Now that the Cubs’ magical World Series run is over, all the bandwagon fans need to return to their own teams. The Cubs have definitely set a gold standard, and now 29 other teams are in a frenzy to make themselves better. For my White Sox, there is sadly only one solution.
Blow the whole thing up. Start over.
The Sox have what most general managers would die for: young, controllable pitchers. Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are both 27 years old and entering their primes. Sale is arguably a top-five pitcher in the American League — maybe even in the MLB as a whole. While a pitcher of his caliber usually makes nearly $30 million per year on average, Sale’s contract averages less than $10 million per year. Quintana is arguably a top-15 American League pitcher and is making less than $7 million per year, which is chump-change for a player of that skill.
Having two dominant pitchers at a garage sale price is something that simply doesn’t happen in baseball. Sale and Quintana are already extremely valuable by nature of their skill. Add in their contracts and you’ve got something that possibly doesn’t have an equivalent value.
The White Sox have something other teams crave: two pitchers who, if traded, could bring in a treasure trove of prospects and pro-ready players. And it’s time the Sox trade them.
There are some who think the White Sox should keep Sale and Quintana for the very same reason I think they should be traded. They argue that Sale and Quintana are two cornerstones around which the White Sox should build its team. Why on earth would you trade your pitchers, the hardest players to find and control in baseball?
Here’s why: The White Sox have a terrible minor league system. After calling up its top prospect, Tim Anderson, the team has all but depleted its farm system. We have yet to see if Anderson will be a great player, but as of now, the White Sox have not developed a position player of any significance since Joe Crede, who played for the team from 2000-2008. The White Sox’s highest prospect is ranked the No. 57 prospect overall, according to MLB.com. That is not good.
Trading Sale could bring in two or three of a team’s top prospects and possibly even a pro-ready player. Quintana could bring in one or two of a team’s top prospects and maybe a pro-ready player. This calculation does not account for draft picks that could be offered to the White Sox in a trade.
The Sox have other players who also have trade value. Jose Abreu, the first baseman, is a slugger wanted by many teams. Todd Frazier, the third baseman, is a great defender who hits a ton of home runs. There are more valuable players, too, but my point is that the White Sox could totally transform their team’s future for the next 10-15 years by trading away the good players they have now.
Up to this point, the team has not done this. The White Sox have repeatedly tried to sign free agent position players, hoping to build the team around their pitchers. This strategy obviously isn’t working; the White Sox have not made the playoffs since 2008. All they have to do is look to their neighbors on the North Side to see what they need to do.
Let me list off some players on the Cubs, and tell me the common theme between them: Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber. All of these players, plus more, came to the Cubs through their minor league system, not free agent acquisition. Now, let me list off some other names, and tell me the common thread: Jake Arrieta, John Lester and John Lackey. All of these players were added via trade or free agent acquisition, after they were already in the pros.
The common denominator is simple: develop bats, buy arms. The White Sox have been doing the opposite, and they’re one of the worst teams in the MLB. Here’s the solution: Follow the Cubs’ model.
The thought of doing so stinks, because it basically means the White Sox will be worse for a couple years, but this solution is the only way the team will get better moving forward. Otherwise, the team will be wasting the primes of two pitchers’ careers, and in five years, when those pitchers start to regress, the team will have nothing to show for it.
The White Sox have shown they can develop pitchers. They can make this progress again, but it will be ineffective if the team has no good players to back up those pitchers. Trading Sale and Quintana is a breakup that nobody wants, but it’s one the team needs.