COMMENTARY | With the trade deadline looming, the Chicago White Sox have been unexpectedly quiet. They have made their first move, sending Matt Thornton to Boston for a minor league outfielder that will likely rank in the White Sox's top 10 prospect. While the relative silence on the part of the White Sox may be frustrating to fans, it by no means suggests that they will not be making any moves. The main rule to keep in mind at the trade deadline is that teams often get desperate (both buyers and sellers) and thus, things can change immensely over the course of days. Under Kenny Williams, the White Sox had a reputation for not leaking trade rumors in advance, so time will tell if the same applies to the Rick Hahn-led front office. Let's look at the current rumors swirling around the White Sox's big ticket players.
Rios is one of the top two assets for the White Sox to trade as he is a fairly well-known entity and is signed at or below market value for next season with an option for another. He could be a fit and has drawn interest from clubs like Texas and Pittsburgh, who are looking for bats to bolster their stretch run in the outfield. There has been a fair amount of chatter about Pittsburgh's interest in Rios, in particular.
Unfortunately, Rios has been in quite the power drought and has not been producing much in general since the White Sox began to fall in the standings. What is more troublesome is that scouts have questioned his effort, which reached a head in Friday's game against the Atlanta Braves in which he was benched for not hustling out a ground ball. Currently, his current slump combined with a salary that is a bit high for the stomach of teams like Pittsburgh has left the White Sox a bit disappointed in the current market for him.
As he is under contract and on the low side of his potential value, do not be surprised if the White Sox hold on to Rios. They would like to compete in the near term anyway and Rios can certainly be part of a winning squad. On the other hand, teams often get desperate as the deadline approaches and this may cause Rick Hahn to pull the trigger on a deal.
Ramirez is certainly the best shortstop on the market and, unlike Rios, is playing his best ball of the season currently. Moving to the second spot in the lineup has revitalized him and while the power of yesteryear has not returned, he has started to compensate by raising his average and upping his double total. The error issues that plagued him early in the season defensively seem to have gone by the wayside as well.
Ramirez also has a somewhat steep contract that keeps him signed through the 2015 season with an option/buyout for 2016. The contenders most in need of a shortstop, the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, do not typically bring in that kind of salary in midseason deals. While the Pirates reportedly have interest in Ramirez, money may be a contentious issue in trade negotiations. The Cardinals, despite Pete Kozma's offensive struggles, have not been mentioned in any public rumors as suitors for Ramirez.
Ramirez is another player signed to a fair contract and does not have to be dumped; he is unlikely to lose trade value in future seasons. The White Sox will try to wait out a fair deal and it is probably more likely, given the current market, that Ramirez stays in the fold. If he is to go, the White Sox lack a clear heir apparent at shortstop. They would likely try Gordon Beckham there, but they would not have a long term answer at second base ready in the high minors in that case. The return for Ramirez could very well include a young shortstop, however.
Peavy is probably the most valuable player on the White Sox, as he is a true ace and took a team friendly contract in the offseason. His health is a concern, however, so his starts coming off the disabled list will be of the utmost importance to prove he has put his rib issues behind him. The injury concerns should not be overstated as this problem was not throwing related.
Suitors for Peavy include, most notably, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox. White Sox fans should be happy to hear this as both of those clubs have strong minor league systems. Arizona GM Kevin Towers held the same position in San Diego when Peavy pitched there and remains very fond of Peavy. A deal with Arizona would likely involve minor league shortstop Chris Owings, who lacks a clear path to the majors with Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hill under team control through 2016 in the middle infield. The Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants have also reportedly shown interest.
The reason there has been little action on the trade front for Peavy is just the patience on the part of other general managers, who wish to see him pitch healthy before making a deal. Like Rios and Ramirez, the White Sox are not forced to move Peavy. However, starting pitching is the strong suit of the White Sox; Dylan Axelrod can eat innings in Peavy's place if he leaves and top prospect Erik Johnson has put together an excellent season and could be near a call-up.
Crain is much like Peavy in that his value is sky high, so long as he can pitch before the trade deadline. While Peavy's comeback has been smooth so far, Crain's is in some doubt. However, he did say that he plans to return in a week, which should give him a chance to showcase his health before the deadline. If he is unable to return or does not look sharp when he does, it would be a tremendous letdown for the White Sox. Elite relievers like Crain are routinely traded for king's ransoms at the trade deadline.
Crain would be an excellent candidate to be packaged in a deal with Peavy to either the Red Sox or Diamondbacks. Both teams are looking to fortify both their starting rotations and bullpens, as Boston has lost Andrew Miller for the season while Arizona lost J.J. Putz for the season. A myriad other contenders can come into the mix for Crain as well, if he is able to prove his health.
Lindstrom could be the consolation prize for a team that is unable to get Jesse Crain or simpy is unwilling to pay the price for Crain. He has been consistent all season and would add depth to any contender's bullpen. He could even step into a higher leverage role in bullpens that are not as deep as Chicago's. Lindstrom has value, but will not fetch much more in trade than Matt Thornton. With an option for next year, the White Sox can opt to keep him and go through this exercise next year if the market is not up to par.
Dunn has gotten about as hot as he can get, but there have not been any credible rumors about his potential departure. His poor start to this season and the still-unexplained 2011 debacle apparently still looms large in the minds of general managers who are wary of his high-dollar contract that runs into next season. The team that would be the best fit for Dunn is the Baltimore Orioles, who could add even more thunder to their lineup at the DH spot. At this point, it appears the White Sox will keep Dunn and see him either become part of an effort to compete next season or become a more valuable trade piece with an expiring contract a year from now.
Currently rehabbing in Double-A Birmingham, Konerko is a longshot to be traded. He has been a tremendous disappointment this season, is recovering from injury, and has no-trade rights. As the trading season began, rival executives reported that Konerko was untradeable. This is no surprise given his importance to the fans, his low trade value, and potentially imminent retirement. It would be quite the surprise if he were moved at the deadline.
Alejandro De Aza
Perhaps the best dark horse candidate for a potential trade, Alejandro De Aza may find himself playing elsewhere come August. The White Sox are by no means forced to trade him, as he is under team control and just entering his arbitration years. After a slow start, he has been rather hot recently at the plate and is second on the team in home runs and RBI. Nonetheless, his all-too-frequent blunders on the bases and in the field may have rubbed management the wrong way.
If White Sox management see De Aza as the ringleader of this season's circus, he may very well be on the way out. As a cheap, productive top-of-the-lineup hitter, he should have a fair amount of value. It is unclear how his mental mistakes this season have affected his value and whether the White Sox would take a lesser return just to see him go.
Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and owns the film and TV blog The Renegade's Film Journal. Follow him on Twitter @jlongrc .
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