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Deal or No Deal 2021: White Sox Moves to Consider at the Trade Deadline

by Jordan Lazowski
Published: Last Updated on

Over the past two seasons at the Trade Deadline, I’ve written these articles about who the White Sox should consider targeting at the Trade Deadline based on their current situation. The team has been in a very different spot all three times I’ve written this.

At the time of publishing, the White Sox are 58-39 and hold a 9.0 game lead in the AL Central. That big of a lead has afforded them the opportunity to wait out the market and find the deal that fits their team perfectly. However, with every loss – and, truthfully, even during every win – it becomes clear that the White Sox’s two biggest needs are 2B and RP. This comes as no surprise to a fan base that is practically begging for a move or two to be made. The hard part is always this question: WHO should the White Sox trade for?

This article is an attempt to look at some realistic options for the White Sox when adding over this next week, given the holes that they currently have. I try to keep these as realistic as possible – so, no, Trevor Story nor Ketel Marte are listed, and I explain why later in the article.

With Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, and Yasmani Grandal expected back from the injured list before season’s end, the White Sox have very specific holes that don’t require much patchwork to fix – anything better than the current option(s) at each position will do. We all want big moves – but will the Sox make one? Heck, should they make one? I’ll discuss this more later.

For now, let’s begin.


Eduardo Escobar, 2B and Joakim Soria, RP, ARI

Contract Statuses
Escobar: 32 years old, Free Agent after 2021
Soria: 37 years old, Free Agent after 2021

Easily one of the most popular trade targets, Eduardo Escobar was rumored to be heading to the White Sox as far back as a couple of weeks ago by Bob Nightengale. Well, here we sit on July 24th, and no move has been made yet. That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t be made, however.

Escobar doesn’t light the world on fire, clearly, but he has posted some quality numbers for the Diamondbacks this year. He’s slashing .248/.300/.485 with a 107 wRC+. This, along with his 3 Outs Above Average (OAA) on defense, makes him the perfect fill-in for Nick Madrigal for the rest of the season. His 22 homers would pretty easily lead a White Sox team that is desperate for some added pop. With young players such as Andy Young and Josh Rojas rising through the middle infield ranks, the Diamondbacks will definitely be looking to move Escobar and his expiring contract.

Soria, after struggling the first few months of the season, has seen things turn around recently for him. He has posted scoreless outings in 13 of his last 14 games, with a 2.70 ERA over that timespan. His .345 wOBA – compared to a .290 xwOBA – suggests there’s been some bad luck with his poor overall results this season. In addition, he’s walking the fewest batters since 2018 while his strikeout rate remains consistent from his solid 2020 campaign.

Given Soria’s age and the current state of the Diamondbacks, the team really has no need for Soria. They’re better served to get something rather than nothing for him at this point in his career.

TRADE: Eduardo Escobar and Joakim Soria for Matt Foster and Bailey Horn. This should be a fairly inexpensive trade, as we’ve already seen by the Nelson Cruz and Rich Hill deals that rentals don’t get too much in return. That, combined with the fact that both Cruz and Hill are better rentals than Escobar/Soria, leaves the White Sox in a good position to make a move. In Foster, the Diamondbacks get an arm that has previously seen major league success and a wild card piece with some upside in Horn. It’s about as good as you’d expect a team dealing two expiring contracts to do. I’m not going to hold this up over the names likely discussed, so if a name such as Luis Gonzalez, Blake Rutherford, or even Jimmy Lambert becomes a necessity, I’d probably still do it.


Cole Sulser, RP and Paul Fry, RP, BAL

Contract Statuses –
Sulser: 31 years old, Free Agent after 2025
Fry: 28 years old, Free Agent after 2024

Fans have asked for names to target at the trade deadline; this is me doing my best to find some. The general rule of thumb: bad, rebuilding teams have no use for good bullpen arms – they’re much better served to get a piece or two that might end up being a diamond in the rough. That’s exactly where Baltimore is at.

Sulser has posted a pretty quality season so far in Baltimore with a 32% strikeout rate with a bit of a high 10.9% walk rate. His 3.06 ERA and 2.97 FIP show his talent level is true to where he’s been performing this year and based on his BaseballSavant scorecard, he has pretty solid expected statistics as well.

