Hahn says more bold moves ahead.
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) October 29, 2013
To talk about the White Sox offseason, there are couple of frustrations that need to be worked past first.
—They’re not going to strip down and perform a full-gut rebuild.
—They’re not going to completely emphasize acquiring minor league and rookie talent above all at all times.
—A team employee intimating that they were considering punting 2014 would be obligated to consider hari-kiri.
For practical application, once you accept that the White Sox traded pieces at the deadline more for salary relief than elite prospects, and that they cannot simply throw all the saved money into the international market (there’s a cap) or into development (there’s only so much that can be done!), it’s time to prepare for them to spend in free agency and or take on major league salary in trades, and hope they do it well. The alternative is they don’t, and Jerry Reinsdorf uses the extra funds to genetically breed enormous alpacas for houseguests to ride on.
The Abreu move has its risks–and a reduced capacity for bargain, since Abreu can opt out of the last three years for arbitration–including the fact that the big man is coming off a personal down year in Cuba, but it represents the best opportunity for the Sox to secure an offensive cog for the present and future for just the cost of his salary.
The White Sox have also been rumored to be interested in OF Curtis Granderson, and logically linked to every free agent catcher conceivably possible for obvious reasons. But a free agent over 30 years of age can only go so far in terms of fulfilling Rick Hahn’s desire for long-term solutions. That’s why rumors like the Angels shopping OF Peter Bourjos and 1B/OF Mark Trumbo are worth watching.
The Angels are the White Sox inverted, laden with useful position players and unable to assemble a competent pitching staff. They’re a team whose struggles of recent leave them less inclined to trust that competent relievers will just spring from their organization naturally, and just this past offseason traded a competent bat in 1B/DH Kendrys Morales to have the likes of LHP Jason Vargas fill space. Just Jose Quintana’s quietly superb 2013 was more valuable than anything any Angels starter not named Jared Weaver has done in at least the last two years. Selling high on Quintana is just an example of possible steps, but the Angels in general are a franchise (the Orioles are another) that would be buying what the Sox actually do have to sell.
And while Bourjos and Trumbo aren’t All-Stars, they are fine examples of the type of competent contributors the Sox are capable of acquiring that would provide immediate upgrade over what they floated out in 2013. Trumbo’s strikeout and on-base issues aren’t going to push painful memories of this year’s offense away, but he’s been an above-average hitter in each of his three seasons in the league (.250/.299/.469 for a 111 wRC+), and there’s at least some curiosity as to whether an extreme ballpark switch in his favor would make his power more useful.
Bourjos, on the other hand, is a blinding speed merchant whose aesthetics can’t help but outstrip his value. The victim of freak injuries and a Mike Trout-shaped roadblock in Anaheim, Bourjos too, despite more hiccups, has shaken out to being average in his career (.251/.306/.398, which is a 96 wRC+ in the Angels ballpark), but would improve the center field defense by leaps and bounds and provide electrifying baserunning. An average, healthy season of Bourjos beats out what Alejandro De Aza can provide and looks a lot prettier, and he’s three years younger to boot.
But first, the Sox need to decide where they can make room. With Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu, they essentially have squeezed themselves down to two outfield slots and one first base/designated hitter slot, and conspicuous at the Abreu signing was Dayan Viciedo and De Aza as part of the welcoming party. These men could both be bench players for the 2014 White Sox, but simply not giving up on Dayan is enough to make it hard to see where a courtesy roster spot for Paul Konerko appears.
Rick Hahn hit the nail on the head that there’s plenty of work to be done and players to acquire to get the Sox back to competitiveness, but asking him to reel in all the necessary pieces while keeping a spot to spare for Konerko is a call for superhuman efficiency.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan