The White Sox, according to reports, aren’t likely to be large spenders this offseason, keeping their payroll relatively similar to their 2022 total. Because of this, Rick Hahn and the rest of the front office will have to look to add players via trade, which Hahn has already mentioned previously in a press conference: “Yes, you have to be open to that because, look, we’re not just going to able to throw money at the problem. You might have to have to get creative, and the trade market may be a more fruitful path for us to go as opposed to free agency in the coming months….”
With the addition of Mike Clevinger a few days ago, Hahn will likely turn his focus toward improving the offense in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the 2022 campaign. Here are three potential trades Hahn and the front office can explore that improve the offense and fill team holes, all while operating on a limited budget.
White Sox acquire 2B Gavin Lux from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for RP Liam Hendriks, OF Yoelquis Cespedes, 3B Bryan Ramos, and RHP Jonathan Stiever
Now, it’s not necessarily a great idea to trade a proven talent like Liam Hendriks during a contention window. However, this improvement at second base would be tremendous and would go a long way toward making this deal worthwhile for the Sox.
Since Kenley Jansen moved on from the Dodgers, Los Angeles has struggled to find their closer. They tried to get Craig Kimbrel back to his early 2021 form, but that fell short. The addition of Liam Hendriks as their closer would tremendously improve their bullpen by giving them a stable, productive presence that they’ve been lacking. In addition, the Dodgers would be able to get Hendriks for two seasons, as his 2024 option automatically vests if he is traded. So, the Dodgers would essentially get two seasons of one of the top closers in baseball for much lower than the market price – remember, Edwin Diaz’s massive 5-year/$102 million contract is going to be something future closers reference.
On the other side, the White Sox have a solid bullpen at the moment and have the ability to trade from a strength. Pedro Grifol would be able to replace Hendriks as the closer with Reynaldo Lopez or Kendall Gravemen. At the end of the day, bullpen arms are not as valuable as quality 2nd basemen like Gavin Lux, especially because of their variability, so the White Sox would likely have to throw in a truly solid prospect (Ramos) as well as a couple of solid fliers (Cespedes, Stiever) to make something like this happen.
For the South Siders, Gavin Lux is a popular name that easily fills the need for a consistent second baseman. In a strange but true fact, the White Sox have had a different Opening Day second baseman every year since 2014 – meaning Lux would be a refreshing bit of stability at the position. At just 25 years old and under team contract through 2026, Lux’s .276/.346/.399 slash line with a 113 wRC+ in 2022 made him the sixth-best second basemen based on wRC+. Lux also had a 10% walk rate in 2022, which was fourth-best in the league among second basemen and is a skill that the White Sox sorely lack. He is also a tremendous defender, as he is in the 81st percentile in Outs Above Average at the position.
If the White Sox were able to accomplish this trade, they’d have second base locked down for quite a while with one of the better options at the position. It is tough to give up a great closer in Liam Hendriks, but the White Sox are playing to their strength while fixing a weakness in this scenario.
White Sox acquire OF Ian Happ from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for 2B Lenyn Sosa, RHP Norge Vera, and RHP Matt Thompson
The Cubs are in a bit of a rebuild right now and would love to get a solid prospect haul to help build for the future. Lenyn Sosa ranks as the Sox’s fourth-best prospect after seeing some brief MLB time in 2022 but struggling to get things going. Sosa, however, was phenomenal in the minors, though, as he slashed .315/.369/.511 between AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte in 2022. Sosa could very much be the future second baseman for the Cubs given the question marks they still have in the middle of their infield. Norge Vera, on the other hand, is the sixth-rated prospect in the White Sox farm system. He pitched very well in Low-A Kannapolis but struggled in AA. Vera isn’t close to MLB-ready but could be a solid prospect for the Cubs down the line. Matt Thompson is the 15th-ranked prospect in the club’s system and is a nice flier in the deal.
Ian Happ is an all-star switch hitter who is a very quality outfielder. He batted .271/.342/.440 with a .339 wOBA and a 120 wRC+ last season. He also posted +2 Outs Above Average in left field in 2022, so he can vastly improve the team’s outfield defense and allow Eloy Jimenez to switch over to designated hitter permanently. He also adds another switch hitter to a lineup that desperately needs some solid left-handed bats, and he slashed .260/.339/.440 with a 118 wRC+ against right-handed pitching last season.
Happ is only under contract for one season, but with the first phase of the White Sox’ contention window ending this season, it’s now or never to start making moves to capitalize on having Lance Lynn, Yasmani Grandal, Lucas Giolito, and others on the team.
White Sox acquire C Sean Murphy from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for LHP Garrett Crochet, 1B Andrew Vaughn, and SS Jose Rodriguez
Now, this feels like a lot to give up for Sean Murphy, but given the state of the future behind the plate for the White Sox, it would definitely be worth it.
With the Clevinger signing, Crochet either turns into a bullpen arm for this team or is sent down to Triple-A/Double-A to develop as a starting pitcher. He seems to be the odd man out in this bullpen but is still very valuable to other teams that want to convert him to a starter. Andrew Vaughn is tough to let go because of his potential to be such a good player in the league and the current first base vacancy, but similar to Crochet, you have to trade good players to get good players. The Athletics like Vaughn a lot too, but Hahn was unwilling to trade him for pitcher Frankie Montas not too long ago – perhaps Murphy could be the sort of impact player that Hahn considers worthy of moving Vaughn for. Finally, Jose Rodriguez is the seventh-ranked White Sox prospect and could help Oakland in the future as they are in the midst of a rebuild.
Sean Murphy was one of the best catchers in the league last year. He slashed .250/.332/.426 with 18 HR and a 122 wRC+. Out of all qualified catchers, he ranked second in fWAR, just behind JT Realmuto. He is an elite defensive catcher as well, as he had +9 Catcher Framing Runs, ranking sixth among all catchers in this category. He also has a 1.89 pop time which is tied for second among all catchers in 2022. Murphy also won a Gold Glove in 2021 as a final polish for his extremely strong resume. With three years left of team control, Sean Murphy plays hard behind the plate and would make a phenomenal addition to this team.
Yasmani Grandal is getting older, and asking him to catch 140 games may not be possible anymore. Thus, by trading Vaughn and adding Murphy, the Sox can move Yasmani to the first base full-time with Gavin Sheets being the backup first baseman. Sean Murphy is only 27, so he is young enough to play catcher almost every day. This optimizes the offense because the White Sox wouldn’t need to play a backup catcher every few days to have Grandal rest. If Grandal falls back to his 2022 season, the team has more first base options to lean on like Burger or Sheets to pick up the slack and don’t have to rely solely on Seby Zavala to boost the team’s offense.
It would be a risk to give up a potential cornerstone in Andrew Vaughn and such an electric arm in Garrett Crochet, but with a proven commodity like Murphy at a premium position available, it would be wise for the White Sox to make sure their catching position continues to give premium results following Grandal.
With not very much money to spend during the offseason, trades will have to be will likely be the primary way the White Sox add talent to this roster. All of these trades involve players who are fairly young and don’t have any crazy long-term contracts to pay, making them more realistic for the budget-conscious White Sox. Of course, there are some potentially cheap free agent options to fill some holes like Michael Conforto or Adam Duvall, but knowing Hahn’s history and reviewing the comments he made, fans should definitely be considering what help can come from other teams.
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