White Sox will have decisions to make during upcoming off-season. If team intends on contending, they might have to sign a player with a qualifying offer or trade a talented young player.
The 12th position in Major League Baseball’s Amateur Player Draft is the definition of baseball purgatory. It doesn’t get much worse, unless of course you’re saddled at number eleven. The Chicago White Sox are pretty darn close.
What would normally be regarded as an achilles heel, such draft position is actually a hidden blessing for the Sox as it will invariably force their hand.
Last offseason played out like a bad movie, one in which the screenwriters got a little lost around the 45 minute mark. A once cohesive plan fell apart as a plethora of competent free agents went by the wayside. Financial constraints and the consideration of a compensation pick served as the key derailing factors.
The rising action of the Todd Frazier trade was met with a climax that might make a movie goer spit out their popcorn. Austin Jackson isn’t quite the blockbuster fans expected when they sat on the edge of their seats for three months.
While Chicago’s best course of action was to simply pay a premium for Yoenis Cespedes, who would not have required surrendering the 26th pick in the draft, remaining free agents such as Dexter Fowler and Ian Desmond both held this stigma.
Chicago’s brain trust didn’t necessarily overvalue the pick when considered in a vacuum. It did stand as their compensation for losing free agent Jeff Samardzija. The right-hander cratered in Chicago and a supplemental first round pick was a way to mitigate the loss of trade headliner Marcus Semien.
I was certainly in the camp that it made little sense to part with a draft pick to sign Ian Desmond or Dexter Fowler to a multi-year pact. The calculus changed some when both players settled for one year deals. At that point the pick could have been recouped the following off-season as both players will undoubtedly receive a qualifying offer this fall.
In isolation, parting with the comp pick was ill-advised but when viewed in context with prior transactions, it seemed counter-intuitive not to. The moment the Sox parted with a trio of young talent in Trayce Thompson, Frankie Montas, and Micah Johnson for veteran infielder Todd Frazier, the onus was placed on the front office to deliver in 2016 and 2017.
Regardless of direction, front offices must be consistent in whichever route they choose. The congruent course of action after sacrificing controllable players for Frazier, would have been to sacrifice a draft pick to reinforce that move so the acquisition price wouldn’t go for naught. Yet, Chicago seemed to have cognitive dissonance regarding how they approached the rest of the off-season. Their subsequent actions simply did not align with their perceived win-now mentality.
The implication for this off-season is Chicago will have to make an internal decision on that draft pick before they make any other transactions. It can’t be a fluid decision that comes later because it will only make them vulnerable to the inconsistency that has plagued them in the past. Once they iron out their openness to parting with that pick, the script for the rest of the off-season will inevitably appear in front of them. To demonstrate this, I’ll lay out two contingencies surrounding how this decision should inform how they subsequently operate.