The concern is clearly the walk rate in a White Sox bullpen that’s already struggling with walks. That being said, Sulser has some pretty nice stuff despite some inconsistencies.

Fry, on the other hand, has quietly been the 13th most valuable RP among qualified arms, covering 36.1 innings and posting a 1.2 fWAR to go along with a 31.4% strikeout rate and (more concerning) 11.8% walk rate. That being said, his 3.72 ERA compared to his 2.34 FIP shows he might be better than some of the first numbers show. With Aaron Bummer struggling mightily, his presence from the left side would be welcomed.

The problem – unsurprisingly – falls in his splits. He has a 1.23 ERA in 14.2 IP against LHB. That jumps to a 5.09 ERA across 23 IP against RHB. Those splits weren’t as pronounced in 2020 when he posted a 1.64 ERA in 11 IP against LHB and a more respectable 3.27 ERA in 11 IP against RHB – meaning he has the ability to get right-handers out. He has a devastating slider too.

TRADE: Cole Sulser and Paul Fry for Jimmy Lambert and Blake Rutherford. Both Sulser and Fry are a little bit different than trying to trade for a 37-year-old Soria. That being said, they’re still older, and Fry heading to arbitration next year makes him less valuable to an Orioles team that is still going to be trying to save money in the short term. Still, in terms of player costs, it’s a bit more expensive than rentals. The Orioles get a high upside SP in Lambert and a wild card in Blake Rutherford.

Again, it’s really hard to try and complete some of these trades, so if names such as Konnor Pilkington, Zack Burdi, or Matt Foster come up here, I’ll get it done. A third player might be required in a trade like this – I don’t know, trades for relievers are hard and often differ by team.


Josh Harrison, 2B, WAS

Contract Status – 34 years old, Free Agent after 2021

A familiar name of year’s past in the AL Central, Josh Harrison is having himself a pretty quality season in Washington. Like many of the names on this list, he doesn’t set the world on fire, but he gets the job done. In 83 games, Harrison is slashing .282/.354/.399 with 5 homers and a 107 wRC+. He provides some additional value by striking out less than 15% of the time while grading out at a solid 5 OAA at 2B.

Harrison doesn’t provide the power upside that the other 2B on this list – Eduardo Escobar – does, but his ability to get on base while slugging close to .400 provides an immediate upgrade offensively over Leury Garcia. He’s a bit above-average as a ballplayer – and that’s exactly what the White Sox really need right now at 2B.

TRADE: Josh Harrison for Zack Burdi. This deal would cost absolutely nothing. With Harrison’s age and expiring contract, this is a very low-cost deal with plenty of solid upside for the White Sox. This all really comes down to what the Nationals want to do at the Trade Deadline. Many have speculated that they won’t sell, even at 45-51, because they are only 7.0 games back in the NL East. However, with Stephen Strasburg‘s return from injury appearing less and less likely this season, perhaps this pushes the Nationals to at least get rid of their expiring contracts and give a prospect like Carter Kieboom another extended look at the highest level.


Dylan Floro, RP, MIA

Contract Status – 30 years old, Free Agent after 2023

After being traded from the Dodgers before the season, Floro finds himself on a 41-57 Marlins team that really doesn’t need a quality reliever like himself in the near future. Floro has put up quality numbers this season with a 2.77 ERA, all combining to be worth 0.9 fWAR. His 3.39 FIP implies some regression, though his 2.70 xERA (ERA based on the quality of contact) would argue otherwise.

The risk is pretty clear in his StatCast scorecard: he doesn’t miss a lot of bats. However, throughout his career, he’s been awesome at minimizing hard contact – mostly because he has pretty solid stuff. Both his changeup and fastball have some nice movement.

TRADE: Dylan Floro for Ryan Burr and Bailey Horn. The Marlins traded for Floro this offseason, so I tried to mimic the trade off of that while keeping in mind his contract structure. Ryan Burr is someone who’s seen success at the highest level and has plenty of upside. Horn is an upside wild card play. There are likely some other names such as Zack Burdi, Tyler Johnson, or Hunter Schryver that could be interesting here, but I think you’re likely getting the point: these are deals that are not going to take much prospect capital in return. It really depends on how Miami views Floro, and more importantly, how Kim Ng and her staff view the Marlins’ rebuild status.


