Most people would agree that the White Sox have had a bad farm system for the past few years. Many say that it has ranked 30th out of 30 from time to time, and even with its recent improvement several knowledgeable people I have spoken to consider it to have moved up only to 29th or 28th. However, I’ve also had conversations with people who believe that the White Sox farm system does what the big league team needs – and I suppose 2012 was a decent year to make that case. Much of the pitching staff came from within, and often in the form of rookies. Nate Jones, Hector Santiago, Addison Reed, and Jose Quintana were all key pieces on the team. Others like Brian Omogrosso and Dylan Axelrod also chipped in. Minor leaguers can also be used as trade pieces, and in times of need the White Sox used the farm to acquire Francisco Liriano, Brett Myers, and Kevin Youkilis.
So yes, the White Sox have frequently been able to come up with a full supporting cast from within the minors – either through the draft, trades, or minor league free agents. The problem is that they have had a lot of trouble developing players on offense in general, let alone impact players. Gordon Beckham’s tale of disappointment is well documented, Joe Crede couldn’t stay healthy, and Aaron Rowand was traded away (albeit for the sublime Jim Thome). The White Sox signed or drafted and developed Carlos Lee, Magglio Ordonez, and Mike Cameron (whom they traded for Paul Konerko), but that was long, long ago. Since then, instead, we’ve seen Josh Fields and Joe Borchard types come and go. Dayan Viciedo is a work in progress, and I’m growing skeptical. Alejandro de Aza is a solid regular with some durability issues. Alexei Ramirez normally hits quite well, given how excellent his glove is, but he was also an international free agent, which is (as the name indicates) a type of free agency.
Given that the White Sox cannot seem to produce their own offensive players that leaves them in the awkward position of trying to acquire impact bats from without, either through free agency or trades. This has lead to the signing of Adam Dunn (which I supported enthusiastically), the Nick Swisher Trade (#1), the trade for and baffling extension of Mark Teahen, and the waiver acquisition of Alex Rios. As you can see, this can often be a dicey and expensive proposition.
Which brings me to the headline: Giancarlo Stanton. After the Marlins’ recent fire sale, many have pointed out that if the Marlins are actually trying to rebuild they should trade the young superstar while his value is at its zenith. They aren’t going to compete in the near term and might as well stock the pantry for when they plan to be good again down the road. Stanton is an absolute stud, having hit 93 home runs with a .270/.350/.553 line all before his 23rd birthday. He may have the most power in the majors already, and power tends to be a tool that keeps growing later on into a player’s career. I mean, check this out. Add onto that the fact that he’s a good athlete, is fine to stay in the outfield for quite some time, and that he won’t even hit Arbitration until 2014, and it should be no surprise that lots of teams are interested in trading for him. Nick Carfardo has reported that the Phillies, Red Sox, Cubs, Orioles, Cubs, and “many more” teams are asking about his availability.
The White Sox aren’t on that list in any meaningful way. As we have seen from the Tigers’ acquisition of Miguel Cabrera, it is often worth it to give up a lot of value – Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin haven’t worked out, but they were very highly regarded prospects at the time – in order to get an elite, superstar bat. The problem is, the White Sox couldn’t really put together a package for him even if they wanted to. I love Courtney Hawkins, Trayce Thompson, and Carlos Sanchez, and I still hope Jared Mitchell and Nestor Molina pan out, but it just wouldn’t be enough to get Stanton. I suspect the White Sox could say to Miami, “Pick any 8 players from the organization other than Chris Sale” and Miami would pass.
And this is where the farm system lets the organization down. It hasn’t produced any impact position players in years, and it does not contain enough value to trade for them when real opportunities arise. The Marlins are clearly willing to sell off assets that will become expensive, and they don’t necessarily charge a huge premium for talent in return – and the White Sox can’t exploit it, unless they want to part with Sale and a whole lot more. As I write this – as much as I love Sale – that may be a smart move for the organization. But even if they wanted to sell the farm, it probably wouldn’t get the job done.