White Sox need to contemplate exit strategy

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Jeff Samardzija was one of many failed veteran moves by the White Sox.
Jeff Samardzija was one of many failed veteran moves by the White Sox.Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Contention Window

This quasi-contention window always looked kind of weird. During a dismal 2013 season, the White Sox started to reshape the right way. They locked up their young pitching, spent big on Jose Abreu, and pulled off three savvy trades.

Adam Eaton was the only “hit” out of the Eaton, Garcia, Davidson trio.

This club looks a lot different if Garcia and Davidson weren’t busts. The White Sox can’t change the reality that they were. It has made this new window more artificial than it looks.

Veterans Jeff Samardzija, Adam LaRoche, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, and Melky Cabrera were on-paper a solid way to supplement this young core.

Almost every single one of those players hasn’t lived up to expectations.

With the window expedited, 2016/2017 looked like the true contention period. They needed an overhaul to come after 2017. Lawrie and Frazier are young enough that had this group clicked, they could have been extended and 2018/2019 would have been in the cards too.

The issue is that it’s not clicking. The White Sox made a monumental mistake in not dealing Jeff Samardzija at last year’s deadline. They may consider dealing the likes of Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, and David Robertson, all figure to be hot commodities.

The concern is that they don’t pull the trigger on seller moves and go into 2017 with this same squad and Ventura at the helm once again.

It’s not like they can even double down on this group. The offseason to spend was last year. There’s very little help on the free agent market after 2016. They could go the trade route, but that further depletes a farm system that thins out after the top-end names.

It’s time for the half measures to end. If this club is in the thick of things this July, which they very well might be, then it’s time to grab names like Carlos Gonzalez and Aroldis Chapman and truly go for the hardware in 2016 and 2017. If they not, then the rebuild must begin. It can’t stop at Frazier and Robertson.

The whole organization needs an overhaul, from Williams on down. This includes advanced scouts who are beginning to appear like the hidden cancer people were overlooking. Rick Hahn is the man to lead this rebuild, and if you’re not high on him I’ll offer some praise.

Hahn is an MBA, former agent, and has a sharp mind. Every transaction he has made on paper has looked like a coup. Who ever thought it was possible to get Todd Frazier without giving up Tim Anderson. Jeff Samardzija for practically just Marcus Semien? Lawrie for scraps, and also outbidding everyone for the best closer on the block in free agency.

Even the calculus of the Addison Reed and Matt Davidson trade made sense. The James Shields trade was an on-paper steal, and while performance won’t show it, it was astounding they got him and $27 million for a starter they disliked and a teenage prospect that was years away.

I trust Rick Hahn with the cell phone and it’s time to make some calls.

The largest conundrum is whether to deal any of the young pitching. Considering a guy like Ian Kennedy just got $70 million, the Sale and Quintana contracts are invaluable.

There’s something to be said about keeping one of the two, and I wouldn’t be opposed.

Quintana and Eaton have enough team control (through 2020 and 2021 respectively) that they could theoretically be apart of the next wave that is likely to include Carlos Rodon, Tim Anderson, Carson Fulmer, and the recently drafted Zack Collins.

Maybe someone drops a Shelby Miller-esque package for Quintana. If a prior top three draft pick, controllable bat, and high-end prospect are all on the table, that’s something you look at.

Jul 15, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; American League pitcher Chris Sale (49) of the Chicago White Sox throws a pitch in the fourth inning during the 2014 MLB All Star Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 15, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; American League pitcher Chris Sale (49) of the Chicago White Sox throws a pitch in the fourth inning during the 2014 MLB All Star Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports /

Chris Sale is a generational talent, but the White Sox are entering a perfect storm.

The free agent market for pitching is beyond barren this year. If the Boston Red Sox call offering a haul of Yoan Moncada, Blake Swihart, Anderson Espinoza, and Sam Travis for Sale.

What if they center a package around Mookie Betts? What if the Dodgers are willing to part with Corey Seager?

Jose Abreu is under control through 2019, but he’s arguably at peak value. He’s rebounding this year and is on a bargain contract. Trading Abreu is going to net the White Sox at least one Top 50 MLB prospect, maybe two in the Top 100.

The general idea is that White Sox can pick two pieces to keep (Sale/Eaton, Quintana/Abreu, etc.) and can then leverage the rest or even all of Sale, Quintana, Eaton, Abreu, Frazier, Lawrie, Melky, and Robertson into likely baseball’s top farm system.

If the White Sox go another half measure in 2017, they are left with a continually aging core and less chips to cash in. A team with this volume of quality players has never authorized a major reboot. This kind of makes you question why they’re even in this position. If they did, it might make for a historic turnaround.

The appeal of multiple 90-100 loss teams and empty, cavernous stadiums is low. So is the appeal of consistent mediocrity and aimless direction. The latter is worse.

The Twins are proving that long, drawn out rebuilds aren’t always sure-fire successes. Not every team has a near 100-percent hit rate on their young targets like the Cubs. It’s an avenue worth exploring.

Next: Should White Sox Consider Firing Don Cooper?

The White Sox have always hung their hat on playing competent baseball, always making a concerted effort to be in the mix. That has brought them 63, 73, and 76 win seasons the last three years. It’s time for a team seeing the annual results of a rebuilding club to actually reap the benefits that typically come along with it.