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South Side Mailbag: Should The White Sox Trade Vaughn?

by Adam Kaplan

Due to his age and high upside, White Sox rookie Andrew Vaughn always seems to get his name thrown into trade rumors. As the trade deadline approached during the 2021 regular season, it seemed that both Sox fans and fans that rooted for teams that were sellers alike couldn’t help themselves but discuss the possibility of the South Siders trading away Andrew Vaughn. I don’t want to put anyone in particular on blast here – I will put us on blast though 😉 – but trust me, a quick Twitter search will give you the rest of the proof should you want to seek it out.

The 2021 trade deadline came and went, and Andrew Vaughn was not moved. I assumed these discussions had finally ended. I was wrong.

On Friday, Patrick Nolan from Sox Machine re-sparked the debate about the White Sox trading away Andrew Vaughn.

I started discussing this tweet on the Sox On 35th Slack, and like Patrick’s tweet, the conversation blew up. I ended up spending my Friday afternoon arguing about Andrew Vaughn’s future and looking up players’ salaries on Sportrac. While I can’t give you a sneak peek into our Slack discussions, I can present to you a mailbag conversation on this topic. Below are some of the Sox On 35th contributors’ thoughts on whether or not the White Sox should trade Andrew Vaughn, and if not, should players like Eloy Jiménez, Jake Burger, or Gavin Sheets be shipped away this offseason?

Should the White Sox explore potential trades for Andrew Vaughn this offseason?

Jordan Lazowski: Well, since we are putting my tweet from 2019 on blast in this mailbag, I might as well include my thoughts. The White Sox have an interesting roster as currently constructed. Between Eloy Jimenez, Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, Andrew Vaughn, and even Gavin Sheets, there are a lot of players of the 1B/DH type role on the roster.

In addition, between Jimenez, Abreu, and Vaughn, the White Sox are a pretty right-handed heavy team as well. With Jose Abreu essentially having a lifetime contract, the White Sox should explore a potential trade for Andrew Vaughn in the offseason to diversify the lineup: namely, by adding a left-handed bat with a solid approach that ISN’T swing-first at the plate (between Tim Anderson, Jimenez, Robert, the White Sox already have too many of those… you should be sensing a trend). Players that fit that mold: Austin Meadows, Brandon Lowe, and Trent Grisham come to mind, as do more “pie-in-the-sky” players such as Ketel Marte or Jake Cronenworth.

I will say this: I don’t feel the White Sox NEED to trade Vaughn. However, with a payroll currently of around $150M, let’s say Jerry Reinsdorf approves a payroll of $180M for this season. $30M last offseason bought you two SP, a bad OF, and a great closer. The White Sox have 3 needs this offseason – RF, 2B, back-end SP. Can all of those get solved with $30M?

A top-tier RF/2B in this market costs at least $20M/year, and a back-end SP costs at least $10M/year, so the White Sox will either have to spend over budget or try and cut corners again. A trade is going to need to happen this offseason to shake up the roster a bit, and I think either Vaughn or Eloy Jimenez could be involved.

Every year in the draft, there are 1B talents just like Vaughn – heck, there was one right after him in Spencer Torkelson. I think Vaughn is going to be a great player for a long time, but he isn’t proven yet. Because of that, I think there are plenty of talented and proven players around the league who can give Vaughn’s future level of output today. If you trade Andrew Vaughn for a left-handed version of himself that can play RF, that fits this roster a lot better. You’re not going to trade Andrew Vaughn for a lesser version – just a more proven one.

We spent all rebuild saying, “Don’t get attached to prospects.” Now is definitely not the time to start doing that.

Noah Phalen: The White Sox should be listening and considering all possibilities. Andrew Vaughn’s rookie year had its ups and downs, but you have to give the kid credit, for someone who had never played a game above A ball heading into the year, he held his own in the big leagues. The fact that he’d never played above A ball is one of the reasons why I am not worried at all about his production, especially when he had some very good stretches throughout the year.

Offensively, I think Vaughn’s potential is through the roof. The issue seems to be his positional fit on the roster. He’s a natural first baseman, a spot that is currently occupied by José Abreu, who hasn’t been keen on the idea of moving to DH. Abreu is now 35, but the organization loves him, and it seems he’ll be able to stay in Chicago as long as he wants to.

Vaughn played a lot of LF this year and played it well, so the possibility of him being the long-term LF is definitely there. However, Eloy Jiménez is now healthy and the Sox have seemed confident that he’ll improve enough to be serviceable in LF. I love Vaughn’s upside, but if you get an offer for a true RF star or someone who fits better positionally on the Sox roster, I’d listen.

Tommy Gross: Yes, I think the White Sox should have this trade on the table. I believe Andrew Vaughn is going to be a good hitter in this league and he has shown that he is capable of doing just that during his rookie season. Look at his July splits, they were awesome. He slashed a .308/.347/.516 with an OPS+ of 131. With that being said, I don’t believe he fits the White Sox team in the future.

