Sox could easily fill that void with smaller deals for bullpen help closer to the deadline. If the right deal emerges for an impact bat, especially one with future control, the White Sox must make Crochet available if they’re serious about winning in 2021.