Heading into the end of May, the White Sox sit in second place, about 4 games back of the Twins. Though under .500, the White Sox do not look like a team that is giving up any time soon. In fact, they look like a team that means to capture the AL central title and make a deep playoff run. The team isn’t performing as they had hoped, but they seem completely unfazed and are staying mentally tough, focusing on winning each game, one day at a time. Fans and management probably can’t wait to have a fully healthy staff including Lance Lynn, Aaron Bummer, and Eloy Jimenez. But that doesn’t mean the Sox have to sit around just waiting for good things to happen.
Mark Feinsand at MLB.com polled front office executives and found that the Reds, Pirates, Orioles, Cubs, Nationals, Royals, and Athletics are the most likely clubs who will be dealing players this summer. The Red Sox also seem like a popular choice and have some mighty good weapons that could get dealt. According to Feinsand, the names that seem to come up most are:
· Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts, JD Martinez and Nathan Eovaldi
· A’s: Frankie Montas and Roman Laureano
· Reds: Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle
· Nationals: Nelson Cruz, Josh Bell, Victor Robles
· Cubs: Wade Miley and Willson Contreras
· Orioles: Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander
· Royals: Andrew Benintendi and Zack Greinke
· Pirates: Bryan Reynolds
How should the White Sox approach this list? In the offseason, the White Sox made very few moves sticking with their current lineup. But a quarter of the way through the season might be enough time to start thinking about reinforcements that can help catapult them over .500 and at least into the Wild Card conversation.
By the numbers (and According to MLB.com), the White Sox pitching staff is in the middle of the pack. The White Sox are 14th in ERA (3.77), 16th in batting average against, and 25th in WHIP. The bright spot is that they are 3rd in strikeouts behind the Brewers and the Mets. The eye test doesn’t seem to point to pitching really being the current burning issue. Especially once Lynn is back, a starting rotation of Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Dallas Keuchel, Michael Kopech and Lynn seems pretty formidable. Liam Hendriks, Bummer, Kendall Graveman, Vince Velasquez and others provide an admirable bullpen.
Hitting, however, seems to bring tears to the eye test. Though in second place, the the White Sox have a -27 run differential. That could mean a bunch of things. The White Sox are 18th in batting average, 25th in RBI’s, 25th in runs scored, 28th in OBP, 24th in Slugging, and 26th in OPS. Tim Anderson is hitting .348 and Luis Robert is on fire in May raising his average to .301. But four hitters in the starting lineup are batting under .200 (Moncada, Grandal, McGuire, and Harrison). Andrew Vaughn is batting .267 and everyone else is batting between .200 and .226. The White Sox could use somebody who is hitting well right now. Not someone who used to hit well or was an All-Star at one time or had a great year a few years back. Somebody else who could get on base right now. Runs can only be scored when people are on base or hit a home run. It is a rule.
This request narrows down our list quite a bit. Xander Bogaerts becomes very interesting. The Red Sox also have Trevor Story so they could easily backfill the shortstop position. Bogaerts could move to second base with the White Sox (or I guess Anderson could as well). Bogaerts is batting .331 with a .389 on base percentage. With 4 home runs and .472 slugging percentage, it gives him a .860 OPS and a magnificent 145 OPS+ (meaning 45 points above average).
JD Martinez is also off to a great start batting .344 with five home runs, 20 RBI’s, a .965 OPS and a whopping 172 OPS. The White Sox currently use Jose Abreu, Vaughn, Grandal, and others in the DH position. Abreu can always play first base and Yasmani typically catches. Martinez could slip into the everyday DH spot. Or he can occupy left or right field in place of Vaughn or Engel.
The only other person on the list that fits the bill is Josh Bell. Bell mostly plays first base but could also play outfield. Bell could DH or take the full time first base roll and move Abreu to full time DH. This displaces Gavin Sheets. Bell is hitting .316, 4 home runs, 22 RBI’s, a huge .405 OBP, slugging .456 with a .861 OPS. With a 1.2 WAR and 157 OPS+, Bell is having a career year.
Activity and new blood adds a spark to a team. Sparks turn into momentum and momentum turns into a win. Instead of waiting until the trade deadline, the White Sox should jump out of their skin and comfort zone and make a front office play before somebody grabs quality players out from under them.