This team has so many 1B/DH power-hitting, right-handed batters with below-average defense and Vaughn is one of them. He was able to play left field but he wasn’t great in that position and I don’t think he is the answer there long term. That means he is competing with José Abreu, Gavin Sheets, and Eloy Jiménez for that 1B/DH spot and I don’t know if he is beating any of them out. This makes him a bench player with a lot of upside which means he could be a good trade piece. I think Garrett Crochet is similar in terms of fit on this team, so if I were going to make a trade I would package them together.

Now, with all this being said, I’m not saying trade Vaughn just to trade him. The package has to be good. Ideally, I would like Jarred Kelenic from the Mariners. He is a young left-handed bat with a lot of promise and can play all three spots in the outfield. He would fit right in on this White Sox lineup. I also like Austin Meadows from the Rays and Jake Cronenworth from the Padres. If we are able to get one of the three guys listed above, I would not mind trading Vaughn and possibly Crochet to get them. If not them or someone equivalent, I don’t see the need to move Vaughn.

Brian Barry: Let me preface any comments with this: It’s extremely early in the off-season for the front office to “shop” Andrew Vaughn. They will not and should not openly look to trade away a player of his caliber this early in his career as well. Rick Hahn would be doing a disservice to not listen to and explore trade offers, but these conversations aren’t happening just yet.

As fans, we don’t mind diving into the hypotheticals from time to time and playing armchair GM. After a tough playoff exit, that’s what many are reverting to. I would hate to ship out two separate top 5 picks within a six-month period. 
My question is “how did the fanbase go from pure excitement about AV’s future to thinking we need to find a way to trade him for a position of need?” Sheets’ emergence as a LHB has apparently changed everyone’s stance, but I’m still a firm believer in AV’s skillset, hitting profile, and overall value to this core’s future. His positional flexibility also is a very welcomed part of his game. I don’t see why he can’t play 150 games between LF, DH, and 1B. The aforementioned flexibility will allow Abreu and Eloy to rest their legs every now and then. I think he’s a budding star, especially at the plate, and I think it’s a matter of getting him the ABs and letting him develop into the player we know he can be.

Adam Kaplan: As you can see from my tweet above, I still do not understand the urge that Sox fans have to throw Andrew Vaughn into trade considerations. Personally, I think his bat is going to be something special, and I’m not willing to throw away five more team-controlled years of that when Vaughn will be 24-28, just because he’s young and the Sox could get value for him. I understand his numbers from 2021 are less than stellar, but I still think they’re phenomenal considering AV hasn’t played above A+ ball in his career. Andrew Vaughn hit a rookie wall towards the end of 2021 when the team needed him to ramp up into the playoffs, and as a fan, that stinks. However, I think Andrew Vaughn is only going to get better and I’d like him to do that while on the south side.

That being said, I don’t think anyone, including Andrew Vaughn, is untradeable. Everybody has a price. But unless a team like the Phillies are willing to dump a superstar like Bryce Harper AND Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is all of the sudden willing to take on a huge payroll (neither will happen) I don’t believe there’s a lot of players the Sox could get in return that would make trading away Vaughn worth it to me. Rays Austin Meadows has been bandied about, but he hit 27 HRs with a 113 wRC+ in 2021, and I see no reason why Vaughn can’t also put up those numbers now. The only player that makes sense for the Sox to acquire and a trade I could realistically see is for the Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte. The Sox would get an all-star caliber second baseman right now, and a player that would just waste away while maybe Arizona rebuilds, while the Diamondbacks get an extra two years of a young player for when they (hopefully) are really ready to complete. But other than that, I’m not sure there’s a player or a collection of players that the Sox could receive where it would make sense to trade away Vaughn.

Despite Vaughn’s defense, I still think he’s going to be a superstar at the plate sooner rather than later and I don’t think the Sox should give him away, and I’d still like fans to stop suggesting he keep getting traded away.

If Andrew Vaughn is not going to be traded away, what are your thoughts of trading away Eloy Jiménez instead?

JL: I mentioned Jimenez above, so I’ll keep this a bit shorter, but yes, both Vaughn and Jimenez should be explored in trades. That doesn’t mean they should trade both, but they should shop both. I think the Sox will find Vaughn will get them more value on the market because of his multi-positional ability. I’m just not sure how confident I am with just running it back in 2022 with a similar lineup with the same holes (swing-and-miss, swing-first approach) that led to the White Sox’ demise in 2021.

Think of it this way: look at Houston’s lineup – how does that compare to the current Sox roster? That’s what you’re aiming to build on the South Side.

