As the White Sox stumble on through the 2023 season, there’s more and more talk among fans of possible deadline trades, the awfulness of the AAAL Central notwithstanding (the rumor that whoever wins the division will only be allowed to fly a pennant with a giant asterisk has not yet been verified). Management says only players with expiring contracts will be considered, but (a) all contracts expire eventually, as do we all, and (b) management is not known for honesty.
Since the deadline is now just a month away, your intrepid researcher went to Baseball Trade Values (BTV) to ascertain what possible swaps might bring in exchange. This is not something you should do on your own without adult supervision, because it can cause severe depression. We will hereby pretend management is partially honest, and allow “expiring” to mean with or without club options at the end of the season.
Naytheless (spoiler alert: bad stuff follows), here are a few numbers that are real numb-ers. Bear in mind BTV arrives at its valuations based on player performance, salaries current and future, length of team control and injury probability (that last being higher for starting pitchers as a group). It does this for players major and minor, so valuations can be used to match prospects and current rosters.
FREE AGENTS AT THE END OF THIS SEASON
BTV based on only partial season control
Lucas Giolito +14.8
Keynan Middleton +1.3
Reynaldo Lopez +0.8
Elvis Andrus -0.3
Yasmani Grandal -3.8
PLAYERS WITH CLUB OPTIONS FOR 2024
Liam Hendriks +2.9
Joe Kelly +1.5
Tim Anderson +1.3 (before current/ongoing plummet)
Lance Lynn +0.3
Now, those numbers aren’t very meaningful without an outside comparison, so here’s one — a two-month rental of Shohei Ohtani comes in at +50.6. If you prefer a prospect comparison, given the need for catchers, Dodgers Double-A catcher Diego Cartaya scores 54.5 and their Single-A backstop, Dalton Rushing, is rated at 21.0. In other words, other than in the case of Giolito, the return for any of these White Sox players is likely to be a hot dog vendor who never remembers to offer mustard.
Nobody outside their immediate families trusts any of the three stooges to know how to evaluate any trades. To proceed with trades without whatever shakeup is possible in the team hierarchy would just be a waste of time and fandom.
Therefore, a shakeup of some sort is imperative. Trading owners would be ideal, but Jerry Reinsdorf would probably discover he’d have to pay some taxes on the deal and refuse to go along with it. Plus, it would be hard to find a comp, given he’s someone who only owns 20% of a team but has managed to gather 100% of the control for himself.
Thus, a Modest Proposal (apologies, Mr. Swift)
First, given the pathetic values for players in the above two categories, we need to throw in another common scenario: Trading from a position of strength to fill a weakness. Let us presume not even the stooges would trade Luis Robert Jr., and thus go to the one position where the White Sox are overloaded and have some players with value to spare — designated hitter — even though all involved are under lengthy control.
Andrew Vaughn +25.3
Jake Burger +22.4
Gavin Sheets +4.5
Eloy Jiménez -7.9
That might just possibly give enough to offer to get something in return.
Next, we move on to the organization’s greatest weakness, which isn’t second base or right field or depth at any position or the feebleness of the farm system. It is, of course, front office management.
Then we proceed to a common type of trade, where a team unloads a bad contract by providing lots of good to make up for it.
And then, we find a trading partner. Many teams with good postseason chances would provide possibilities, but there is an ideal one, one which has been highly successful on a skinflint budget even Reinsdorf would absolutely love — the Tampa Bay Rays.
HOW TO MAKE THE DEAL AND SAVE THE WHITE SOX
It is apparent that Reinsdorf likes lips affixed to his posterior too much to fire Ken Williams or Rick Hahn, but there’s a difference between firing and trading, and trading could save him and his fellow geriatric shareholders a lot of money, which should make up for it.
Here’s the plan. We (initially it might have be a giant committee of fans, pretending to speak for ownership) go to the Rays with a proposal — they can have all the players who will be free agents at the end of the year AND all the ones with 2024 options AND their pick of designated hitter if they’ll also take Rick Hahn — reel in what they want, throw the rest back in.
We would stress they do not have to make Hahn general manager, or in any way allow him to interfere with their excellent baseball operations. Research shows they have an assistant visiting clubhouse manager who has held that job for more than 18 years. Maybe he’d appreciate a promotion or a retirement party, and assistant visiting clubhouse manager is an ideal job for Hahn, since he screws up everything he touches and the only victims in this case would be opponents — win-win. (Of course, if there are never any towels in the clubhouse, he’ll be the first to say that if he thought it was his fault, he’d resign, but he’d be lying.)
So, Tampa Bay gets a choice of up to 11 players (really 12, since offering just one DH is an opening offer and we’d be ready to go to two) if they help get rid of Hahn by hiding him somewhere in the bowels of Tropicana Field.
Do We Get Nothing But Rid of Him?
Of course not. We’d have a general manager opening to fill, and Tampa Bay is loaded with competent management, witness their amazing success on a small budget. Their website lists dozens and dozens of people, and for all officers they provide background and a delineation of duties (it’s called public relations, something the White Sox may want to try after Jerry dies). Admittedly that would be difficult for the Sox to do because they’d have to have a listing that goes “Ken Williams, executive vice-president” and then a blank page.
Naturally, the Sox would not even try to speak with their president or GM, since why would either move from a highly-functioning organization to an incompetent one run by a control freak?
Specifically, the White Sox would want the right to hire away our choice of Will Cousins, Chandra Lawdermilk, Carlos Rodriguez and Kevin Ibach. The first three are listed as Vice Presidents and Assistant General Managers and the last as Vice President of Player Personnel. They would also be moving from a great organization to a totally dysfunctional one, but a promotion’s a promotion.
The trade would most likely be concentrated on Rodriguez and Ibach. Cousins is primarily an R&D guy, with a PhD in Applied Math, more Jonah Hill than Brad Pitt, as it were, something the Sox need, but not necessarily as GM. Lawdermilk seems to work with all personnel in the organization, not concentrating on baseball aspects.
Rodriguez and Ibach both have gobs of experience at player acquisition and development, including scouting background. Ibach may be the first to consider, because he already lives in Illinois, in Geneva. So Reinsdorf could save money on moving expenses by targeting him. But both have been with the excellent Rays organization for a long time, and both have experience with other solid teams — Rodriguez with the Blue Jays and Ibach with the Orioles.
Heck, hire both of them.
This trade would be a true Ray(s) of sunshine. Sure, the Sox would be a few players short, but there may be no other way to ever get rid of Hahn, since Reinsdorf apparently will live forever, so working with half a roster for a while will be worth it.
If you could trade only one away, who goes?
This poll is closed