The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
White Sox are Latest to Hold Fire Sale

What drives major-league teams to unload their best players?  When a team is struggling to be in contention, it seems the last thing to do is trade away its established players.  Surely it’s a frustrating situation for fans when they see their favorite players walk out the door.  Baseball’s trade deadline at the end of July often creates those situations as teams assess whether they are buyers or sellers—to try to make a run at the impending playoffs or cash in their chips for the longer term.

The Chicago White Sox is the latest club to decide a make-over of the team is essential to becoming a relevant team for post-season play.  They are currently mired in their fifth consecutive season in fourth or fifth place in the AL Central Division.  The last time they had a division-winning team was in 2008.

The fire sale actually started over the winter when the White Sox traded ace pitcher Chris Sale, one of the best in the majors, to the Boston Red Sox for several top prospects.  They also traded their best outfielder, Adam Eaton, to the Washington Nationals in order to stock their farm system with additional prospects.

The White Sox resumed discarding players during the past ten days when they traded Carlos Quintana, their top of the rotation pitcher, to the cross-town Chicago Cubs in exchange for four prospects.  What’s odd about that deal is Quintana was still under contract control for the next three years at a team-friendly salary of $30+ million during that timeframe.

A couple of days later, they dumped all-star third baseman Todd Frazier and closer David Robertson to the New York Yankees for three more prospects and reliever Tyler Clippard.  The rumor mill has it that ChiSox outfielder Melky Cabrera will also be on the trading block this coming week.

This dramatic change in strategy by White Sox ownership came only two years after an attempt by the team to buy its way into division contention.  In 2015 they had added Robertson, Cabrera, and Adam LaRoche through free agency and Jeff Samardzija via trade.  In 2016 they add missing pieces in the lineup with the acquisition of Frazier and Brett Lawrie through trades.

Their starting pitching staff during 2015 and 2016 seemed to be solid with Sale, John Danks, Quintana, Samardzija, and rookie Carlos Rodon.  They even traded for veteran James Shields during the middle of last season.  On paper they looked like one of the best staffs in the league.  However, the team finished a disappointing fourth in the division in both years.  Plus, their payroll had ballooned over 35% from 2014 to 2016.

The White Sox are certainly not the first to turn its franchise on its ear.  Like the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres during the past 5-6 years, the White Sox believe their best path to future success is to practically start over in the composition of the team, while shedding big salaries, and then rebuild through the acquisition of top prospects.  The approach is tough to stomach, since it means losing their most popular players and continuing to suffer through dismal seasons for a few more years.  However, the Cubs, Astros, and Yankees are currently shining examples that the strategy can work if properly executed.

As a result of the deals going back to the winter, the White Sox farm system is stacked for the future.  They now have 7 of the top 50 prospects and 10 of the top 68 in all of baseball.  In fact, the overall Number 1 prospect in baseball, Yoan Moncada, who was acquired in the Sale trade with Boston, is being promoted to the big-league club now.  If club officials and fans can show some patience for three or four years, then perhaps the White Sox can end up in a good place like the Cubs or Astros.

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