NP: If the White Sox do decide that Andrew Vaughn is the LF of the future, that leaves the aforementioned Jiménez without a position. Sure, he could DH, but he has expressed his disdain for DH’ing in the past, and relegating a 25-year-old to full-time DH is not ideal. Could/Should the White Sox field trade offers for Jiménez? My answer is similar to the previous question. I think it’s always worth listening to offers. Let’s say, for example, the Diamondbacks call the White Sox and offer Ketel Marte for Jiménez and a pitching prospect. It would be worth considering. Vaughn could slot in LF, with Marte playing RF or 2B, and DH could be filled with some combination of Gavin Sheets and Jake Burger. Don’t get me wrong, I love Eloy Jiménez. I think he is the best pure hitter on the team. I know he struggled down the stretch, but I think a fully healthy season for him will show how awesome he actually is. I just think the roster needs some changes, and a guy like Marte is a great fit for the team. If the D’backs called on Eloy, I’d at least listen.

TG: No, I don’t think the White Sox should consider trading Eloy this offseason. Like I mentioned with Vaughn, we do have too many right-handed DH options, but someone has to play there and I think Eloy can be that DH/LF option of the future. Yes, he consistently has a low OBP, but he has the potential to put up 35+ HRs a year if he can stay healthy and as we all know “ball go far, the team go far”. Eloy is the perfect four-hitter for this team. Eloy has more home run potential than Vaughn does and his defense in LF wasn’t horrible towards the end of the year. I think we can get some good value in return by trading Eloy, but I would rather see Vaughn go than Eloy.

MS: I’m not particularly fond of the notion of trading away Eloy either. However, if the logic is that the offense as constructed is stagnant and bats in the lineup are repetitive, Jerry isn’t going to spend money on free agents so Rick Hahn needs to get elite hitters in the lineup via trades, and the Sox should sell a really good player in order to get a really good player in return, then I personally would rather have Eloy be the player traded away rather than Andrew Vaughn. Eloy has the potential to put up monster power numbers, but he doesn’t walk/get on base very well, has a career 49.0% ground ball rate, and has shown to be an injury risk. Maybe this is Devil You Know vs. Devil You Don’t with Jiménez and Vaughn, but if the Sox HAVE TO trade away a young corner outfielder with below-average defense, then the player I’m kicking off of the island and saying Auf Wiederehen to is Eloy.

If both Andrew Vaughn and Eloy Jiménez are staying put, what are your thoughts on trading away Jake Burger and/or Gavin Sheets?

JL: Both Burger and Sheets have much less trade value than Vaughn and/or Jimenez. I’m fine shopping either of them, but the expectation should be that neither brings in a haul by themselves. They would need to be packaged with someone with a little more upside. Everyone has left-handed hitting sluggers in their farm system, and Jake Burger is yet another 1B/DH type that everyone has too many of on their team. I’m fine trading them, but the Sox would get little value in return – you’re not solving the roster problems by trading those guys.

NP: Both Gavin Sheets and Jake Burger showed flashes of greatness this season, but neither one has the hype of Jiménez or Vaughn. Keeping them and flipping Eloy or Vaughn is much higher risk, and you’d be putting a lot of stock in Sheets and Burger. On the flip side, Eloy or Vaughn would bring back a significantly better return in a trade. For me, it all comes down to the return. You don’t trade talent just to trade it. If you deem that the value you’re getting in return is going to be higher than what you’re giving up, you make the trade, and that policy applies to just about anybody. It’s always a good idea to listen. Rick Hahn may not pull the trigger, but he should listen to every opportunity to make this roster better.

TG: I would trade Burger to keep Eloy and Vaughn. I don’t really see where Jake Burger fits into this team in the future with 3B and 1B being lockdown by Yoán Moncada and José Abreu, respectively. The DH spot, as mentioned before, isn’t big enough to slot Burger in there either. If we trade Eloy and Vaughn, that would mean Burger would probably be the DH for us this year. Burger hasn’t had a lot of big-league at-bats and I wouldn’t be so eager to just slot him at the DH spot. The return on a Burger trade wouldn’t be great either. He has a history of injuries and we wouldn’t be able to bring in players that will immediately fill holes for the Sox team. Gavin Sheets, on the other hand, is a bit different than Burger. Gavin is a left-handed power-bat which this team desperately needs. Gavin has more big-league experience than Burger and has proven that he can hit the ball far at a high level. I am less willing to throw him on the trade block because of that. I feel if we were going to move on from Vaughn or Eloy, Gavin Sheets would be a solid option to play DH for this team. The return on Gavin wouldn’t be even close to what we would get out of Vaughn or Eloy. I think it would be a smart move by Rick Hahn to fill the holes in the corner outfield positions and 2B while also keeping Sheets to be the DH this year.

MS: During one of their recent Sunday Soaks, I asked the guys from From The 108 about their thoughts on what the Sox should do with Gavin Sheets this offseason. Chorizy basically responded that almost all teams have a guy like Gavin Sheets in their farm system; therefore, Sheets is more valuable as a fringe starter, depth player for the Sox than a trade asset. I tend to agree with this for both Burger and Sheets. If Rick Hahn thinks trading away either player will net a better starter in return, then of course trade them away. But I don’t think that’s happening, and I think both Burger and Sheets are more valuable to the White Sox in their current expected roles. Out of all three options suggested here, I’d favor trading away Eloy the most.

Featured Photo: Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) / Twitter

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