Thursday, July 20, 2017

How to rebuild in just a few short months

The Chicago Cubs may be the more popular team in Chicago and they are the defending world champions along with being set up to be a contender for a long time to come.

All of that might be true,but if all works out,the Cubs might not wind be being the best team in Chicago,if the amazing amount of talent that has been brought to the less popular team on the South Side in the White Sox pans out.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has moved assets for a bounty of prospects that are the envy of the league and took advantage of teams from contenders that frankly surprised many observers.
These deals have revitalized a franchise that has had four losing seasons in a row (about to have their fifth) and their fan base by trading good players to desperate contenders.

Let's go back to December and the first deal with the Red Sox.
Chris Sale is a legitimate top of the rotation starter,but seemed like a luxury item on a below average team.
Combine that with occasional clubhouse issues like this one and it made sense to shop Sale as the player that could bring back the highest return (more on that later).
The Red Sox won their division last year after missing the playoff two years straight,but being swept in the first round left a rabid fan base wanting to see their team make a move to improve a good team into a serious championship contender.
Sale was sent to Boston and the prospect return was quite good as the top prospect in the game in second baseman Yoan Moncada (last night ,Moncada made his big league debut) was the headliner.
Getting Moncada was a good start,but add power armed Michael Kopech (several times clocked at over 100 MPH),who in each level of his career is averaging double digits strikeouts per nine innings with a ceiling of a 1 or 2 starter and a floor of a hard throwing reliever,an interesting arm in Victor Diaz (Diaz has struggled in high A this season with Winston-Salem) and toolsy outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe (Basabe is striking out once every four at bats with Winston-Salem) and the White Sox looked to be quite happy with their return.
This deal might come down to how Michael Kopech develops.
Moncada looks to be about as sure of a bet as you can have for a prospect and Kopech might be the difference in a good deal and a very good deal as both Diaz and Basabe were high ceiling lottery tickets that the White Sox have to be hoping that they get anything out of just one of them to make this a successful trade.

One day later,Hahn struck again with a team desperate to make postseason progress in the Washington Nationals,who have made flopping in the post-season a habit over the last few seasons.
Even considering desperation,it was more than a surprise that the ChiSox were able to turn outfielder Adam Eaton into three high level pitching prospects.
Eaton was injured after 23 games in Washington,so the jury is still out on this trade,but Washington felt the need to win now as their window might only have a few years left and Eaton was under a very friendly contract,so he would not be considered a rental.
The cost was three of the Nationals top four pitching prospects and left the Nationals dependent on the development of Erick Fedde if they are to get any help at all from the farm system for the immediate future as far as pitching wise.
Lucas Giolito was thought of as one of the best pitching prospects in the game,but had struggled in a brief cameo with the parent club in 2016,Reynaldo Lopez looked very good at AA Harrisburg last year,but was unimpressive in Washington in his short stint there and the Nationals first round draft pick Dane Dunning was included in the deal as well.
The results so far are mixed,but promising for the White Sox.
Giolito has been pounded for AAA Charlotte,but has occasionally shown signs of brilliance (a seven inning no-hitter and seven innings allowing just two hits two starts ago).
I wondered about Giolito (the link is here somewhere) and the lack of movement on his fastball as far back as his time with the Hagerstown Suns,but the talent is there.
I liked Lopez as the better of the two even back then and Lopez has begun to be mentioned as the next potential callup from the Charlotte Knights.
Lopez has allowed more than three runs only once since the end of May and more than two just twice in the same period.
Dunning has been excellent all season at two stops (Low A Kannapolis and High A Winston-Salem).
In my opinion,the White Sox had to do this trade even if none of them turn out at the big league level.
The potential to plug in three arms into a future rotation for a good,but not impact outfielder is one that a rebuilding team has to make every time....

The season moved on and the White Sox used Jose Quintana,a good not great starter that will eat innings and slot into the middle of most teams rotation anywhere from 2 to 3 depending on the team.
Combine that with another reasonable contract and Quintana was yet another valuable trade chip for Hahn .
Hahn managed to turn the dependable arm of Quintana into the huge upside of outfield powerhitter Eloy Jimenez as the main piece of another four player return.
Jimenez (Remember him?) missed the early part of the season,but his eight homers in 155 at bats was enough to make the Carolina League All-Star game and his forty doubles last season at low A South Bend is the type of stat that impresses observers.
Power bats like the 6'4 Jimenez don't come around every day and at 20,Jimenez looks like a future star.
Add another top prospect arm in Dylan Cease (thought of as a top 100 level prospect) at low A South Bend (batters in two seasons have hit below .200 against him) and two other high A minor prospects in first baseman Matt Rose (14 homers with Myrtle Beach this season) and middle infielder Bryant Flete (hitting over .300 in a breakout season for the same Pelicans) and you have the potential for a huge return.
Jimenez could be a franchise cornerstone,Cease has the upside of a solid starter and if Rose or Flete give the major league anything,this deal would rate as a huge win for the White Sox.

Hahn still wasn't finished as he used the interest of Boston in Todd Frazier to help with their failing third base situation to parlay that into a deal with the Yankees that included help for the New York bullpen in David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.
This deal carried a little more financial wiggling as Robertson is owed 18 million for 2018 and the pro-rated version of that for the rest of this season and Frazier earns five million over the final few months of the year.
Chicago had to decide to move them and eat some money,perhaps improving the haul or make the money the problem of the buyer and as a result,the prospects might not be of the level of the players returned earlier.
This time,Hahn chose the lesser return in order to save the dollars and gained one nice prospect and others with questions.
Outfielder Blake Rutherford is the blue chip return of this bunch as he was the Yankee first round draft selection in 2016.
Rutherford was hitting .281 for Low A Charleston with only two homers,but his twenty doubles gives me hope that he'll grow into his power.
Righthanded pitcher Ian Clarkin has good numbers in two years at High A Tampa,but has been plagued by injury and has never pitched 100 innings in his nearing five year career.
Outfielder Tito Polo is hitting .307 in 2017 between High A Tampa and a recent promotion to AA Trenton after being acquired from Pittsburgh at last years trade deadline.
Polo has speed to kill (stolen base numbers of 46,37 and 27 over the last three years),but doesn't seem to have the pop in the bat to be more than a 4th outfielder.
The White Sox also took on veteran reliever Tyler Clippard for the rest of 2017 to offset some of the Yankees expenses of the new players.
This deal is the riskiest for Hahn,yet he managed to turn a player he acquired in a minor deal (Kahnle) and two high priced players into somewhat of a decent return.
There is no sure thing in this trade and only the recent fourteen games of Polo have been at the AA level,so all three players have reasons to be looked at skeptically.

The Chicago White Sox have accumulated what seems to be a strong amount of talent by moving players that didn't help them to even be average.
None of these players are guaranteed to be contributors,although the odds are that at least a few will be,but the commitment to blow it up and do it quickly is a sound one.
I like what's being done in Chicago and if even some of these players fulfill their potential,there could be two powerhouse teams by Lake Michigan....

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