The Jake Burger trade suggests that the White Sox will make hard decisions

The Chicago White Sox are hoping Jake Eder can become a fixture in their future starting rotations.
The Chicago White Sox are hoping Jake Eder can become a fixture in their future starting rotations. / Dustin Bradford/GettyImages

Jake Burger hit .214 for the Chicago White Sox this season.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound infielder had an on-base percentage of .279 and struck out once every three at-bats. His batting average and on-base percentage decreased in each of his three years in Chicago.

The White Sox, contrary to public opinion, didn't trade some combination of Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura, and Paul Konerko to the Miami Marlins on Tuesday when they dealt Burger for minor league pitcher Jake Eder.

They traded a one-tool, one dimensional player likely at the top of his trade value. It had to be done.

They made a pure baseball decision. They made a difficult decision. They made a necessary decision. And, for that, White Sox fans should finally have a ray of hope for what might come this off-season when the team is faced with even more difficult baseball decisions.

The Chicago White Sox made a huge trade with Jake Burger on Tuesday.

Burger, though, was the White Sox's lovable player. He was the friendly face down at the end of the bar in the neighborhood corner tavern. He was the beloved uncle you could always go to for advice, encouragement, and support.

Think Uncle Fester who could destroy a baseball, complete with the bald head and smile. That was Burger.

Burger, even though he was born in St. Louis and went to Missouri State, was Southside Sox to the bone. He even looked and played like a 16-inch softball legend. It was always surprising that he even bothered to take a glove out to second or third base.

White Sox, to be sure, fans lost a piece of themselves when Burger was traded to the Marlins. Their anger at the trade is understandable. It hurt. It will always hurt.

General manager Rick Hahn once again is now the sworn enemy of all true Sox fans. It's as if he woke up and decided to trade Jake Burger just to be annoying.

"I get it. I'll trade away their favorite player, the one they identify with the most. That will do the trick" is what White Sox fans think he is saying.

"Bye bye, Burger. Take that, Sox fans. I'm still the general manager here. And don't ever forget it."

That, of course, is not why the Sox traded Burger on Tuesday, even though it feels like it to their frustrated and deceived fan base. The Sox traded Burger because they had to. It made baseball sense.

Burger, though, is not what many White Sox fans thought he was. White Sox fans were desperate this year for something to feel good about.

Faced with watching a team of lazy, unmotivated underachievers, Sox fans saw this overlooked and against-all-odds player like Burger hitting baseballs over fences.

Burger was living their dream and epitomized Sox fans, an overlooked, underappreciated lot stuck in a Chicago Cub city, perfectly.

Sox fans saw 25 Burger Bombs this spring and summer. Here was a White Sox first-round draft pick actually producing. Go figure.

Each time Burger hit a baseball in the bleachers, went around the bases, got back to the dugout, donned that home run black hat and coat, and high-fived his teammates, it sent a feeling of warmth throughout the south side.

How could you not root for the guy?

Lost in the barrage of the home runs, the gaudy home run jacket and cap, bald head, and smiling face, though, were the strikeouts and flyouts.

The runners left on base. The swings and misses on pitches out of the strike zone. The only thing larger than the heart that Burger played with were the holes in his swing.

Burger, when you scrape away the heartwarming smile and buddy-at-the-end-of-the-bar persona, was just another home run-hitting Sox prospect who couldn't get on base enough, play defense well enough, and didn't do the little things enough to help a team win.

He wasn't Harmon Killebrew, Mike Schmidt, or even Ron Santo, powerful All-Star third basemen of the past who did more than simply hit an occasional baseball over the fence. He also wasn't Eddie Mathews, Chipper Jones, Adrian Beltre, Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado.

He was Bill Melton on his good days. Kevin Bell on his bad days. Remember Jim Morrison, the former Sox second and third baseman? Burger has more raw power but that was basically the type of player he was destined to become.

Home runs, keep-your-fingers-crossed defense, and a career of walking back to the dugout after strikeouts about four times more often than he would walk around the bases after a homer.

Yes, of course, Burger might have the potential to be another Gary Gaetti. He might even be able to touch the potential of Ron Cey or Troy Glaus for a few seasons. But he will turn 28 years old a week or so after opening day this coming April. His potential days are likely already being tapped.

