If approached at my seat during the top of the 3rd--right after two pop-ups had been deposited on the short outfield grass by the White Sox defense--I might have been encouraged to say "Eh, not really". However, By the end of the evening, the White Sox had rallied on the Tigers thanks to a man named Chance, A.J. Pierzynski had homered, Alex Rios was walked intentionally, and Brent Morel collected three hits. Maybe anything is possible.
For example, the Sox are a game under .500 and only 3.5 games out of first, and are still mentioned as possible sellers. Removed of context, a 50-51 record certainly could be deserving of a fire sale, but if anyone has ever looked upon a clubhouse full of under-performing has-beens and thought "These guys can put it together!", it's Kenny Williams. Let's take a look at his reign to discern his criteria for buying or selling at the trade deadline (or just mid-season). Records are taken from the date of the first trade.
2001 - SELL - 50-50, 9 GB, Dealt James Baldwin to the Dodgers for Prospects. Cleveland would go on to win division handily, and James Baldwin did kind of suck.
2002 - SELL WITH ABANDON - 47-56. 14 GB, Shipped out Ray Durham, Kenny Lofton, Sandy Alomar, and Bob Howry in four separate deals for prospects, including Frank Francisco. You know, the chair guy.
2003 - BUY, ALBEIT SOMEWHAT FOOLISHY - 40-42, 3.5 GB, Traded the farm for Roberto Alomar, shipped out D'Angelo Jimenez to make room for Alomar, dealt for Carl Everett (so long, chair guy) and at the end of July when the Sox were 5 games over .500 and only 2 GB, dealt for Scott Schoeneweis' bullpen help. I know some would never forgive me if I failed to mention that this is the year Chicago was introduced to Ehren Wassermann
2004 - BUY, UNWITTINGLY BUILD NEXT YEAR'S CHAMPION IN THE PROCESS - 38-33, 2 GB, Traded even more of the farm for Freddy Garcia in order to plug 5th starter hole with a stud, dealt some future middle relievers for Carl Everett (again). I use the term 'unwittingly' because at the time, the deadline swap of Esteban Loaiza for Jose Contreras seemed like nothing more than the Sox and Yankees taking fliers on the other's flagging starters, and they acquired Roberto Alomar again after the non-waiver deadline...which was not smart.
2005 - BUY, AS IF SUCH A TEAM COULD BE IMPROVED - 67-35, 13.5 up, Went very light by acquiring some non-descript infield depth in the form of Geoff Blum. In the White Sox defense, this was days away from their high water mark on the season. There was no reason to feel fear.
2006 - BUY, IN UNINSPIRING FASHION - 40-25, 1.5 GB, With most of the primary players from the previous season in place, the Sox merely looked to replace their suddenly vanishing bullpen production by trading for David Riske and doomed reclamation project Mike MacDougal. They also traded for Sandy Alomar Jr. to shore up their backup catcher situation. Woo, excitement.
2007 - SELL PEOPLE NO ONE LIKED ANYMORE - 46-56, 14.5 GB, With a team that heroically rallied to finish less than 20 games under .500, the Sox shipped off the last worthwhile years of Tadahito Iguchi and Rob Mackowiak. Does trading for Danny Richar count as 'buying'? No? No.
2008 - BUY - 60-47, 1 up, Stuck in a tight and nerve-wracking race, the White Sox reached out for Ken Griffey Jr. and 13 innings of Horacio Ramirez after the waiver deadline. Trades are hard.
2009 - BUY? - Well, the ChiSox were 22-25 and 3 GB when they dealt for Ramon Castro's backup catching services, 26-31 and 4.5 GB when they picked up Freddy Garcia off the street, 42-40 and 2.5 GB when they sought flawed bullpen help in the form of Tony Pena, 51-49 and 2 GB when Brian Anderson was transformed into Mark Kotsay, and 52-51 and 2.5 GB when they dealt for a disabled Jake Peavy. Peavy could be construed as a sell move, seeing as it created a hole in the rotation and precipitated the White Sox disappearing from the race. All the other moves were tweaks to improve the current roster while the team was still in range, but certainly weren't your typical 'jump-start' moves. Castro, Kotsay, Junkballer Freddy, and Pena aren't and weren't difference-makers.
2010 - BUY, BECAUSE THESE CERTAINLY AREN'T DEALS MADE WITH PERSPECTIVE - 58-44, 1.5 up, Clinging to a disappearing division lead and so desperate to win now as to cost themselves millions of dollars, the Sox gave up on Daniel Hudson after three starts for Edwin Jackson. At the close of the waiver period, Kenny Williams plugged the DH-hole 5 months too late by paying for a month of Manny Ramirez.
Sadly, it would seem like the best comparisons to the current situation are '03, '04, and '09, with '04 being the least apt. The Spring Training team motto aside, all these years offered the curious dichotomy of uninspiring play combined with a division that seemed there for the taking. On the one hand, the Sox don't play like contenders, but on the other, they're one tweak away from being contenders regardless.
Because Williams believes in using trades to craft his rosters, it's highly likely that he will use the land of opportunity that is the deadline to improve his team in some way. It just might not be a 'win-now' move as much as a restructuring of a roster that doesn't take any real shape until next season (something possibly akin to the confusing scenario of adding Colby Rasmus to a crowded outfield, or Brandon Beachy to a stacked rotation). That might be disappointing, but not nearly as disappointing as the seasons of Alex Rios and Adam Dunn, who might be too awful to be swapped for another team's project like Esteban Loaiza was, and too awful to drag into the playoffs as is. Kenny may have seen enough.
That said, this division is awful and there are competent bats waiting in Triple-A. If the White Sox sell, it's not because the AL Central wasn't in range.
Tags: A.J. Pierzynski, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, baseball, brandon beachy, Brent Morel, carl everett, chance ruffin, colby rasmus, d'angelo jimenez, Daniel Hudson, danny richar, Detroit Tigers, Edwin Jackson, ehren wasserman, esteban loaiza, frank francisco, Freddy Garcia, Jake Peavy, james baldwin, kenny lofton, Kenny Williams, Mark Kotsay, mike macdougal, Ramon Castro, ray durham, rob mackowiak, sandy alomar, tadahito iguchi, Tony Pena, White Sox