White Sox Winter Meetings Preview

Over the last few years, the White Sox have left nearly every Winter Meetings as at least one of the “Winter Winners” – annual paper champions. General Manager Rick Hahn has seemingly grown familiar with the national media as he has made a habit of getting a chair on the dais each December following his slew of active showings at baseball’s annual offseason get-together. To refresh:

  • December 2013: White Sox traded for young outfielder Adam Eaton in a three-way-deal with the Diamondbacks and Angels.
  • December 2014: White Sox secured closer David Robertson and righty Jeff Samardzija consecutively late on the first night of the meetings.
  • December 2015: White Sox acquire half of their infield in a matter of days with a three-way-deal for Todd Frazier and a bargain dive on Brett Lawrie.
  • December 2016: White Sox trade the American League’s best lefty Chris Sale and outfielder Adam Eaton on consecutive days.

Given that track record, one could assume the White Sox are set to be active once more as they look to add to their newfound glut of young talent. Or perhaps the South Side club’s active July nullifies their chances to get active once again. Regardless, here are the three things White Sox fans should be keeping an eye out for as the team’s front office heads to Orlando this weekend.

Potential trades of Jose Abreu and/or Avisail Garcia

GM Rick Hahn was candid in his last presser prior to the White Sox’ last homestand in September. When Hahn was asked about the potential to trade Jose Abreu, he felt the need to also address Avisail Garcia as he thought the two were in “similar situations.” The 46-year-old General Manager elaborated:

“Both Avi and Abreu are under control for the next two years – through 2019. I think even under the most optimistic projections of our ability to contend, certainly ’18 and ’19 don’t include the bulk of the time where we anticipate having a window open to us. So ultimately, with any player that isn’t controllable for the bulk of that window we have to make an assessment: Is it in our best interest to extend that player so that they’re controllable through that period of time or do we need to, as we did with other similar extremely talented and valuable players in the game, explore the trade market and see if we are better served in moving them in exchange for players that would be under control for that extended period of time?”

Essentially, Hahn was blunt with the media and alluded to the fact that his team could be far better served in exchanging his assets for younger pieces with more control before their control, and in turn value, runs out. Given Hahn’s recent track record and the clear rationale for moving the two 4+ WAR contributors from 2017, you’d think fans are primed for another week of refreshing Twitter and getting nothing done at work as they watch for trades. That theory strengthens further when you couple it with the fact that Abreu’s name is already being bandied about publicly – particularly out of Boston.

I think it’s far more likely that the team stays quiet this week. In fact, it is my expectation that the team does next to nothing at the Winter Meetings. Don’t rule out the Sox coming to terms with a reliever or picking a player or two in the Rule 5 draft, but the White Sox are a team that isn’t really constructed to make headlines this week.

Garcia, who is coming off a career year slashing .330/.380/.566, would seem like exactly the type of bat a contender would be vying for. However, when the White Sox brought him to the market this past July, they were underwhelmed. Something turned off opposing front offices. Perhaps it was his MLB-leading .392 BABIP that buoyed up his numbers. It could have been his lack of track record leading up to his 2017. Maybe it was aspects of an incomplete player that include sub-par defense and a swing that hasn’t been conducive to the consistent power you look for in a corner outfielder. Whatever the reasons, it doesn’t seem like the White Sox price is going to be met and it so the White Sox best course of action might be to hold onto Garcia, hope he builds on his 2017, and reevaluate come July or the 2018-2019 offseason.

Abreu, unlike his teammate and friend Garcia, has been one of the most consistent bats in the MLB since the White Sox signed him to a franchise-record-setting deal in 2013. Similar to Garcia, he seems like a player who will likely stay put, with a price tag probably too high to be met. At least for this offseason.

Scott Lauber, who covers the Red Sox for ESPN, quoted one “talent evaluator” who gave his piece on the White Sox asking price for Abreu:

Although the Red Sox believe Jose Abreu would fill their need for a middle-of-the-order slugger, the White Sox want ‘an arm and both legs’ according to a rival talent evaluator. Chicago got Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech last year for Chris Sale. — Tweet link

Furthermore, the free agent market includes first basemen Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana among others. Particularly in the case of the rumors of Abreu to Boston, it would seem beneficial for both the White Sox and the Red Sox to have that rumor out there. The White Sox can drum up perceived interest on a player they could benefit on trading – even if that’s just to attain due diligence for the future. The Red Sox get a reminder to agents that they have alternatives to the free agents looking for a home on the market.

