Typically, a rebuild comes with some major moves, breaking down a once-talented roster that is no longer competing. It’s the type of thing Ruben Amaro, Jr. should be doing in Philadelphia, but won’t.
To make that work, however, the rebuilding team has to have some players other teams want. After all, the goal of rebuilding is to acquire young, inexpensive assets, typically in exchange for older, more established players. It works only if you have some of the latter to work with.
The Chicago White Sox haven’t had many assets of any value to work with over the past year, yet in the past six months they’ve managed to add some young talent that has the team pointed in the right direction. There are still major steps to take and acquisitions to be had, but at least the compass appears to be pointing north.
Since July, the White Sox have added Avisail Garcia, Leury Garcia, Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson, all of whom are 25 or younger and all of whom profile to be at least contributors at the major league level, and in some cases even better than that. In exchange, they’ve parted with Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Hector Santiago and Addison Reed, all of whom were productive players but none of whom figured to be a significant part of the White Sox’s next competitive team, which most likely won’t be taking the field in 2014. Without trading a true star at all, the White Sox managed to land four usable young players.
None of these four figure to be stars, but each could be a solid player in his own right. Avisail Garcia is the youngest of the group yet should be the regular left fielder this season. There’s a lot of development still ahead for Garcia, but he also has the highest ceiling of the bunch and could be a real impact player down the road.
Leury Garcia (no relation) may have the lowest ceiling of the group because there are questions about his bat, but no one questions his infield defense, which is good enough to carve out a long career as a utility infielder. Eaton was expected to be the Diamondbacks’ leadoff man this past season but injuries derailed what had looked to be a promising rookie season. After all, just a year ago, this was a reasonable question. There’s no reason Eaton can’t still become the top-of-the-order table setter the White Sox desperately need.
Lastly, there is Davidson, who just joined the White Sox on Monday in exchange for Reed, the team’s closer in 2013. Davidson is not without flaws, namely his defense at third base, but he does have plus power and instantly becomes the White Sox best option at the hot corner, even if he makes 30 errors there in 2014.
In making these trades, the White Sox have accurately assessed themselves, which is the most common problem within the rebuilding process. All four players the White Sox traded away were under contract for the 2014 season and would have made the White Sox better, but by how much? By properly assessing that they were far enough away from fielding a competitive team, the White Sox were able to trade players like Peavy and Rios while they had a year-and-a-half left on their contracts and thus get more back in return.
In the case of Reed, they were even more astute. Reed has four more years of team control, but after one more year at the league minimum in 2014, was about to get very expensive. Established closers have been paid extremely well in the arbitration process, and another strong season from Reed is going to lead to a big raise. One of the worst values in baseball is an expensive closer on a bad team, and Reed was another 30-save season away from becoming exactly that. The White Sox certainly aren’t the only team that knows this, but by trading him while he still had an inexpensive year left they were able to get a solid return. It may make their bullpen worse in 2014, but that isn’t exactly going to cost them a playoff spot.
The best way to describe this team’s recent deal is shrewd. General manager Rick Hahn has made small moves that have turned his team back in the direction it needs to go. The Sox haven’t taken any major steps in that direction just yet (although the signing of Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu may turn out to be the first), but Hahn’s collection of smaller moves over the past six months has the potential to make them better in the long run.
None of these four players are likely to be stars (although Avisail Garcia has a chance), but each could be a contributor to a good team and each will be around long enough in Chicago for that team to be the White Sox if Hahn keeps it up.