The Chicago White Sox are almost certain to be among the most popular and influential players as the 2016 MLB Winter Meetings unfold in National Harbor, Maryland.
The White Sox went an extremely disappointing 78-84 this past season. That resulted in a fourth place finish in the AL Central Division.
It was a fourth consecutive losing season on the South Side of Chicago. This followed a long run of contention that had spanned the better part of two decades.
Now the White Sox also have to contend for the hearts and attention of fans in a two-team city. The other franchise is, or course, the young and exciting new World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
The White Sox were legitimate division crown contenders in the majority of seasons between 1990 and 2012. They won the AL Central five times in that span, and were the 2005 World Series champions.
In the eyes of most industry talent evaluators, the Chisox minor league talent is among the bottom five in the game. So there is not much help coming from within the organization.
Four of the last five AL pennant winners have come from the division. This includes the defending champion Cleveland Indians. But the AL Central could become very competitive in the next few years.
It is the job of general manager Rich Hahn and VP Ken Williams to make sure that Chicago gets back to that regular contending status. To that end, they are going to have to start replenishing the young talent in the organization.
TIME FOR A SALE?
One way to do that is to trade some of the team’s more attractive players for packages of highly rated prospects. There is no more attractive asset than left-handed starting pitcher Chris Sale.
Sale will turn 28 years old as spring training draws to a close next season. He has won 70 games over the five seasons in which he has been a starting pitcher.
He has been an AL All-Star for each of those five straight seasons as a starter. Sale also has finished among the top six in Cy Young voting each of those years.
Sale is not only young and talented, he is also very affordable. He currently is owed $38 million over the next three seasons. Only the 2017 season at $12 million is guaranteed. The ensuing two years are each on team options of $12.5 and $13.5 million.
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, are believed to be in the market for Sale. So are two NL East rivals, the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals.
Among the other contending teams who have been mentioned in Sale rumors are two traditional National League powers in the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals. The Texas Rangers, who have never won a World Series but who are among the favorites in 2017, are also linked to the southpaw ace.
OTHER CHISOX TRADE ASSETS
If they want to really rebuild, the White Sox could also shop lefty starting pitcher Jose Quintana, who turns 28 years old in January. 33-year old righty Miguel Gonzalez might draw some interest as well.
Among the position players who the Chisox could move, first baseman Jose Abreu and third baseman Todd Frazier could be attractive to suitors. They turn 30 and 31 years old respectively early in 2017, and are likely more valuable as trade pieces than Chicago building blocks.
The Chicago White Sox would be smart to put all of these players names out there, playing contenders off one another. The returns in two or three potential trades could quickly turn around the future fortunes of the organization in a positive direction.