Contrary to Garcia, the lack of an eager suitor for Abreu is more of an indication of the current market than it is an indictment of Abreu as a player. Simply put, the market just hasn’t valued bat-only players. With that in mind, if the White Sox look to move forward with Abreu, a player everyone around the team raved about this past season for his leadership, the environment they will be competing for Abreu’s services will be the same suppressed market on these thumpers. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the White Sox touch base on an extension with Abreu’s reps this February, but given the season he’s coming off of and the two years of control left, it’s the White Sox who hold the upper hand in that court.

Relievers

If the White Sox do end up converting on an acquisition of a notable player it will almost assuredly be a relief arm. The team has already been active in that respect as they nearly came to terms on a pact with a reliever before medicals were flagged and the deal was called off. They have also been linked to Sergio Romo according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com:

Source: Sergio Romo is scheduled to be activated by the Charros de Jalisco baseball team in Mexico this week. A group of teams that includes the Nationals, Rays, Blue Jays and White Sox have already expressed interest in the veteran reliever. —Tweet Link

One thing is clear – the White Sox have absolutely decimated their bullpen. They traded away David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak and Dan Jennings last July. They let go of Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam. They also have Nate Jones on the DL. So exactly zero pitchers from their 2017 Opening Day bullpen will be available to them. Whether it is to bring up the in-game experience for the fans next year or to keep Don Cooper from blowing a gasket, the White Sox will need to address this need.

One source has described the White Sox approach to the bullpen this offseason as “bargain buying” but I don’t think that precludes them from signing a relief arm to a multi-year deal. Someone like Pat Neshek, or Brandon Kintzler and his groundball-inducing stuff could be lured to the South Side on a 2-3 year pact if they were tickled by the opportunity to close. Recently released Hector Rondon makes a lot of sense for the White Sox as well. As does workhorse Bryan Shaw and Luke Gregerson among others.

While the White Sox will obviously pick up scrap heap options to fill out the pen, I think it’s a no-brainer for the team to invest in at least one more established reliever. The team has as few contractual obligations as anyone in the league. Given their current timeframe of competition, the team could acquire a reliever solely to flip him to a contender in July or if they’d prefer, have him be a part of the bullpen in the first year of the window of contention. Given the status of the payroll, the recently eviscerated bullpen and the fact that it is not my money being spent, I think the White Sox are positioned perfectly to strike a 2-3 year deal with an AAV of $4-6 million for a relatively accomplished bullpen arm.

Rule 5 Draft

Where you can expect the White Sox to be active is in the Rule 5 draft, where they will pick 4th (or potentially higher). Obviously there a lot of intricacies and stipulations that make this a more difficult avenue for talent procurement but given the White Sox’ current state of affairs, they are definitely one of the teams who should be expected to be active on Thursday. Given the team’s aforementioned bullpen vacancies, look for them to grab one, if not two, arms and hope to stow them in the pen for the future.

The Rule 5 Draft is a complex topic on it’s own, so we will have our James Fox bringing you a preview of that in a couple days. Keep your eyes peeled for that, and of course we will also cover the actual results of the draft.

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Comments

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  • Separately Abreu and Avi may not bring elite high end prospects. I wonder if packaging them would be something Rich Hahn might consider. Mid to higher end prospects won’t get us to the promised land.

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    I would like to see both of them kept for now. They could extend Abreu with a large signing bonus up front with their payroll being so small right now. As for Garcia, let him see what he can do for the first half of this season and then make a long term decision to trade at the deadline or not Abreu has a lot of intangibles a young team needs, not to mention the Cuban ties.

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    As far as acquiring relievers I would like to see the Sox sign multiple failed quad A starters with 2 good pitches and convert them to relief. If they've never been converted before then there maybe a lot of diamonds in the rough to be mined.

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    As a question for your Q&A series. Do you think the Sox would go the route of San Diego last year by selecting players nowhere near Major league ready but young with high ceilings? Straight up stealing babies from the crib.

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