According to The Athletic’s Jim Bowden, the White Sox are conversing with teams about “available, premium players” including Juan Soto and Luis Castillo. Bowden also noted the team’s interest in current free agent Michael Conforto, who is recovering from an offseason shoulder injury but could be ready to serve as a team’s designated hitter before the end of the regular season. You can read his full report here:
Invoking failed pursuits of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn recently expressed regret over his past straightforwardness with respect to premium targets and vowed to operate in “White Sox stealth mode.” Therefore, the report from Bowden tying the White Sox to similar players is somewhat surprising, as those Hahn quotes are merely four days old.
Nevertheless, even if the White Sox are planning a shocking pursuit of Juan Soto, the odds of their offer being most appealing to the Nationals are quite slim. Prospects such as Colson Montgomery, Oscar Colás, and Norge Vera should be enticing in most circumstances, but a generational talent in Juan Soto would surely require a mix of such prospects and existing MLB talents like Andrew Vaughn, Michael Kopech, and other current contributors that the White Sox likely consider untouchable.
Soto, who is controlled through the 2024 season, could very well garner a more attractive offer from a team with both young, controllable MLB talent and a strong farm system such as the Mariners, Padres, or Blue Jays.
As for Luis Castillo, the ace of the Cincinnati Reds who would easily be in a hypothetical White Sox playoff rotation, the price would be less staggering, but still quite high. Castillo is the best starting pitcher known to be available, and he is also controlled through the 2023 season. Aforementioned White Sox prospects like Montgomery, Colás, or Vera could conceivably serve as intriguing pieces for Cincinnati. More creative headliners or secondary pieces may include Garrett Crochet or Cristian Mena (related: see our recent article on the top five trade chips on the White Sox).
As the best pitcher on the market, however, Castillo suitors will likely enter a bidding war that figures to be won by a team with more firepower in its farm system and/or a greater immediate need at starting pitcher, such as the Yankees or Dodgers.
Finally, the note on Michael Conforto is interesting. Surely, any team signing a rehabbing Conforto would do so for more than just one year, as he figures to be able to return to the outfield in 2023. While he would function as a trade deadline acquisition of sorts, Conforto would not cost any prospect capital. And, from a White Sox-specific perspective, Conforto would bring power and patience as a left-handed hitter, which the offense could desperately use.
However, there are quite a few downsides to a potential Conforto signing. Most importantly, if Conforto is indeed limited to designated hitter duties in 2022, then it would be quite difficult for the White Sox to find regular plate appearances since the DH slot is typically reserved to rest the legs of Andrew Vaughn, Eloy Jiménez, Yasmani Grandal, or José Abreu. Conforto was originally seeking a significant contract before his shoulder injury, and it is unknown whether he would accept a two-year contract that would essentially act as a one-year plus one-month “pillow deal.” Finally, it must be noted that Conforto’s 2021 season, while fine overall (106 wRC+) and arguably unlucky (.350 xwOBA, .322 wOBA — a 28-point discrepancy rather than his usual 5), was still underwhelming relative to expectations. His offseason shoulder surgery certainly does not inspire confidence about a quick start at the plate so late in the season, either.
Overall, it remains to be seen exactly how the White Sox plan to operate at the trade deadline. The team appears to be looking to buy rather than sell, and Bowden’s report indicates that the front office is at least doing due diligence when it comes to high-impact players. While rumored pursuits of Soto and Castillo are interesting, conversions seem unlikely due to insufficient trade capital and motivated competition. Conforto is a good fit for the roster in a vacuum, but not if he is limited to a designated hitter role.
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