After wrapping up the first half 16 games below .500 and eight games back of first place in the AL Central, it’s becoming rather apparent that the White Sox will sell before the trade deadline. While Rick Hahn has not explicitly pledged to this approach, his non-committal attitude combined with the team’s standing makes it appear highly likely. Unthinkably, the “championship window” has come to this point.
With this possibility in mind and the trade deadline less than three weeks away, the question arises — which players are most likely to go? While we’ll have plenty of content on those players and all sorts of trade proposals, I think an equally interesting question is which players shouldn’t go? Whether because they are too valuable or underperforming, there are four players that I think would be best kept in Chicago.
Disclaimer: if the Angels offer Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Mickey Moniak, and buckets of cash for any of these guys, yes of course Rick Hahn should trade them; the following players aren’t worth any reasonable return I could foresee.
After a roaring first half and impressive Home Run Derby showing, Luis Robert Jr.’s stardom has never been higher. At just 25 years old and on a friendly contract, Robert Jr. has an argument to be one of the top ten most valuable trade pieces in the MLB.
If the White Sox are looking to attempt a full long-term tear-down, it might make sense to ship Robert off for a boatload of prospects and stack the farm 2016-style. But for one, we don’t know that’s the plan, and even if it is, I still think Robert Jr. is worth more than market level.
We’re only just beginning to scratch the surface of what he can do. Alongside an .899 OPS, La Pantera is the American League’s most productive outfielder at 3.7 fWAR halfway through the season. He’s likely only getting better too, as he’s finally staying healthy—ten more games would be his career high for appearances in a season.
It would be different if he was likely gone in a couple of years, but the South Siders will have Robert Jr. through 2027. You would be trading 4.5 years of Luis Robert Jr. for a few guys with marginally more control who might become Luis Robert Jr. He’s the cornerstone, plain and simple.
It hasn’t been 2022 levels of dominance for Dylan Cease by any means, but that’s exactly why Rick Hahn and Co. should hold on to him. After flashing the level of dominance he did last year, trading Cease would be selling a pitcher with one of the highest ceilings in the big leagues.
First, runs surrendered don’t tell the whole story—Cease has a 4.30 ERA in 2023 but a 3.78 FIP and 3.92 SIERA. But although he’s been a bit unlucky, the peripherals are still worse than in 2022, where he sported a 3.10 FIP and 3.48 SIERA.
The culprit appears to be the off-speed pitches. His slider and curveball xBA (expected batting average) are both significantly worse than last year, which unsurprisingly coincides with slightly worse movement on those pitches. There’s no reason to believe Cease can’t regain touch on those offerings, so I wouldn’t lose any confidence in the long-term outlook.
Interested teams will see the 2023 numbers and offer a trade package worthy of an above-average but inconsistent pitcher. But the White Sox would be far smarter to wait, let Cease find his off-speed feel, and watch as he blossoms into a consistent force.
Since returning from a lengthy injury mid-way through last season and living in the DH role, Jimenez has been relatively healthy. Hallelujah! He’s been excellent in that stretch, as he was a top-five hitter in the AL in the second half of 2022 and boasts a 133 wRC+ and ten homers since May 1 of this season.
Many would claim that Chicago should offload Jimenez now, while he appears healthy and productive before he gets injured again. But that would be shortsighted — Jimenez’s reputation for injury came about during his stint as an outfielder.
Look what’s happened to Luis Robert Jr. as he’s stayed on the field. With a consistent bulk of games under his belt, Jimenez (the DH) should be on track to get better and better.
Undoubtedly, Kopech’s numbers during this campaign are ugly. The 4.08 ERA doesn’t tell the whole story, as he’s getting mashed to the tune of a 5.58 FIP and a barrel rate allowed in the lowest percentile. Maybe the Sox should get rid of Kopech to a rebuilding team that wants to take a flyer on him?
Not so fast. For one, he was sporting much better numbers between his first start and his last few starts where he was fighting “general soreness” in his own words. In that stretch of start two through start twelve, Kopech recorded a 3.39 ERA with a 4.50 FIP and 4.06 SIERA. Striking out 10.43 batters and walking 3.91 batters per nine innings in that period, it’s clear the stuff is there but the control is still lacking.
With a significant rise in SLG and xWOBA against his fastball despite no change in velocity, spin rate, or movement, opposing hitters are simply sitting on it when he gets behind in counts. Case in point, if Kopech can find his control, he should instantly be an above-average pitcher.
Being only his second year as a starter and excelling as a reliever in 2021, the jury is still largely out on Kopech. If we know anything from Cease and Lucas Giolito, it can often be the third full season where a pitcher takes the big leap. Chicago would be wise to reserve judgment on Kopech until after next season.
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