White Sox are back at it again for ‘16
After the offseason of 2015 was full of action by the Chicago White Sox front office, and the proceeding failure, it was questionable on whether GM Rick Hahn would be contending or rebuilding in 2016. While the addition of Brett Lawrie hinted at a reload towards contention, the trade for Todd Frazier leaves no doubt – Chicago believes itself to be going for it all this season.
The failure to contend in 2015 allowed the White Sox to make a few September call-ups which contributed to this trade. Both Trayce Thompson and Micah Johnson (who broke camp with the big league club) got playing time in September and Frankie Montas received a few innings, living up to his 100 MPH heat. While these three all did have varying levels of success, none of them were the types of prospects that carried high promise. The underlying factor with all three is that they all were not ready to be major contributors to a team that is looking to contend. The fact that they were able to land a top-level player at a key position of need without giving up a top prospect, a starter, a member of the starting rotation OR one of their three first round draft picks this year has to be considered a huge win.
There are two possible hold backs I have before grading this trade as an A++ for the White Sox – the past several major acquisitions the White Sox have made have not worked out. From Adam Dunn to Jeff Samardzija, it has seemed that the South Side has been a place for veteran players to worsen instantly. While this is most likely just a long-running coincidence, coaching can certainly be questioned on this unfortunate trend.
The other concern has to be Todd Frazier’s second half of 2015. After winning the Homerun Derby last season, Frazier’s stats took a tumble (.883 OPS in the first half vs .733 in the second). His second half also was a step down in 2014. The easy joke here is that the White Sox need a first half player after the start they had last year but all jokes aside, Frazier’s two all-star seasons have seen a second half decline.
But are they done for now?
If you have read anything I have written on this site this offseason, you know already how much I believed that Todd Frazier was the key part of any offseason plan the White Sox would have if they planned on contending. However, I have also said that in addition to acquiring Frazier, another big move has to be made, most likely in the outfield. Now that they have traded their fourth outfielder, the need is a must. Now if that move is a nine figure superstar, I certainly won’t be complaining, but another move has to happen this offseason as Avisail Garcia does not (and should not) seem to be the answer moving forward. He is still very young (25) and improvement may be possible but after reading this article this morning, along with the eye test all season, I have strong doubts.
A bigger move is still possible because I believe the White Sox understand the state they are in. Jerry Reinsdorf (White Sox owner) has never been a large spender on free agents but now is as good of time as any. The arguments that have come from the front office has largely been attendance related but the White Sox fan base has, for better or worse, always been a prove-it-first type of group. This is not to put down the fan base as I do believe several other teams in big cities are the same way. The stadium fills up after it sees wins and gets excited. A large free agent signing will certainly rile up the large portion of the city that root for the White Sox.
That leads me into my last point on Chicago and something that is controversial. When I saw tweets saying that this move was made due to pressure put on the White Sox from the Cubs, I hesitated to agree. But, it does have some varying effect. The White Sox rival is not the Cubs from a baseball standpoint but attendance-wise, sure they are. There is a portion of Chicago that are just baseball fans and want to see good baseball. With the Cubs now projecting upwards of 100 wins, the White Sox could not compete with that portion. Another segment is the new generation. Kids always love a winner and if they’re seeing a winning franchise on the North Side, it’s much easier to side with them. Reinsdorf and the White Sox certainly took notice of this and decided now is not the time for a rebuild. What made that decision easier is having one of the best pitchers in baseball (Sale) and a perennial MVP candidate in Jose Abreu. There are far too many reasons to go for it now rather than wait for the next wave of superstars.
And why did the Dodgers and Reds play along?
All three of the mentioned White Sox prospects went to the Dodgers and LA’s motive is fairly clear. They look to be building up a mass quantity of prospects in what is more than likely going to be their next big move. After the Giants and Diamondbacks have made their intentions clear with their big signings these past few weeks, the Dodgers haven’t done so just yet. There are some rumors that Jose Fernandez may be their target who can certainly be argued to have a higher ceiling than Zach Greinke or Johnny Cueto.
Since the Reds only took Dodger players back in the trade, it has been asked why they didn’t just make the trade in the first place with only LA. Clearly the Dodgers were not looking for two years of Todd Frazier, with Justin Turner already in place at third. The Reds and White Sox have been talking for days and it seems like discussions on White Sox top prospect Tim Anderson is what held it up. Chicago refused to budge, a third team had to be included, and Cincinnati took what it could get.
Tim Anderson will probably be better than any of the three players the Reds got but their back was against the wall. After the Chapman trade fell through, and the Reds look to not be getting anything back from him, Frazier was their top option to attempt to sell (Joey Votto isn’t going anywhere right now).