The Sox already have enough power-hitting, designated hitters who don't get on base enough and strike out a ton.

Burger was simply a fan favorite. He wasn't someone to build an offense around.

Being a fan favorite might be enough for the neighborhood guy at the end of the bar who goes to an occasional Sox game, moans and whines about the price of a beer in the bleachers and wishes Yoan Moncada would disappear.

But it's not enough for a general manager who now has the serious task of saving his job and his underachieving organization.

The White Sox desperately need legitimate pitching prospects. An organization can't survive on the mound with the Davis Martin, Touki Toussaint, and Jesse Scholten-type players of the world.

Remember Ross Detwiler, Jonathan Stiever, Dylan Covey, and Carson Fulmer? Do you want a parade of those guys heading out to the mound in the next two or three years?

Well, that's what we were sure to get after the always-rebuilding Sox traded away Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn this week and will likely let Mike Clevinger walk away after the season.

The White Sox will never be in the market for Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, or Max Scherzer, either in their prime or in their golden years. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf doesn't give out contracts of $100 million or more. That's what frontline pitching now costs.

The real villain here is not the trade of Burger to Miami for a pitching prospect. Blame the ridiculous decision to not even consider signing Lucas Giolito to a contract extension.

The Sox were even afraid to consider extending reliever Reynaldo Lopez so they gave him away with Giolito to the Los Angeles Angels for a pitching and catching prospect.

The Sox also gave up on Lynn and, according to media reports, were listening to offers on Dylan Cease, a guy that wasn't going to be a free agent for two more years. Cease will likely be gone by this time next year.

The Sox don't pay pitchers. This is the same organization in recent years that dealt away Chris Sale for four prospects (Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, and two others) that so far are busts. They also let fan favorite Mark Buehrle go and dealt away Jose Quintana.

The Sox simply use up pitchers in their youthful years and hope for a miracle. And if those pitchers actually prove to be legitimate major leaguers and are ready to make serious money, the Sox get rid of them.

See Carlos Rodon two years ago when the Sox were supposedly about to open their World Series window.

Oh, sure, the Sox have been willing recently to go to the free-agent scrap heap and sign a Dallas Kuechel or make a trade for Lance Lynn.

But even when the Sox do go get a veteran, mediocre pitcher like Lynn and Kuechel, that move is usually accompanied by or closely followed by letting a Rodon go.

Lynn or Kuechel, of course, turned out to be nightmares for Sox fans. Kuechel helped destroy the 2022 season and Lynn did the same this year.

It's no wonder the Sox are a little gun-shy about paying pitchers big money. Even when they pay mediocre money it still proves to be a disaster.

The lesson from Kuechel and Lynn is clear. If the Sox can afford to sign a free-agent pitcher, it's only because every other team in the major leagues knows that pitcher is pitching on fumes and is about to implode.

The Sox had to pull the trigger on the Burger deal. Eder is a legitimate pitching prospect, something the organization had too little of.

The Sox had plenty of clueless, selfish, swing-and-miss hitters in the lineup. Burger was just the most fun of the bunch to watch. But keep in mind that the offense was a Burger-Bomb-Or-Bust affair that produced a 43-65 record.

It was time to move in a new direction. Burger won't be the last swing-and-miss one-dimensional hitter this organization trades before the start of the 2024 season. He was just the first.

The Sox simply could not pass up on a chance to acquire a prospect like Eder. The Marlins, unlike the Sox, are a team that knows how to draft and develop top-of-the-line pitchers. The Sox are hoping to get a little of that Marlin magic by taking on Eder.

Eder, of course, might prove to be a bust. He might prove to be the left-handed version of Michael Kopech. Or he might be the left-handed version of Dylan Cease. Settle for the lefty version of Jon Garland and call it a win.

The Sox went out this past week and rebuilt their organizational pitching depth. And they rebuilt it with legitimate prospects. Eder, Jordan Leasure, Nick Nastrini, and Ky Bush could turn out to be the anchors of the staff in the next two or three years.

A likable but one-dimensional home run hitter wasn't too high a price to help rebuild the pitching staff.

Next. The 15 worst contracts in Chicago White Sox history. dark