For a few years now, I've been waiting for the White Sox destitute farm system and aging major league core to culminate in a hellish disaster of a season--a last place finish where everyone's prime ends simultaneously, and the lack of any viable replacements forces the franchise to go into an Astros-like coccoon for five years.
That hasn't happened. Nothing close to that has happened, and while it's crucial to remember that the heart of the Sox surprisingly effective lineup is aged 33, 32, 36, 31, and 35, the problems of lacking a farm system have been popping up everywhere this season, and Kenny Williams has been working his way around them.
In fact, his latest trio of mid-season trades (Youkilis, Myers, Liriano) have benefited from the lack of resources...sort of.
A vacuum of talent at 3rd base, a bullpen full of fringey rookies, a starting rotation with a weak back end and a fragile front, all lowered the bar for improvement, and opened Williams up to take on buy-low candidates like Youkilis and Liriano. With each, he could either hit a home run and get production akin to their prime years, or they could offer the inconsistent return that had helped disenchant their prior team, and still get a reasonable upgrade.
The lack of prospects limited the scope of Williams' pursuit, but also removed the risk. There was no Daniel Hudson or Gio Gonzalez in the farm system to deal away, only bench players and low-level arms. These pre-set limitations ultimately pushed Williams toward his best strategy with his most recent deal, utilizing the built-in advantage of having Don Cooper as his pitching coach.
KW: White Sox saw some things in his last start that they can fix and bring some better results immediately.
— larry southsidesox (@SouthSidelarry) July 29, 2012
This all works fine now. Unless the Sox wind up being blown away by Liriano's performance, or have great intentions of securing the twilight years of Myers and Youkilis, these are short-term moves with short-term benefits. How the White Sox are even going to spin a competitive team next year is a mystery.
But Williams' activity this trade season should be reason for hope for the future, or at least a lot less of the nihilism of pre-season 2012, where the Sox looked like a bad team with nothing to look forward to. When faced with less resources, he got craftier. During a season where the Sox focused on trimming the payroll, he added talent without taking on significant cash.
It doesn't seem like the White Sox should be able to keep going on like this, being regularly competitive in the AL Central and never rebuilding. But to say that they can't, would presume that anyone understands how they were able to make it this far.