As good as they’ve been, the White Sox now have an even greater task at hand. Because of their hot start to the season the expectations have been raised throughout the organization. It’s an expectation that Rick Hahn acknowledges won’t come to fruition unless the Sox add pieces and continue to get better. I know it’s in every White Sox fans’ nature to be defensive about their team, so just chill out for a second and look at the facts.
If you walked into a new bar and had the best burger you’ve ever had, wouldn’t your expectations be pretty high the next time you go to that bar? The White Sox have given us a great first impression this season, so their expectations are now raised to the standard of a good team. With that comes some criticism and pointing out room for improvement, starting with the pitching.
It doesn’t get much better than Sale and Quintana at the top of the rotation. It’s 3-4-5 that I’m worried about. Rodon’s start last night was encouraging despite the outcome. He struck out seven and walked only one in six innings, but he’s still getting too much of the plate with his strikes. He needs to be much better if this team is going to win this division. The number four slot, currently occupied by Mat Latos, might have a different name by the time the trade deadline rolls around. It’s possible the Sox have gotten everything out of Latos already given his fast start because his 4.67 FIP does not bode well for future starts. Then there’s the big question mark at the fifth slot, which is currently occupied by Miguel Gonzales. Two years ago he would’ve been just fine down there, but his ERA is above five and his FIP is even worse, so there’s no signs of improvement forthcoming.
So put at least one starter to the Sox’ list of needs. We get to the bullpen that was lights out at the start of the season but has come down to earth more recently. Robertson and Jones are here to stay and pitching well, but Matt Alberts has not been the seventh inning guy that the Sox thought they could rely on. Putnam and Petricka have also been below average, so we’re looking at adding possibly two bullpen arms before the trade deadline as well.
In the lineup, there actually might be more progression to be had than regression. Eaton and Lawrie are getting on base at career-high percentages so they’ll probably normalize a bit, but Jose Abreu has yet to get going this season. In fact, he’s been pretty awful compared to his normal 4-6 win level of play. Once the weather warms up he should be fine, as should Todd Frazier behind him who is only hitting at a .228 clip thus far. The only question is can the Sox get away with the lack of offense from Rollins and Jackson all season long. Jackson is fine in center field, but he’s just not going to hit much. Rollins has been subpar at both facets of the game, but there’s no shortstop market to be had right now. A left-handed bat like Josh Reddick would fit perfectly into the Sox’ starting lineup, but I think the team from the North Side will grab him if they want him.
Which presents another problem: the Sox can get outbidded by pretty much any contending team that’s going to want to make a move at the deadline. They just don’t have the farm system to make a big splash, unless I’m severely undervaluing their mid-level players. Are they really going to trade Tim Anderson given the lack of talent at the shortstop position these days? Not to mention he’s been bad. Same with Fullmer, and you’re not going to trade him when his value is at its lowest. So teams like the Cubs and Red Sox can outbid the Sox for any player they want. We know about the Cubs’ farm system and Boston is not far behind. They have ridiculous top-level talent in their system.
The Sox would be better served to make a move as soon as possible. You have to wonder if Hahn’s comments the yesterday were to get other general managers thinking about moving players sooner than later. The closer the trade deadline gets, the higher the price gets for premium players. A price the White Sox simply can’t afford at this point in their organization.