At the time of writing, the White Sox are 42-44. They just ended the first half with a series split with the Cubs in an exciting week of baseball. Dylan Cease has opened his career with a bang, throwing 5 IP and routinely hit 97-99 on the gun. However, this is no time for the White Sox to rest on the start of something special. The July 31 trade deadline is just a few weeks away, and there are moves to be made for the White Sox.
The debate for the past few weeks surrounding White Sox Twitter has been whether the White Sox should be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. Most fans – around 80% according to Josh Nelson’s poll – want the Sox to either “Hold” or “Sell” at the deadline. But why can’t the Sox do a little bit of everything?
Before I go further, I want to make it clear that under no circumstances should the White Sox make moves like the Kevin Youkilis, Manny Ramirez, and Ken Griffey Jr. moves of the past – desperate trades to capture a playoff spot that seems just in reach. But, the rebuild is starting to gain some steam, and the White Sox have the opportunity to explore both “Buy” and “Sell” type moves that advance the rebuild without crumbling the infrastructure that makes it up – this means Kopech, Robert, and maybe Madrigal are still off the table. If I were in Rick Hahn’s shoes, here’s what I’d do:
Jake Bauers, CLE
Jake Bauers is a 1B/OF former top 50 prospect (ranked as high as #45 according to Baseball America) who has split his major league career between the Rays and Indians. Highly regarded for his hit tool and his elite eye, Bauers hit everywhere he went in the minors. He came up in the 2018 season with career minor league numbers of .276/.361/.414 with 55 homers and 52 stolen bases in 6 seasons with the Padres and Rays. His career in Tampa Bay didn’t start the way he wanted it to – he hit .201/.316/.384 in 96 games, good for a 95 wRC+. He was traded to the Indians this season in a three-team trade involving the Indians, Rays, and Mariners and has struggled mightily, hitting .245/.316/.410 with a 89 wRC+ and 0.0 fWAR.
So, why do I want the White Sox to trade for this guy? First, I want to try and capitalize on the potential that he clearly had in the minor leagues. I think Bauers has a slight of the “Yoan Moncada‘s” – he possess such an elite eye that the dude needs to learn how to swing a little bit more. Much like Moncada in 2018 (41.1 Swing%), Jake Bauers does not swing the bat nearly enough; his Swing% in 2018 and 2019 are 40.3 and 41.1, respectively. He doesn’t posses the same power potential that Moncada has, so it is much more critical for Bauers to pick good pitches to hit – however, it seems that much like Moncada in 2018, Bauers is simply being too selective for his own good. Perhaps a new ball club and some changes in mechanics could be helpful to help Bauers reach his potential.
Second, I think the White Sox might actually be able to get a decent deal for Bauers, despite the fact that he is still on his Rookie contract and would not become a Free Agent until 2025. The Indians are currently in an odd situation. They are 50-38, 5.5 GB in the AL Central, but currently 1.5 games up in the race for the second Wild Card spot. This is a team that is meant to win now, since their owner has already expressed his lack of desire to give out long-term, mega deals to guys like Lindor or Ramirez, who will one day earn them. In addition, the Indians currently have a logjam at 1B. All-Star Carlos Santana is commanding – deservedly – all of the at-bats, and the Indians could no longer hide the fact that young 1B Bobby Bradley was tearing it up in AAA and deserved his shot at the big leagues (before his promotion, Bradley was hitting .292/.359/.430 with 24 home runs and a 143 wRC+). This leaves Bauers to compete with Jordan Luplow and Tyler Naquin for just 2 OF spots, as Mercado has CF locked down. Both Naquin and Luplow are currently outperforming Bauers, and the Indians have yet another young slugger – OF Daniel Johnson – tearing it up in AAA and might become a late-season callup.
As a team looking to chase a pennant, the Indians might chase a quick fix to make this trade look worth it from their end, which is where I believe there is potential to make this move. However, with each passing day, this trade looks like it might be less and less likely – Bauers has made a self-proclaimed mechanical change to his swing, and he has been rewarded with a 10 for 21 stretch to start July. The Indians also gave up fan-favorite Yandy Diaz to acquire Bauers, so they might not be so quick to trade him and punt on a trade that is already seen as such a big loss in the eyes of fans (for reference, Diaz is hitting .277/.351/.481 with a 121 wRC+ in Tampa this year). However, if I’m Rick Hahn, I’m at least giving our friends to the East a call to check on his availability.
TRADE: Jake Bauers for Blake Rutherford, Adam Engel, and Seby Zavala. The Indians fill an immediate need with Engel, who can serve as a defensive replacement off the bench. Rutherford has used an incredible June to save his season and could be a long-term piece for the Indians. Zavala serves as depth and a power bat off the bench should the Indians choose. Other names I would throw on the table here included Gavin Sheets, Ryan Cordell, or even a young arm like Zach Thompson or Zack Burdi.
Marcus Stroman, TOR
Yeah, this seems to be the guy on everybody’s list right now. While Stroman isn’t the “young, controllable arm” Rick Hahn has been looking for, he is a 28-year-old available arm with one year left of control who will arguably demand less than someone like Gerrit Cole in Free Agency.
