White Sox: The Juice is Worth the Squeeze if it Means Bringing a World Series Home

The White Sox have a shot at winning a World Series, but they'll need help from the outside to do it. There shouldn't be any hesitation from the front office in acquiring that help.

The All-Star Game has come and gone, and we’re officially onto the second half of the 2021 MLB season. Technically we’re past the mathematical point of the second half of 2021 as the White Sox have already played 89 of their 162 games. Friday night’s series opener with the Houston Astros at Guaranteed Rate Field will be game No. 90, and somehow they lead the American League in winning percentage (.607).

No Eloy Jiménez, for now. No Luis Robert. No Nick Madrigal.

No problem?

Not exactly.

While the White Sox have weathered a barrage of potentially crippling injuries that expand far beyond the aforementioned big three, they’re not quite clicking on all cylinders.

The pitching staff has been stellar. Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodon, and Liam Hendriks all went to Colorado for the All-Star Game this week, but placing all of your October hopes on a pitching staff performing at its peak throughout the duration of the season and postseason is a risky proposition.

Sure, Eloy Jiménez is making great progress in his rehab assignment, already finding himself in Charlotte after an abbreviated stop in Winston-Salem last week. He’ll surely rejoin the team sometime in the coming weeks, and that will be a desperately needed boost for the lineup.

Luis Robert might not be far behind, but that’s still to be seen.

Andrew Vaughn is figuring out right-handed pitching, and as a result, he’s slashing .329/.369/.605 with five home runs, six doubles, a wRC+ of 162, and a sizzling 91.1 MPH average exit velocity. If sustainable, that in itself is a massive development for the team’s October aspirations.

Still, this team needs reinforcements before the July 31 trade deadline. Sure, winning the American League Central seems almost certain at this point, with Cleveland fading and the rest of the division dead in the water. But, after years of rebuilding this team from the ground up, just making it to October isn’t the goal. After all, they already achieved that last year.

The big question here should be, is this roster — as presently constructed — good enough to be considered a serious threat to whoever represents the National League in the World Series?

Whether it’s the Dodgers, Giants, or even the San Diego Padres — can this club beat them in a seven-game series in late October.

If your answer is yes, then I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. However, if your answer is no like it is for me, then it’s undoubtedly time for the White Sox to add in the coming weeks.

Where to Start?

With Eloy Jiménez on the mend and Luis Robert thought to be not far behind, the need for an outfielder is not at the top of the list of things to do for the White Sox as it was just a month or two ago.

Even with the right field position being a place without a permanent resident, some combination of Adam Engel, Brian Goodwin, Billy Hamilton, and Leury Garcia can be sufficient in that spot, especially if the White Sox shore up other areas.

Second base is a good place to start. Nick Madrigal will not return this season, and while Leury Garcia has been good of late, he’s a notoriously streaky hitter who, for as long as he has been with the White Sox — no one has been here longer — has never been an everyday player.

Danny Mendick has plenty of fans among the White Sox passionate fan base. Still, he’s sporting a 72 wRC+ through 50 games this season, and even in 2020, when he became an immediate fan favorite, he could only muster a wRC+ of 80 in 114 plate appearances. Unfortunately, Mendick isn’t the answer, and he’s likely not even on the roster come October.

Second base has become the chief need for this roster, but it’s not the only place that reinforcements are needed.

The bullpen is the other major area of concern. Thought of as a major strength heading into the season, outside of Liam Hendriks and Michael Kopech, the bullpen has been, well, what bullpens usually are — incredibly volatile and unpredictable.

Potential Targets

Second Base — Adam Frazier is the obvious fit for the White Sox. He’s available; he’s a versatile left-handed hitter who started for the National League in this week’s All-Star Game thanks to his .330/.397/.463 slash line this season. Frazier walks 8.5 percent of the time and only strikes out 10.8 percent of the time.

He solves the second base conundrum this season, he gets on base at a near .400 clip, and he doesn’t strike out much. He checks every box for the Sox this year and even adds some substance to the right field conversation this winter since he’s under control through 2022.

