Friday, August 19, 2022

White Sox trade deadline preview: Biggest needs, possible fits, top trade chips

It’s been a disappointing season thus far for the Chicago White Sox. At this writing, they’re a mere .500 on the year, and they’ve benefited from playing in the lackluster American League Central. 

The “disappointing” part flows from their recent history. In the abbreviated 2020 season, the Sox played at a 94-win clip and made the postseason for the first time since 2008. Following a thoroughly puzzling decision to move on from manager Rick Renteria in favor of long-retired Hall of Famer Tony La Russa, Chicago won the division title in 2021. The goal in 2022 was to repeat as flag-bearers in the Central and also advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since their championship season of 2005. As the deadline looms, however, that goal has been revised to “sneak into the postseason.” 

Given how tight the margins are, the Sox should be active prior to the Aug. 2 trade deadline. The White Sox have pronounced needs, but owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s willingness to add payroll, at least significant payroll, is left to question. Now let’s have a closer look at the South Siders as the 2022 trade deadline looms.

Needs

The Sox are a righty-heavy offense. Right now, seven of their nine lineup regulars bat exclusively from the right side, and one of the switch-hitters — catcher Yasmani Grandal — has historically been stronger from the right side. In related matters, Chicago this season has been one of baseball’s worst offenses against right-handed pitching. As offensive flaws go, that’s a damaging one. To address this shortcoming, GM Rick Hahn needs a lefty infield bat to platoon with Josh Harrison at second base, and he also needs a lefty outfield bat to see time at the corner spots. 

Like a number of other contenders and quasi-contenders, Chicago also needs additional bullpen help, mostly because the relief corps is pretty banged up at the moment. Hahn recently indicated that is indeed a priority leading up to the deadline. Given that execs aren’t typically all that candid this time of year, that can be regarded as a meaningful tell.   

Potential targets

As for as those left-handed bats go, possible outfield solutions include Andrew Benintendi of the Royals, David Peralta of the Diamondbacks, Joey Gallo of the Yankees, and Anthony Santander (switch-hitter) of the Orioles. Speaking of switch-hitter, Josh Bell of the Nationals has been better against righties over the balance of his career and is available in trade. However, he’s at most an emergency corner outfielder and is best suited for first base/DH detail. If La Russa can find regular ABs for him, though, he’s a worthy consideration. 

When the topic is “left-handed outfield bats available at the 2022 trade deadline,” then Juan Soto of the Nationals must be addressed. Obviously, he’d be an ideal fit for the White Sox, as he would for any team, but the Sox are not strongly rumored to be in pursuit of him. It’s hard to imagine that Reinsdorf would commit the resources necessary to trade for Soto and then sign him to a record extension. 

On the infield, Ian Happ of the Cubs — a switch-hitter who’s stronger from the left side — would be an ideal roster fit given his ability to get by at second base and play all three outfield positions. The Cubs and White Sox have a recent history of pairing up for major trades despite their intra-city rivalry, but the price for Happ would likely be steep. Other options include Tony Kemp of the A’s, Rougned Odor of the Orioles and Luis García of the Nationals. 

Potential bullpen upgrades/reinforcements include David Robertson of the Cubs, David Bednar of the Pirates, Joe Mantiply of the Diamondbacks, Michael Fulmer of the Tigers, Daniel Bard of the Rockies, and Paolo Espino of the Nationals. That’s of course a partial listing. As is typically the case each trade deadline, demand for relievers will be high. 

Potential trade chips

The Sox right now have one of the worst farm systems in baseball, which could make it difficult for them to pull off a blockbuster-grade trade this deadline (not that there are many of those to be had outside of the possible Soto deal). If Chicago wants to land one of the more coveted deadline times, they could take the bulk approach. Whatever their tack, names of prospects who could be packaged include shortstops Colson Montgomery and Jose Rodriguez, right-hander Norge Vera, outfielders Oscar Colas and Yoelqui Céspedes, and third baseman Wes Kath

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