By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Not wanting to be the second team in the Second City, the White Sox pulled the trigger on a big trade for a power hitter Wednesday.
Watching the crosstown Cubs add numerous pieces to their team over the past two weeks had rankled White Sox nation. The addition of All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier in a three-team trade indicates the South Siders aren’t going to revert to a rebuild mode with youth for now. Instead, the question is will the White Sox now turn to the free-agent market for another big bat?
Frazier came at a stiff price. The White Sox sent outfielder Trayce Thompson, second baseman Micah Johnson and right-hander Frankie Montas to the Dodgers, and all have multiple tools. Los Angeles appears to have picked up what it wanted in this three-way deal.
In Chicago, Frazier provides the White Sox with their first legit All-Star-caliber player at the hot corner in 10 years. Not since Joe Crede was manning the position a decade ago could the team count on an everyday all-around contributor at that key position.
The trade for a 35-home run power hitter in Frazier indicates that the White Sox feel with a couple more moves they will be contenders for the playoffs in 2016. Frazier has two years of contract control left before free agency kicks in. The key to this addition is a team friendly $7.5-million figure for Frazier in 2016.
This is a huge positioning factor for the White Sox, as they must keep the payroll close to or less than the $120 million they spent in 2015. The White Sox don’t have the revenue streams or the fan base ticket support to go into the $140-million to $150-million payroll range. Thus, the Frazier contract allows the front office to still fish in the outfield sea of free agents.
Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes are potential targets. That said, doesn’t former Royals standout Alex Gordon make the most sense? The White Sox are in need an RBI bat from the left side. Gordon would also give the team the best defensive left or right fielder in the league, while taking away a leader from the world champion Royals.
The new additions of Brett Lawrie and Frazier provide good offense and solid defense at second and third base, respectively. Chasing a middle-of-the-order bat to hit ahead of or behind Frazier and Jose Abreu is still a desire. With the addition of Frazier, the White Sox payroll commitment should be right at $110 million going forward. A new deal with shortstop Alexei Ramirez isn’t out of the question either.
Without any large arbitration deals to ponder, the next moves may be up to owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
If Reinsdorf signs off on a $20-million player for the outfield, the payroll can still come in around $130 million. This can be done with some creative back-loaded contracts. This manipulation can be considered, due to the fact the team has $27.5 million coming off the books after the 2016 season with the expiration of the contracts of John Dank and Adam LaRoche.
Reinsdorf is all about winning now. That’s his goal for the fan base and his own personal competitive desire to field another world championship team. With the go ahead from the chairman, general manager Rick Hahn can, with two swift moves, put the White Sox back into the conversation as a legit playoff contender.
The White Sox are trying to find a shopper for LaRoche. This won’t be an easy trick to turn after he struggled in 2015. Pittsburgh is looking for some power hitting from the left side at first base. With the White Sox eating a portion of the money, this would be ideal for all parties involved. Going back to the National League and his former club would be with a positive for LaRoche and a small risk for the payroll-strapped Pirates.
For now, the White Sox will continue to monitor all avenues with their available resources.
“We feel better than we did at the end of the season,” Hahn said after making the trade Wednesday. “At the same time, the way we approach things, we are not satisfied at this point. We are going to continue to look for other means of upgrading the club over the upcoming weeks and months.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.