By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The White Sox are ahead of their offseason rebuild baseball curve, with seven quality prospects recently obtained through the trades of Chris Sale to the Red Sox and Adam Eaton to the Nationals. Now, Chicago’s front office can slow play its next moves if it wishes.
The White Sox also signed veteran left-hander Derek Holland last week. The hope is he’ll eat many of the innings left behind with exit of Sale and possibly a trade of left-hander Jose Quintana this offseason.
With plenty of suitors for Quintana in the marketplace, the White Sox can wait for a deal in the spring/summer or try and win a deal now. Given Quintana’s career 3.51 ERA and four straight seasons of 200-plus innings, the leverage is on the White Sox’s side.
The Yankees and Astros are two teams that match up for a potential Quintana deal. Both clubs have quality young players and are trying to improve their rotations with winning the division a goal of theirs in 2017. The supply-and-demand factor helps the White Sox here.
Quintana, who turns 28 in January, is under club control for four more years at about $38 million. That modest payroll figure combined with him hitting his prime years makes him the most desirable pitcher in the market who’s available.
Other White Sox players who have one year left on their contracts are likely to be trade bait from now through the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Those players include third baseman Todd Frazier, second baseman Brett Lawrie, outfielder Melky Cabrera and Holland. With two years and $25 million left on his deal, closer David Robertson will be in demand as well.
The White Sox will have two jobs between now and Opening Day. The first is to ensure they continue getting top value for their players who are moved. The second is to have enough big league talent to get them through the upcoming 162-game season.
Winning isn’t the top priority in 2017. It’s about development right now, and protecting young players from overuse — specifically in the rotation and bullpen — will be a task for new manager Rick Renteria.
Renteria faced this issue in his long season managing the Cubs in 2014. He was using young arms in the bullpen and trying his best to win games in April and May. The Cubs front office had to remind Renteria that they weren’t ready to compete for the playoffs at that juncture, so it was best to look at the big picture. This was understood by Renteria, but the practice of easing up on younger and better options in win-or-lose situations at the time was alien to a competitor like Renteria.
Now, Renteria will again face this situation — probably over the next three seasons.
As the White Sox look to add more young talent under long-term control, timing is everything. Waiting to trade valuable pieces can get tricky once spring training begins. In general, teams are in better trade positions at this time of year in the offseason, with their players healthy. Once the season starts, you roll the dice in regards to injuries and wondering what other teams’ needs will be.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.