Trading Vets Easier Said Than Done

With the White Sox in full meltdown mode, media, fans, and bloggers have started to speculate about which members of the Sox could be sent elsewhere in exchange for younger help.  With each passing day and the losses and errors mounting up, the Sox fan base seems ready to part with anyone and everyone not named Chris Sale. 

Trading veterans for prospects seems to be what everyone has in mind, but it is easier said than done.  Let’s take a look at some of the Sox vets who fans are ready to ship out that are probably going to be tougher to move than we like.

Alex Rios

The Sox right-fielder is coming off his best season in the Majors.  He hit .304 with 25 home runs and 91 RBI last year, all career highs.  He also stole 23 bases while being caught just six times.  In addition to his offense, he also had a pretty solid defensive year. 

This year, Rios picked up where he left off last year, carrying the pitiful Sox offense for the early part of the year. His averaged has trailed off a little bit (down to .280) but he has 11 home runs, 18 doubles, and 35 RBI. He also has recorded eight outfield assists in right field.  This should make Rios attractive trade bait for a team in either league in need of a corner outfielder. 

However, Rios is under contract through next season at $12.5 million, with a team option for 2015 at $13.5 million with a $1 million team buyout.  A trade also escalates the 2015 option by half a million dollars.  Whoever trades for Rios will inherit his salary for next season, which likely shortens the list of potential suitors.  I still think that trading Rios remains a real possibility, especially if the Sox are willing to pick up some of his contract to sweeten the deal.

Adam Dunn

Most Sox fans would say they would be willing to take a box of baseballs and some pine tar if it means that Adam Dunn will have played his last game on the South Side.  As the season began, it looked like Dunn had reverted to 2011 form, and that there was no way the Sox would be able to find a suitor.

Dunn has perked up in June though, hitting .282 with eight homers and 20 RBI.  His strikeout to walk ratio is almost 1:1, which is a vast improvement over the first two months of the year.  Suddenly, Dunn looks like someone that might be able to help out a team in need of some power in their lineup.

Hold the phone guys.  There are still a couple of major hurdles involved in finding a destination for the Big Donkey.  First off is that, ideally, he would need to go to an American League team where he can DH or minimally split time between DH and First Base.  His fielding is sub-par at best, so I’m not sure if an NL team will want to take a chance on him playing at first every day. 

Secondly, we have his contract.  Dunn is signed through next season at $15 million.  No options, no buyouts, nothing.  Once again, whoever takes on Dunn will have to take him for next year as well, at a pretty high price.  That is a lot to ask of a team to take on over $20 million in salary for a guy hitting below the Mendoza line.

Alexei Ramirez

As the errors continue to mount, Sox fans seem more and more fed up with Alexei Ramirez.  Clearly, the team is thinking about the future of the shortstop position when they drafted Tim Anderson in the first round a few weeks back.  While Anderson is still a few years away, the fans are ready to ship Ramirez out now. 

The problem is that every other team sees exactly what Sox fans see.  He has already committed more errors this year than all of last season.  He has hit just one home run this year and has just 10 homers since the start of last year after hitting no less than 15 dingers in any of his first four seasons.  While his batting average is right about at his career average, the drop off in power numbers is a big concern.  His slugging percentage this year is 67 points below his career mark coming into this season.  While Alexei still has the ability to be a potential gold glove caliber shortstop, he’s on pace for a career high in errors. 

Along with all the struggles on the field is, once again, the contract situation.  Ramirez is signed through 2015 with a team option for 2016.  He will make $19.5 million over the next two seasons.  Any team that trades for Alexei would have to plan on him being their shortstop for the next two and a half years.  That might be a lot to ask for a 31 year old who seems to be on the decline both offensively and defensively. 

Before you start speculating, making moves, and calling up sports talk radio with your trade proposals, take a look at the logistics of moving some of these guys.  It is easy to say, “trade this guy, get rid of that guy,” but remember that it takes two to tango. 

The Sox will certainly explore all options. I am not saying that none of these players will be traded, but it will not be easy to find a deal that works for any of them, and the money could affect what the Sox get back in return. 

Rick Hahn has a difficult job right now, and I don’t envy him at all.  If July 31st comes and goes and these guys are still wearing the silver and black, don’t go killing Rick Hahn for not making a deal. His predecessor didn’t do him any favors with these contracts.