All-Patreon All-Star Break: Watching the White Sox in the second half

From trades to Hawk Harrelson's last regularly scheduled broadcast, here's what I'm watching from here through September

In the first two installments of our All-Patreon All-Star Break, we discussed the best use of Dylan Covey’s limited effectiveness and an overall look at the state of the rebuild. Now here’s ol’ Sporcle Ted with another one:

What themes will you be looking for from the White Sox during the second half of the season?

Let’s look at it about which ones will be resolved in chronological order.

Trades

Unlike last season, where Rick Hahn could deal had one of the market’s defining players and a few back-end relievers along with a handful of steady veterans, the White Sox are short on players other teams might want. Avisail Garcia’s hamstring strains have problem taken him off the board, and even if you assumed Abreu’s presence made him hard to move, a month-and-a-half slump has sealed the deal.

Drawing parallels to the spectrum of last summer’s deals, James Shields looks like a Miguel Gonzalez Plus. Shields have a hard time cracking a playoff rotation and his stuff wouldn’t play up in a bullpen the traditional way, but a team with a taxed bullpen and short starter could use him for August and September. Joakim Soria doesn’t have David Robertson’s recent history or Tommy Kahnle’s stuff and team control, but he might slot ahead of Anthony Swarzak even after accounting for salaries. Xavier Cedeno could be Dan Jennings-like, and seems ahead of Luis Avilan. That’s about it, unless the Sox dig into their supply of lefty relievers (Jace Fry?) or utility infielders (Leury Garcia? Yolmer Sanchez?) who make a rebuilding year more bearable.

(Updated to add Soria and acknowledge Avilan.)

Promotions

We’ll find out Thursday night whether Michael Kopech’s most recent start was the kind of issue-forcing resurgence, or merely a temporary correction from a guy who shouldn’t have been as bad as he’d been, but still has issues to overcome. Eloy Jimenez doesn’t seem to have that question hanging over his head. He just needs to stay healthy.

There’s also a live-armed layer of relievers underneath the current bullpen that could surface if the White Sox bullpen requires revisions one way or another, but Ian Hamilton’s debut isn’t going to create headlines in the way Yoan Moncada’s did last year.

Six-month seasons

My stock line for rookies playing their first six-month MLB season is “Let’s see what he looks like in September.” It was my approach to Tim Anderson last year, and it’s my approach to guys like Yoan Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito this season.

With Moncada, he’s gone great month –> awful month –> awful month –> great (half) month. I expected uneven play from him because he wasn’t a finished product, and he couldn’t be finished at Triple-A because he out-talented everybody on the field. The talent is still evident, because even the low bidder among WAR models has him as an average player despite considerable flaws. If he can cut down on the strikeout rate … if he can hike his performance against lefties … if he can soften his hands at second to be more the way they looked last year … any one of those are avenues to above-averageness.

Lopez has sustained his best velocity better, both within a game and over the course of the season, and there’s something to be said for a young pitcher who gets OK results with such a terrible defense behind him. It’d just be nice to see more swinging and missing when he has this 96-98 mph fastball, but the changeup in particular has taken a step backward. As for Giolito, throwing strikes in the first inning would be a good start, literally and literally.

Impending free agents

Last year, Abreu and Avi Garcia created a dilemma with their All-Star-caliber production – trade them to add fuel to the rebuild, or extend them to make them a part of it? Strong rumors never materialized, and Rick Hahn demurred when asked about new contracts. This season so far says the market forces prevailed.

There’s still time for them to reverse course, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this outage killed the Abreu rumor mill (the Sox didn’t seem interested in dealing him, and now the demand is lower, so…). Garcia is a different matter, especially since he looked like an entirely different hitter in between injuries. The guy who figured out how to lash the ball in the air to left can get paid. The guy who built his success on an array of unusual hits for a guy his size will always have doubters.

Prospect of note

The White Sox are looking at this lineup:

  • C: Welington Castillo
  • 1B: Jose Abreu
  • 2B: Yoan Moncada
  • 3B: Yolmer Sanchez
  • SS: Tim Anderson
  • LF: Eloy Jimenez
  • CF: Adam Engel
  • RF: Avisail Garcia
  • DH: Matt Davidson/Nicky Delmonico/Daniel Palka

That’s watchable. The Sox are theoretically one position away from an adequate lineup. The problem is that catcher, first and right field could reopen again following the 2019 season, so it’s not bankable.

When I look at the combination of this lineup and the time pressures it faces, the first thing I think is, “Zack Collins does not need to catch.” It’d be great if he could since Castillo is a free agent after 2019 and neither Kevan Smith nor Omar Narvaez are answers, but with first base and DH also being question marks for the long term, I’d feel comfortable with letting his hitting dictating his development. If he reverted to his draft-day “great bat/won’t catch” profile, terrific.

Whether the bat is great remains an open question, because after his explosive May, he’s hit just .224/.344/.388 with 53 strikeouts over the 164 plate appearances since. I don’t think I’d call him the most important prospect over the remainder of the season, but he’s the one who could go the most directions with his stock, maybe. His 2016 draft day buddy Alec Hansen isn’t far behind.

Hawk’s last flight

The White Sox are terrible at saying goodbye, but they’ve done a fine job with the end of the Hawk Harrelson era. While some might argue that he could’ve been out years ago, a broadcaster staying well past his prime is not unique to this franchise.

I’m pretty much used to Jason Benetti’s booth and the trade-offs good (a more engaged/predictive Steve Stone) and bad (the pulled muscles stretching for jokes). An abrupt shift from one to the other would have shed fans, but now he’s no longer the strange one to hear.

Likewise, the season’s “This Is Your Life” theme has brought closure to the Harrelson era in positive and, well, pragmatic ways. It’s nice to see characters from Harrelson’s past join him and hearing the warm exchanges that result. It’s also somewhat reassuring to know that no matter who joins Harrelson in the booth, the conversation gets dragged to familiar themes. While he and Stone lacked chemistry from Day One and still lack it on Day Whatever It Is Now, it seems a different partner could have set a different tone as long as the White Sox played so poorly (and maybe even if they won).

Knowing this, the end doesn’t strike me as sad. If the Sox send him out the way they did for Paul Konerko, it could be perfect.

Thanks to Ted and 180something others for their support of Sox Machine, especially considering Ted already contributes with his weekly dives into White Sox history. If you’d like to support Sox Machine, sign up here.

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Josh Nelson

Let’s piece this roster puzzle together.

Tweet #1

Tweet #2

metasox

Avi has to be activated soon as well. So, if Delmonico, another one to come

metasox

probably Avi

Greg Nix

New update on Eloy Watch 2018

(It’s probably Delmonico.)

sgp2204

Booooo

PauliePaulie

Soria?

metasox

Yes, not sure why Soria or Avilan not mentioned

35Shields

16th highest fWAR among relievers. You’d think a competing team would be interested. Probably an Anthony Swarzak/Zack Duke level return

sgp2204

The funny (and messed up) thing is that he’s been a better option than Familia and Britton for the last 2 years, but nobody talks about him in the same light. He’ll be a very good pickup for somebody. 

PauliePaulie

Qualifying Offers to Jose and Avi could take away a lot of the sting of a big splash in the 2020 Free Agent pool.

sausalito pale hose

If they had team-friendly longer term contracts; they would seem to still have a better future market for trading

PauliePaulie

Hansen once again can’t find the strike zone.

sausalito pale hose

He is just getting started. BTW, a last year when people were panicking at Rutherford’s low performance in lower A; you were the only one that was prophetic that he would be OK this year; and he is. Looks like a real future major leaguer

soxfanpa

Wtf, Manfred. Trout very well be the best player ever to play the game, but MLB can’t find a way to market him? Sounds like they’re in the wrong business. It is absolutely wild to me that the head of an organization with nearly ten billion dollars in revenue would find it necessary to criticize the good personal choices of the best player in the game, especially in the face of so many real problems plaguing the league.

On a Sox note, if Sale had Trout’s personality, I would have been 100x more upset about him being traded away.

Gutteridge70

by far the dumbest statement to come out of Manfred mouth

mikeyb

So the Padres traded two good-to-very-good, controllable relievers for an elite position player prospect. Would you all want to see the Sox do that? i.e. flip Jace Fry and maybe Xavier Cedeno for a position player prospect? PNoles wasn’t a fan of flipping a controllable guy like Fry (and to be fair, he wouldn’t bring back the #1 Catching prospect in baseball), but with all of the pitching depth in the system, I’d be a big fan of the Sox trading away from that future bullpen depth for some future position player depth.

Eagle Bones

For those who don’t know what mikey is talking about:

OFFICIAL: The #Padres acquire top prospect C/OF Francisco Mejía from the Indians; send LHP Brad Hand and RHP Adam Cimber to Cleveland: https://t.co/4QkmsU09qn pic.twitter.com/oCN6WsEQ5E

— San Diego Padres (@Padres) July 19, 2018

Greg Nix

This is essentially what the Sox did with Kahnle/Robertson for Rutherford. They didn’t get as good a prospect because Robertson was more expensive and older than Hand, while Kahnle had less control than Cimber. Also, the Indians are likely more desperate than the Yankees were and overpaid a bit.

Anyway, since Jones is hurt the the Sox don’t have a guy with Hand’s track record/team control, but I’d be in favor of flipping Fry or packaging him with Soria for the right prospect.

Trooper Galactus

Who do you think would be up for that trade? Yankees, Astros, A’s, and Braves all have more than one possibility who could work.

Greg Nix

It would probably only take a #75-150ish prospect as headliner, which almost every team has.

PauliePaulie

I don’t see any Jace Fry comp here.
I think the Hand trade should boost optimism for the return on a potential Soria + Cedeno deal.