Unlike with Bauers, Stroman’s resume speaks for itself: 3.18/3.81 ERA/FIP, 81:32 K:BB, and 2.0 fWAR. He is a front of the line starter who has shown the ability to throw 200 innings a season. His fastball spin rate is amongst the best in the league – 87th percentile – and he currently has a 35.3 Hard Hit% against him – the best mark of his career. Any way you want to look at it, Stroman is and has always been a legit starter in the majors. Putting together a rotation of Stroman, Giolito, Cease, and Kopech would be absolutely LETHAL. The White Sox shouldn’t be stupid and overpay for Stroman, but it isn’t often someone of his caliber becomes available at his age. He is in the middle of his prime seasons and is the same age as Gerrit Cole. While there are many starters rumored to be available this July, Cole is the standout arm of the class this summer. There is a better chance of fewer suitors for Stroman now. This is one situation the White Sox should absolutely be monitoring closely this July.
TRADE: Marcus Stroman for Reynaldo Lopez, Luis Gonzalez, and Jonathan Stiever. Here’s the thing: the White Sox will need to give up at least one young top 100 prospect to get Stroman. The Toronto Blue Jays are stacked with Vlad Jr, Bichette, and Biggio, but their pitching prospects leave a lot to be desired. Instead of throwing in a top 100 prospect, I threw in Lopez. It could’ve just as easily been Dunning in this spot, and honestly it probably should’ve been him. But I could see teams really liking Lopez despite some serious flaws he currently has, and if he is enough to be the headliner for a deal with Stroman, I think the White Sox should seriously entertain the idea. Other names I would put here include Dunning, Micker Adolfo, and Alec Hansen. Stroman is going to cost the White Sox something, that can’t be avoided.
Nick Solak, TBR
The Tampa Bay Rays have one of the best problems ever: their major league team is in the playoff hunt, AND their minor league system is stacked. It’s absolutely incredible. With Willy Adames and Brandon Lowe currently manning the middle of the infield for the foreseeable future and prospects Wander Franco and Vidal Brujan not far behind, the Rays have an abundance of middle infield prospects. With that comes the problem every major league team wishes they had: too many great players, not enough positions to play them all.
Nick Solak falls into this category. A 2B/OF at AAA, Lowe has hit .264/.354/.476 on the season with 16 homers. These numbers should not surprise anyone, as he is a career .289 hitter in the minors with 50 homers over 4 seasons. His swing actually reminds me a little bit of Nick Madrigal‘s, but with some serious pop. His defense is rough around the edges, and it is definitely his bat that will bring him to the majors, but Solak presents a unique opportunity for the White Sox to strike. The Tampa Bay Rays are not the team you would expect to be foolish enough to trade long-term assets for short-term gains, but this is a clear opportunity for the Rays to use their depth to improve wherever they feel the most need to continue to battle for a playoff spot. For the White Sox, it is an opportunity to gain some depth at their weakest position – middle infield.
TRADE: Nick Solak for Carson Fulmer. Fulmer is 100% the type of guy you’d expect to be just an absolute stud in Tampa Bay. He has the stuff to be successful, and with the forward-thinking Rays’ front office and coaching staff, they can take some of his elite metrics (spin rate on his CB and FB) and turn him into the pitcher he absolutely has the potential to be. Other names I would put here would include Bryce Bush or Konnor Pilkington. This one was hard because I don’t know what the asking price for the Rays would realistically be. But, since Fulmer almost got the White Sox Pederson this offseason, I think other team (as they should) value Fulmer higher than our fan base does.
Whether or not to trade Colome remains the biggest topic on White Sox Twitter today. Colome has been an incredibly reliable closer: 19/20 saves converted, 2.02 ERA, a 0.70 WHIP, and a ridiculous .125 batting average against. It seems as if the White Sox would be foolish to trade their closer.
However, a deeper dive into the numbers reveals a little bit more of a cause for concern. His FIP is worrisome, all the way up at 3.99. A nearly 2 run split between a pitcher’s ERA and FIP is never a very good thing, and it is the widest it has been in Colome’s career. Colome also isn’t doing a great job at limiting hard contact – 48.9% and 40% of balls, respectively, have been medium or hard hits this season against Colome. This wouldn’t be as bad if Colome were keeping the ball out of the air. Instead, his flyable percentage is up at 43.8%, the highest of his career.
Now, obviously, if a 22-year-old armchair GM can see the worrisome metrics surrounding Colome, so can smart baseball front offices. That being said, there are going to be desperate teams. The Rockies, Red Sox, and A’s – all team in the playoff hunt – are among the leaders in blown saves this season. Heck, the Red Sox are so desperate that they plan to make Nathan Eovaldi – a career SP – their closer when he returns from the IL.
The White Sox shouldn’t be desperate to trade Colome. However, they shouldn’t dismiss the notion either. If a team wants to be crazy and offer up a top 100 or fringe top 100 prospect, the Sox should absolutely jump at the opportunity. However, the team doesn’t need another Kodi Medieros-esque player. If the Sox aren’t blown away by the offer, they shouldn’t trade him. But to not even entertain the idea of trading him would not be in the White Sox’ best interest.
There’s no reason for the White Sox to get crazy and start trading off all of their assets. However, there are situations around the league currently that would allow the White Sox to strike strategically as they move closer to the trade deadline. These three moves outlines above target the White Sox’ most glaring long-term holes: OF, MI depth, and SP. But, no matter who the White Sox decide to target this trade season, the point is that they should be targeting someone who can add to their long-term value as a ball club. Holding or selling is only a good option after exploring avenues of buying young talent.
After a couple years of expecting the White Sox to sell, sell, sell, there’d be no better way for the White Sox to announce their arrival back to a window of contention than to throw their name in the ring for some young, controllable talent. Let the trade season begin.
Agree? Disagree? Have Someone Else You’d Like the White Sox to Trade or Trade For? Let me know on Twitter: @jlazowski14
Featured Photo: NBC Sports Chicago