There’s also Arizona Diamondbacks’ infielder Eduardo Escobar, who was thought to be “heading to the White Sox soon,” by Bob Nightengale in recent weeks, and of course, who can forget Trevor Story.

Escobar (.254/.301/.483, 20 HR, 60 RBI) would cost less than Frazier, at least hypothetically, and provide the Sox with a legitimate everyday option at second base, just as Frazier would, but only for this season as he’s eligible for free agency this winter.

Trevor Story seems like an odd story (no pun intended) gaining traction due to national guys like ESPN’s Jeff Passan picking the White Sox as the likely home for the Rockies’ All-Star come August 1.

Story is having his worst season since 2017 and has been a shortstop pretty much all of his career, so they’d be rolling the dice on a player having a down season, coming from Coors Field as his home ballpark, and then asking him to move to another position that many are just assuming he can play at the drop of a hat.

The Bullpen — Liam Hendriks owns the ninth inning on the Southside — and probably the eighth inning if he had it his way — so the White Sox don’t need a guy like Craig Kimbrel here.

Think more in the way of a dependable right-hander who can be a bridge to Hendriks.

Think, Richard Rodriguez, a 31-year-old right-hander who has some control (through 2023) and is also having a solid season. The Pirates’ right-hander has a 2.29 ERA through 35.1 innings of work this season, and he’s likely available as he’s not going to be in Pittsburgh the next time the Buccos are ready to compete.

Conveniently, Rodriguez plays in the same place as Adam Frazier, making it a one-stop-shop for Rick Hahn if he can put together a package that Ben Cherington deems worthy and the White Sox can swallow.

Rodriguez isn’t the only right-handed reliever the club might take a look at, just the most convenient.

Daniel Hudson (Washington), Rasiel Iglesias (Los Angeles Angels), Ian Kennedy (Texas), and Kendall Graveman (Seattle) are all options that the White Sox could — and should — explore when it comes to shoring up the bullpen for the postseason run.

Is the “Juice Worth the Squeeze?”

We’ve heard Rick Hahn use this quote a couple of times, and it makes sense. To a certain degree.

Essentially, Hahn is stating that the club will weigh the benefits of the incoming player versus the cost of acquisition. In turn, the potential long-term ramifications the organization might feel down the line.

I’ve had this conversation with a few baseball minds that I respect to the highest degree, but I can’t seem to get them to agree that winning now should come first and winning more should come next.

That’s fine; we’re all entitled to differing opinions. However, I don’t even think we’re far off of agreeing. They’re just a tad bit more hesitant to include a Jared Kelley or Gavin Sheets in a deal for a player that might only be here for 60-70 games (plus the postseason).

If I’ve learned one thing from the rebuild, it’s that we have a penance for clinging to prospects that we’ve watched grow and fallen in love with. But, one thing I’ve learned from nearly three decades of obsessing over this beautiful game is that making a tough choice and selling some later for the betterment of now is how teams win championships.

Banners hang forever; prospect rankings don’t.

By the way, the White Sox are ranked dead-last when it comes to the current state of the farm by many reputable publications. So, others don’t have the same love for the Burgers, Sheets, and company we do here in Chicago.

If it takes a package of Jake Burger/Gavin Sheets, Matthew Thompson/Jared Kelley, and other prospects to land a player that can help this team slay a true National League juggernaut like the defending World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers on baseball’s brightest stage, then you absolutely do it.

The organization has signaled that it’s just as focused on the future — and possibly extending the current contention window — as it is the present. Mike Shirley has hit home runs with his first two draft classes as the top dog in the scouting department, and adding high-ceiling prep stars has become an apparent focus of the organization.

For that reason, selling high on twenty-something hitting prospects with no home in Chicago and prep right-handers in the lower levels who are years away from Chicago shouldn’t be a prospect that hangs the club up when searching for much-needed reinforcement this month.

To Rick Hahn and the White Sox; get an Adam Frazier or whomever else the club has their eyes on, get a bullpen arm — or two — and win a World Series.

To the fans; Have faith that the front office can balance both winning now and later. I do. You should.

If the juice is a real shot at hanging a banner next April, then you bet your ass it’s worth the squeeze.

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