Last week, we pointed out to you that in all likelihood, Rick Hahn will elect to make the White Sox sellers as the trade deadline approaches. Since the team keeps taking one step forward and two steps back, selling off pieces seems to be becoming inevitable.
So who exactly are the guys who may be shipped off before (or even after via waivers) the July 31st trade deadline? Based on performance, age, health, and contracts, three guys look like likely trade candidates: Alex Rios, Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton, and Alexei Ramirez.
Since the beginning of last season, Rios has been the most consistent hitter in Chicago. He’s easily been the team’s most productive hitter, has been solid defensively, and is still showing speed on the base paths despite entering his mid-30s. He’s on pace for a 20-20 season with an average close to .300 once again.
Someone like Rios would typically bring in a pretty substantial return, but what he does having going against him in the trade market is a large contract. He’s owed $12.5 million this year, $12.5 next year, and has a $13.5 million club option or a $1 million buyout for 2015. He also can block trades to six clubs, so depending on whether or not he’s willing to waive that clause to certain teams can dwindle down his market.
However, Rios’ production alone will still allow the Sox to get at least a decent return. There will certainly be teams out there looking for a middle-of-the-order type hitter for Rios. While the Sox will likely have to pay for a portion of Rios’ remaining contract in any deal, he should give the Sox at least two or three decent prospects. Considering we gave up nothing for Rios back in 2009, that’s not too shabby.
Crain’s 2013 has certainly been his best year not only in a White Sox uniform, but in his career. He’s earned the nickname “Jesse Stones” from Hawk Harrelson because of the late-inning jams he’s been successful in, and he’s pitched his way into a potential chance at an all-star bid.
Very seldom is any team satisfied with the performance of an entire bullpen, as there’s always room for upgrades with that unit. Crain’s been arguably the best right-handed set-up man in the game this season, so he’d be an upgrade over almost anyone he replaces in a bullpen. Plus, he’s pitched high-leverage innings in the bullpen for a long time, and has playoff experience dating back to his time in Minnesota.
Crain also has what many teams look for come the trade deadline: an expiring contract. This is so a team isn’t locked into a player for a long period of time in case he doesn’t pan out, especially for a 31-year old bullpen arm like Crain. It also means that the Sox may not have to chip in for any of Crain’s contract, as not much of it remains.
Given all of the above, Crain’s probably the most likely player to be dealt within the next month or two, and should give the Sox at least a decent prospect or two.
Thornton’s been a lightning rod for criticism in recent seasons for Sox fans, as his skill has seemingly deteriorated each year since 2010. We’ve seen his fastball dip in velocity, and he’s no longer the elite left-handed set-up man he once was.
With that said, he will still draw trade interest just based on the fact that he is a left-handed bullpen arm. While he’s not what he used to be, he still is a serviceable left-handed specialist, and a contending team with bullpen struggles will be looking to acquire a player like him. Like Crain, he’s a guy that’s pitched high-leverage innings for a long time, and the pressure of pitching for a contending team in a pennant race will not get to him.
He’s making $5.5 million this season, with either a club option for $6 million or a $1 million buyout for next year. That’s less friendly than Crain’s $4.5 million with no option for next season, but it certainly isn’t unmovable. Realistically, the Sox could get a one middle-tier prospect for Thornton, but he may be better served in a package deal with Rios, Crain, or someone else.
Hopefully, these three aren’t the only players that draw trade interest. It’s been a very down year for shortstops, so it’s possible a team could be interested in Alexei Ramirez despite his down year and lengthy contract.
While Jake Peavy won’t bring the large haul of promising prospects the Sox were hoping for due to his latest injury, maybe he’d at least give the Sox something if he returns in mid-July and shows no ill-effects of the cracked. Also, if Alejandro De Aza could continue to produce, he’d also be a decent trade candidate for a team that may want a player still under team control.
The White Sox have been pretty bad on the field this season, which means the most interesting stuff happening with this team from here on out may be off the field.
Rick Hahn and company have a lot of tough decisions to make, and even though it doesn’t appear that way based on the team’s play, Hahn could turn some of these players into solid future pieces.