Mitch Haniger, OF, SEA

Contract Status: 30 years old, Free Agent after 2022

All of my trade deadline articles include at least one of these big trades. In 2019, it was Marcus Stroman. In 2020, it was Andrew Benintendi. This year, no surprise to anyone who follows me on Twitter, it’s Mitch Haniger.

Haniger is having himself yet another quality season – no surprise for him when healthy. He’s slashing .262/.318/.503 with a .349 wOBA and 126 wRC+. Though he is right-handed, he hits both right-handers and left-handers well, which means platoon splits aren’t an issue (146 wRC+ against LHP, 117 wRC+ against RHP). He’s no speed burner in the outfield, and he’s going to strike out at a league-average rate, but he has some serious power (23 HR on the season) in a lineup that is lacking it.

Haniger is under contract for another season after this one, which would solve a hole for the White Sox heading into 2022. Haniger could serve as a high-quality stopgap between – hopefully – Yoelqui Cespedes or Oscar Colas. If those two don’t pan out, there’s no reason the Sox couldn’t look to extend Haniger another season or two, as he is just 30 years old.

TRADE: Mitch Haniger and Kendall Graveman for Garrett Crochet OR Jared Kelley, Jonathan Stiever, D.J. Gladney, and Yolbert Sanchez. I know a lot of you just panicked at the return there, but hear me out. I truly think there’s a world in which this deal can get done. The Mariners will be welcoming some of their top outfield prospects to the majors soon, and Haniger is going to be out of a roster spot. A player of Haniger’s talent is going to cost something of high value in return. Crochet, while a really solid pitcher, is going to need some time in the minors to develop into a starting pitcher – time that a team like the Mariners, who are still outside of their contention window, have. Graveman has posted some solid numbers out of the back end of the Mariners’ rotation this year, and regardless of whether or not it’s in a hypothetical trade for Haniger, I’d like the Sox to check in on his availability.

However, in addition to the fact that the White Sox are unlikely to make any big trades, the Mariners keep on winning and don’t look to be in a position to sell any time soon, unfortunately. This means my dream of #HanigerToTheSouthSide is likely over – for now…


Other Names to Keep an Eye On

The good news is that there are plenty of bad teams with decent relievers that the White Sox could be interested in – I just happened to name a few here. Andrew Chafin (Edit: Traded to OAK) and Ryan Tepera (CHC), Daniel Hudson (WAS), and Ian Kennedy (TEX) are all names that stick out to me because of age/contract status/current team outlook. We know the White Sox and Rangers like to do deals, so perhaps Rick Hahn has been on the phone with Jon Daniels recently to discuss Kennedy? If the White Sox are discussing Josh Harrison, could they add Daniel Hudson to the deal? I’d still call the Mariners on Kendall Graveman too.

For hitters, a guy like Jonathan Schoop could always become available in Detroit as well. Mike Moustakas or Cesar Hernandez would be interesting – though far less probable – names.

I’ll be honest: don’t get your hopes up for guys like Joey Gallo or Adam Frazier. Texas is likely to keep Gallo and try to make some big moves in the offseason, while the Pirates are likely going to capitalize on a career year for Frazier and get someone to overpay for a below-average career hitter (Edit: the Padres have done this). As it is, Frazier has already shown signs of coming back to earth post-All Star break, and I don’t think the White Sox are in a position to overpay for his talent.

As for Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, and THOSE types of rentals: I wouldn’t get your hopes up there either. As I mentioned above, the White Sox really aren’t in a position to overpay for rentals, nor should they take on bad contracts like Blackmon’s. Their holes are so well-defined that it’s pretty easy to identify a list of solutions as well – you don’t need to do anything too flashy when you get to “add” players like Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, and Yasmani Grandal to a team that is 20 games over .500.

