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Whatever else you want to say about Chicago’s offseason, you certainly can’t call it boring. General manager Rick Hahn has already dealt two of his team’s most valuable assets, Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, and there’s every reason to believe that additional trades are in queue. In fact, the only way the Sox could really surprise us at this point would be to not make another deal (or two) before spring training is in full swing.
With this squad, there’s one obvious pressing question we need to address at the top…
Q: Exactly how well did the Sox do in the Sale and Eaton deals, and when will we see the players they acquired?
First of all, let’s acknowledge that the White Sox did as well as could be reasonably expected in each trade, acquiring elite, high-level prospects and restocking a talent-scarce farm system. Sale is of course one of the game’s filthiest pitchers and his contract is remarkably team-friendly ($38M/3Y remaining). But he’s also the dude who sliced up all those throwbacks in a weird pregame tantrum, so it’s possible he’s not a daily ray of sunshine. And Eaton, for all his skill, is the goof who referred to Adam LaRoche’s teenage son/clubhouse exile as a team leader. Perhaps change was welcomed by all parties.
Again, there’s no denying that Chicago’s prospect haul was significant. Let’s review the three key pieces:
Yoan Moncada – Added in the Sale trade, Moncada ranks among the top position prospects in the game. He’s a versatile switch-hitting infielder with silly bat speed, terrific wheels and exceptional on-base ability. Last season, he slashed .294/.407/.511 across two minor league levels, swiping 45 bags and delivering 52 XBHs in 106 games. He’s great, a future top-of-the-order hitter and potential all-star. Moncada scuffled a bit in the majors last September, striking out a dozen times in 19 at-bats, but that’s no reason to bet against him long-term. He’ll clearly play at the big league level this season, perhaps early.
Michael Kopech – As many of you know, Kopech throws the ball a zillion miles an hour. There’s no denying his raw talent. He struck out 86 batters in 56.1 innings at Single-A last year, delivering a 2.08 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Some of you first heard of him when he was popped for using a stimulant in 2015 and suspended for 50 games. Or perhaps he became known to you when he broke his pitching hand during an altercation with a teammate in 2016. Or maybe you first took notice when the kid hit 105 mph on the radar gun last season. He’s a bit of a carnival ride, but rarely boring. Command has been an issue for Kopech, but he’s only 20. If he can’t stick as a starter, he certainly has closing-quality heat.
Lucas Giolito – No, the production didn’t match the hype last season in Washington, as Giolito didn’t miss many bats (6.3 swinging strike rate). He definitely lost a bit of his prospect buzz. But in fairness to Giolito, the Nats had him on an organizational carnival ride last year. This is still a kid who’s dazzled in the minors, and he’s flashed a big fastball in the past. Chicago doesn’t offer a pitcher-friendly home park, unfortunately, and the 2016 version of Giolito’s stuff won’t do. Still, as the centerpiece of an Eaton trade, he was a great get. If he delivers a strong spring, we’ll see him soon.
Additionally, the Sox acquired a few lesser-yet-useful arms in their deals with Boston and Washington (Reynaldo Lopez, Dane Dunning, Victor Diaz), plus the team added a low-level centerfield prospect with pop and speed (Luis Alexander Basabe). It’s tough to argue that Chicago didn’t do well.
Q: There’s no way the Sox are finished trading, right? Who’s the next brand-name vet to go?
It has to be Jose Quintana. He’s been a rumored trade target for the Astros, Yankees, Pirates and Braves, and no doubt other teams are interested as well. Quintana has pitched 200-plus inning in four straight seasons, producing consistently solid fantasy ratios and K-rates (7.8 K/9 in 2016). If he’s not an ace, he’s at least the next best thing. He’s 27 years old and under team-control at a bargain cost for the next four seasons, too. He should net the Sox another fun pile of prospects.
For a retooling squad like Chicago, it’s safe to assume that David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera can be had. Jose Abreu has been the subject of trade speculation, but he’s good, marketable and relatively inexpensive, so the team would presumably need a wow-offer. It seems safe to assume that James Shields is available to anyone willing to come haul him away. By the time the calendar flips to August, this team’s roster should look radically different.
Q: Any sleepers on the South Side?
Sure. Tim Anderson can be the answer to your steals problem, fantasy owner. He stole 49 bags at Double-A in 2015, and 21 bases in 27 attempts at two levels last year. He’s a special variety of fast. He also drew just 21 bases on balls in 687 plate appearances in 2016, so he’s likely to be a liability in OBP leagues. But as a category specialist with middle-infield eligibility, he’s a person of interest in our game.
Q: You personally have been a huge Brett Lawrie supporter in years past, Behrens. What are the chances that he final–?
Shut up. We’re done here.
White Sox Projected Lineup
CF Charlie Tilson
SS Tim Anderson
1B Jose Abreu
3B Todd Frazier
LF Melky Cabrera
DH Brett Lawrie
RF Avisail Garcia
C Geovany Soto
2B Yoan Moncada
White Sox Projected Rotation
SP Jose Quintana, although he’s a near-lock to be dealt
SP James Shields
SP Derek Holland
SP Miguel Gonzalez
SP Carlos Rodon
SP Lucas Giolito or Reynaldo Lopez
CL David Robertson
RP Nate Jones