With the Cleveland Indians running away with the American League Central, the White Sox need to shift their focus to obtaining a wild card berth. Seven teams within 2.5 games of each other in the wild cards standings.
The White Sox will likely have to get to at least 86 wins to make to the postseason. The closeness of the Wildcard race will produce a lot of shuffling in the standings over the next several weeks. Each team will need to address their strengths and weaknesses as the deadline approaches.
Here is the key need(s) for each current A.L. Wild Card contender:
Kansas City Royals: starting pitcher who can eat innings
The Royals don’t have a deep enough rotation to make it through the postseason like they did winning the 2015 World Series. They need to bring in a top three starter if they are going to have a deep run in October. They will also need a durable pitcher that can save their bullpen. The Royals bullpen has been used heavily over the last two seasons.
Boston Red Sox: frontline starting pitcher
There is no way the Red Sox will survive the season with the current rotation they have. While their offense is elite, they need a top of the rotation starter. David Price is having a down year. He is 8-5, with 4.74 ERA. If they play in the wild card game, they are going to need someone who can face another team’s ace. Right now they can’t do that.
Houston Astros: Contact Hitters
The Astros have a lot of power in their lineup. They strike out far too much however. They lead the major leagues and are one of two American League teams in the top seven in strikeouts. They need to acquire more of a Martin Prado-type third baseman. They would have to be creative with their lineup if they could get Prado or another third baseman.
Catcher, first base, centerfield and designed hitter are greater positions of need. They are also desperately in need of depth. Other than Jose Altuve an to a lesser extent Carlos Correa, the Astros offense has been abysmal. They rank 23rd in baseball and 14th in the American League in hitting.
Five of the Astros nine spots in the lineup (including DH) have an average of .233 or lower. The bench has also been brutal.
The Astros offense has been much better when Evan Gattis is behind the plate. Gattis is hitting .292 when catching and .186 as a designated hitter. His hitting metrics are also significantly higher while catching.
The Astros have amazingly gone 23-9 since May 27th. Their offense has improved over the last two weeks. They have reached double figures in runs four times during that span.
Detroit Tigers: Pitching
The Tigers are probably the worst pitching team of the contenders. Their entire pitching staff has been suspect. The Tigers farm system was ranked 26th by MiLB.Com during spring training. The lack of prospect depth in the Tigers system will likely prevent them from being able to trade for an elite starter. They still might be able to land a solid middle to back end of the rotation starter.
Toronto Blue Jays: Starting pitcher
While it is unlikely that they will bring in the haul they did at the 2015 trade deadline, the Blue Jays still need a starter. If they can’t get an ace, it makes sense to go after a solid middle of the rotation starter.
Seattle Mariners: Contact hitting shortstop
Current shortstop Ketel Marte’s offense has declined significantly since last season. His on-base percentage, slugging and ops have dropped at least 47 points since 2015.
This is a team that has the ability to pitch well but sometimes doesn’t hit enough. A shortstop that that is adequate defensively with a more consistent bat would be a key addition for the Mariners.
Chicago White Sox: middle of the order bat
With Todd Frazier hitting around .200 for most of the year, the White Sox need to move him down in the order.
The Southsiders might need the most offensive help of the contenders. Only the Royals have scored fewer runs among the wild card contenders. If the White Sox could bring in a bat to move Abreu out of the three hole, and drop Frazier to the six spot, the offense should improve.
The White Sox need to score runs more consistently to have a chance of sticking around the wild card race until the end of the season. The White Sox second first-round pick Zack Burdi is an option to enter the bullpen mix later in the year.
The New York Yankees haven’t been included due to the uncertainty if they will buy or sell.
These teams are all very likely to add a player or more at the deadline.
White Sox fans seem to be undecided if the team will be buyers. With their schedule coming up, and the team starting to play better, they will be hanging around the race on July 31st.
The Wild Card is a bit of different when competing to making the playoffs. There are teams from all three divisions competing for two spots. There is not as much head-to-head as there are within the divisions.
While a team can’t win a pennant at the deadline, they certainly can improve their chances. The Sox are going to be aggressive. How aggressive is the question. This next month will be very interesting.