What about within the Sox organization? Can they get some help from within? A name I think you should keep an eye on is Nik Turley, a LHP down in Charlotte. Despite pitching in a launching pad, Turley has a 2.66 ERA and 36/11 K/BB in 23.2 IP. Perhaps Turley could find a spot on the White Sox roster while they continue to shuffle their bullpen?


Sox Prospects Most Likely to be Traded

You’ll notice above that, outside of the Haniger trade, there aren’t any back-breaking names traded in the system. This is because with rental trades comes the ability to move “high upside” players. Rentals don’t cost nearly anything, especially the level of rental the White Sox are going to be looking for. I really don’t see a world in which Garrett Crochet, Jared Kelley, Jake Burger, or Gavin Sheets are traded this deadline – while the White Sox may be passing up an opportunity to trade them at their highest value (especially in the case of Sheets and Burger), the reality is that the White Sox don’t need to pull big moves (aka trading Crochet or Kelley) unless they’re absolutely confident that the return makes them substantially better in 2021.

So, while in previous seasons, the lack of a farm system was to the White Sox disadvantage, this season, it’s not the worst thing in the world – though, adding some reinforcements and seeing some development on the farm would be quite welcomed.


The State of the 2021 Trade Deadline

The 2021 Trade Deadline is an interesting one. As we’ve seen, it’s been incredibly slow so far. This is partially attributed to two main factors:

  1. The MLB Draft was held in July rather than June; teams were unnecessarily delayed a month here.
  2. There are too many sellers and not enough buyers. Too many teams are already “locks” for the playoffs and have the luxury of waiting for the perfect deadline move, rather than having to make a reach for one. Without the expanded playoffs, many teams “on the bubble” have very little incentive to spend more.

At the end of the day, trust me, Rick Hahn and the White Sox front office know they need to make some trades. Everyone saying “Maybe THIS loss will wake Rick Hahn up” assumes the White Sox 1) wait until the last minute to evaluate their team, and 2) have an unrealistic understanding of where this team is right now. I can assure you that neither of these is true. I know we as fans want to see moves happen TODAY and RIGHT NOW, but that’s not how the trade market works – there is no incentive for teams to rush into deals right now. Why do you think only two major trades have been made thus far?

Trust me, a week is a lot more time than you think. No need to panic – the needs for the White Sox are clear, and they are being worked on, so have some patience and enjoy the ballgames.

One thing is for sure: moves will be made by the White Sox. While getting deadline “acquisitions” in Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, and Yasmani Grandal are AWESOME, those players don’t excuse the White Sox from filling their remaining holes heading down the home stretch. With the window of contention wide open, it’s time for the White Sox to make the right moves – not necessarily the flashy ones – that bring them deep into the playoffs. Remember, all it took in 2005 was Geoff Blum.

As always, I look forward to what fun comes in the next week. Stay patient and trust the process here, Sox fans.


Have Someone Else You’d Like the White Sox to Trade For? Let me know on Twitter: @jlazowski14

Featured Photo: NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) / Twitter

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Larry

The Sox were trying out Burger at 2B at Charlotte. Do you have a view as to whether he is an option to fill the gap at second this year and why the Sox have not given him a chance there?

Aaron Sapoznik

Since you included outfielder Mitch Haniger among your trade proposals I have a better idea and one that won’t be so costly in terms of prospects. Why not pursue Kyle Schwarber and his left-handed power bat in a package with 2B Josh Harrison from the Nationals? Schwarber is likely a rental with a mutual 2022 option. Those types of options are rarely picked up. While Haniger is an established right fielder and has decent splits versus LHP and RHP, he still doesn’t offer the White Sox batting order a left-handed bat to help break up their predominantly right-handed lineup. There… Read more »

stealfirstbase

I think the cost for relievers is too light. It’ll be more expensive than you think. For instance, that trade with the Orioles might cost Burger and Sheets. I’d still do that deal, though. The Sox bullpen needs fixing

David Laken

Thanks for the article. Ive been stressing a bit on the slow (no) moves. I’m used to the early June trades we used to do. But your comment on Blum at the end made me take a breath!

David Laken

Regarding Larry’s comment about Jake Burger, I think he is a trade chip that we SHOULD move. He has the potential upside making him good for trade value and the Sox have no obvious 3rd base need near term.

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