The White Sox have decisions to make. And soon, for that matter.
Do they want to forge ahead with the current core, hoping to win the AL Central and thus earning a playoff berth? Or would they rather sell high on their expiring commodities and bring back long term assets?
Here’s how MLB insider Ken Rosenthal reported the Sox’ situation as the trade deadline nears.
“The White Sox, 5 1/2 out in the AL Central but 10 games under .500, telling prospective trade partners that, at least at this point, they might only be willing to trade players under expiring contracts and not those with greater control.
“The potential rentals include right-handers Lucas Giolito and Mike Clevinger, catcher Yasmani Grandal, second baseman Elvis Andrus, and relievers Reynaldo López and Keynan Middleton.”
The White Sox may have to play catch up with their payroll this offseason. One way of getting ahead of the curve is trading away the players they don’t wish to re-sign, avoiding losing them for nothing, and saving money in the process.
The question, however, revolves around whether or not the front office would prefer to keep a certain player. Remember: that comes with a cost.
Lucas Giolito is entering his first season out of arbitration, meaning he will likely want a long-term deal, and a rather reputable one at that. He went on a steady decline since his All-Star run in 2019. But since then, he’s been posting Giolito-type numbers; a 3.54 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 82:25 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That could do the trick for a nice contract.
To paraphrase Rick Hahn’s trademarked philosophy, you can never have enough pitching. If the Sox don’t sign him, someone will. Knowing that, will the Sox trade Giolito at the Aug. 1 deadline or re-sign him to remain in the starting rotation?
Giolito is arguably the most difficult player to make a decision about returning. The others Rosenthal listed are pretty easily expendable, to a certain degree.
While pitching phenomenally when on the mound this season, Mike Clevinger would make an excellent trade piece for a contender looking for a rental starter. His injury problems reared its ugly head, as he proved Thursday hitting the 15-day injured list. But the Sox locked him up on a one-year deal simply looking to see what they could get out of him.
Yasmani Grandal may not have lived up to his once franchise-record contract. He isn’t the All-Star he was the year before he signed with the White Sox in Milwaukee. But he is showing signs of life this season from the plate, and behind the plate.
He is slashing .271/.330/.410 (that batting average would slot second all-time for his career). He also holds the best defensive runs saved (DFRS) value he’s seen since 2021. Clearly, the injuries he sustained with his back and hamstring in 2022 set him back. Still, he’s aging (34) and hasn’t played over 100 games since 2019.
The other intriguing — and possibly most valuable — trade piece the White Sox can offer is Keynan Middleton. Middleton, a typical two-way player between The Show and the minor leagues, is having a career season.
Middleton holds a 1.93 ERA, giving up just five runs in 25 games this season; he had a streak of not giving up a run in 14 straight appearances. He has 30 strikeouts to eight walks on the year. He has been a life saver for the Sox’ bullpen. Now he can be that to another club else at the trade deadline, if the Sox determine his fate lies best elsewhere.
All in all, the White Sox have options. They could — quite easily — make a run at the AL Central division in hopes of stealing a playoff spot. Despite standing 10 games under .500, the Sox are only 5.5 games out of the lead.
But, after playing a core that hasn’t seen much sustained success since its inception in 2016, they may opt for change. Should the front office decide in that direction, however, they can get off to a productive jump start at the trade deadline.