Jun 25, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox shortstopAlexei Ramirez
(10) hits a game winning single against the New York Mets at U.S. Cellular Field. The Chicago White Sox defeated the New York Mets 5-4. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
The savvy baseball fan might have foreseen doom and misery for the 2013 White Sox before the 8-19 June that forced every level of management to acknowledge the team’s fate. And in turn, that savvy baseball fan might have identified Alex Rios, Jake Peavy and Jesse Crain as prime trade targets. A savvy baseball fan that had not wasted their time thinking about the White Sox after 2011, might think that Alexei Ramirez would fetch a bounty if the Sox ever thought to move him.
But the rub appears to be that the key to the Sox going into the tank is every tradable asset going into the tank along with them.
The most recent example is Jesse Crain. Enjoying a piping-hot season out of the bullpen in his last year under contract with the White Sox, Crain’s main attraction as a rental is being able to step and provide shutdown work in high-leverage work immediately–hopefully with the chance to tilt a playoff race by a game or two.
So, of course:
It’s still very much in the wait-and-se1 stage for Crain’s wonkey shoulder, but ‘reliever that may need to miss a third of the rest of the season’ doesn’t carry the same zing as ‘closer for the stretch run and playoffs.’
Crain’s issue seems to have more of a chance of resolving itself quickly than the troubles of Rios, who after spending most of the season being the only above-average hitter in the lineup, just put the finishing touches on a month where he hit .248/.306/.337, homering just once and striking out at an uncharacteristically high 20.7% rate. Scouts that have been tagging along Rios more than usual the past few weeks likely saw someone way out in front of breaking balls, expanding his zone to the outside and clearly a bit despondent about the whole development, to say the least.
The White Sox clubhouse is not exactly a renowned dojo of hitting, so scouts could simply marvel at Rios’ tools while thinking that he could be reformed at age 32, but he’s gone from a middle-of-the-order bat for hire, to someone who can plug a black hole in a corner outfield position. He’s movable, but not doing much to inspire a bonanza right now. His atrocious first inning at-bat on Tuesday suggests he’s not yet out of the woods.
Nor is Paul Konerko, who struck out twice in an 0-4 night in his first game back from back problems, and has done nothing dissuade suitors of the idea that age has caught up to him.
Jake Peavy was the vanguard of ripping up trade value, having gone down with a fractured rib at the beginning of the doomed month. But the more the starting pitcher trade market reveals itself to be underwhelming–Scott Feldman was moved on Tuesday, bidding continues for Ricky Nolasco, Cliff Lee moving remains a theoretically good idea rather than something the Phillies will do–the easier it is to maintain optimism that he will return in time to be interesting. Peavy’s results were underwhelming and his injury doesn’t help, but there’s no one else of his talent level being talked about.
Alexei Ramirez is only movable due to the principle that everyone needs a shortstop, but just came off his arguably worst month of the season yet. He walked once in 118 June plate appearances, slugged .339, stuck out twice as often as he did in May, all while going through his nightmares on defense.
As much of a prevailing and ceaseless bummer this all is, it will provide a fresh test of the new front office. A season shockingly bereft of any degree of hope has forced a sell-off, but how is the commitment to deal affected when slumps and injuries force Rick Hahn out an ideal situation where’s he being bid on, and back to a situation where he has to be pro-active to secure welcome landing spots for all of his broken pieces.
It just wouldn’t be the 2013 White Sox without serious, unforeseeable difficulty.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan