Trades not made...

Let’s take an inventory. If the 2019 season were to start today, the Sox would be starting a 4th outfielder in left field (Nicky Delmonico), a 4th outfielder in center field (Adam Engel), an oft-injured former top prospect that missed 69 games last year in right field (Avi Garcia), and a back up infielder at third base (Yolmer Sanchez). On the mound, there would be two gaps in the starting rotation as a result of free agency (James Shields) and injury (Michael Kopech), and of the two candidates for closer (Nate Jones and Zack Burdi), the former will be 33 years old and had 5 saves last season, and the latter had 1 save in 11 innings of rehabilitative work in the Rookie and Arizona Fall Leagues. 

Depth is an issue, and the baseball bible buttresses that fact.  In Baseball America’s latest assessment of American League Central prospects, the ‘weaknesses’ category for the White Sox organization begins, “The star power at the top masks a system that is not particularly deep.”

By May, it is possible that top prospects, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and starting pitcher Dylan Cease, will join the big league club.  Let’s say, if he isn’t non-tendered, Garcia returns to his 2017 form. A possible line up and rotation, with the gaps:

1B Jose Abreu

2B Yoan Moncada

SS Tim Anderson

3B ?

LF Eloy Jimenez

CF ?

RF Avi Garcia

C Wellington Castillo

DH Daniel Palka

#1 starter ?

#2 starter Reynaldo Lopez

#3 starter Carlos Rodon

#4 starter ?

#5 starter Lucas Giolito

As we discussed recently, when the Sox hierarchy decided on the rebuild, core players like Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Adam Eaton were traded, as well as productive veterans like David Robertson and Todd Frazier.  The question? Why not move Abreu and Garcia as well? Depth should have been a consideration, as not every top prospect materializes.  Remember Joe Borchard, Gordon Beckham, Brian Anderson, Jared Mitchell, Courtney Hawkins, and (too soon?) Carson Fulmer?

The Sox had two legitimate trade chips in Abreu and Garcia after the 2017 season.  With two years of control left for each, these were their numbers at the completion of 2017:

Abreu- .304/.354/.552, 33 HR, 102 RBI

Garcia- .330/.380/.506, 18 HR, 80 RBI

Those are healthy, impressive, sought after numbers.  Abreu is the more consistent of the two, with better power numbers.  Garcia’s 2017 season is his only good one to date. 

Abreu probably would have been good for one prospect in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100, one mid-level prospect (a team’s #12-#18 ranked prospect), and two throw ins similar to Matt Rose and Bryant Flete in the Quintana to the Cubs deal.  Looking back, the Yankees needed a first baseman after the 2017 season.

Jose Abreu to the Yankees for 2017 #5 prospect (#92 in the MLB Pipeline Top 100) 3B Miguel Andujar, #12 prospect 1B Tyler Austin, unranked prospect P Austin Gardner, and unranked prospect P Riley Thompson.

Now, in hindsight it’s easy to strike gold, but this trade scenario is realistic.  It’s not James Shields for Mike Trout type nonsense. Andujar is a star in the making with the Yankees, as his .297/.327/.527 slash line, with 27 HR and 92 RBI suggest. Austin, now at the major league level with the Twins, is a serviceable player who hit 17 home runs in 244 at bats in 2018. Anything from Gardner and Thompson would be gravy. 

In Garcia’s case, a top 10 prospect in a team’s system, one mid-level prospect, and an unranked, lower level prospect would have gotten the deal done.  It is unrealistic to think any club would have relinquished a top 100 prospect in all of baseball for a player who historically had performed below expectations.  In 2017, very similar to now, the Indians needed outfield help. 

Avi Garcia to the Indians for 2017 #11 prospect P Shane Bieber, #21 prospect P Ryan Merritt, and unranked prospect OF Pedro Alfonseca.

Bieber was 11-5 with the Indians in 2018, with a 4.55 ERA and 118 Ks in 114.2 innings pitched.  Merritt is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 major league innings.  He spent 2018 in Triple A, where he went 3-3 with a 3.79 ERA in 71.1 innings.  Alfonseca could be added to the Sox stable of young outfielders. 

With Andujar, Austin, Bieber, and Merritt, the Sox would have a starting third baseman, a bench bat or more, a #4 starter, and a left handed reliever.  These depth moves, or moves like them, would have changed the trajectory of this offseason and saved the Sox millions of dollars to spend in free agency.

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