The month of July came as quick as it went. While the Chicago White Sox boasted a comfortable 9.5-game lead over the Cleveland Indians heading into Wednesday’s finale with the Twins, it’s clear as day the current roster has several holes.
The top priority on the wish list is quality relief pitching. Coming into 2021, the White Sox bullpen was highly touted. Many analysts and fans went as far to predict the team would have a top-three bullpen in baseball. At the time, these predictions were not far-fetched. Liam Hendriks and Michael Kopech were additions to a strong 2020 bullpen which consisted of Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, Matt Foster, Codi Heuer, and Garrett Crochet.
However, the only consistent arms in 2021 have been the aforementioned Hendriks and Kopech. Even written off players such as Jose Ruiz and Ryan Burr have been more serviceable than some of the 2020 standouts. Everyone else has raised a cause for concern at some point this season.
In particular, Foster and Heuer have struggled mightily following stellar 2020 campaigns, rocking ERAs of 2.20 and 1.52, respectively. So far in 2021, their ERAs are 6.04 and 5.26, respectively. Foster was recently demoted to AAA Charlotte, and Heuer doesn’t appear too far behind at this point.
While the White Sox’s biggest need is bullpen assistance, second base help would also be welcomed. Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick are valuable bench pieces that can play multiple positions, but there are much better options on the market to consistently start and help this team get over the top.
One could also make the case to add an extra outfielder, but Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert will return sooner rather than later. The White Sox have also received production from Andrew Vaughn, Brian Goodwin, Adam Engel, and Gavin Sheets. With the limited prospect capital the South Siders have to make trades, it may be best to focus on bullpen and second base first.
The White Sox have been hot since the All-Star break, so any further additions would be an additional shot in the arm. Below, I outline how a few rumored targets have performed during the month of July.
The Diamondbacks’ infielder had a respectable first half of the season, earning himself a spot on the National League All-Star team. He’s continued to show why he made the team over the past month, as he has five home runs and a 1.037 OPS over 15 games during July. He is showing an improved eye as well, as his OBP of .364 during July is significantly higher than his OBP of .302 across the whole season.
A trade to the White Sox appeared to be all but done in early July, but the Diamondbacks clearly had second thoughts. Escobar on the South Side would be a great fit for both parties if a deal ends up happening. 2021 is the final season of his current contract, so the White Sox would not be on the hook for a financial commitment in 2022 when Nick Madrigal will reclaim his spot at second base. The trade also makes sense for Arizona, as they are on pace to have one of the worst MLB records in recent memory. A team with that fate has no need for a veteran like Escobar.
Like Escobar, the Pirates’ utility man was a member of the NL All-Star team. Frazier is in the midst of a career year with a slash line of .326/.390/.454 and 27 doubles. While his overall numbers have remained steady throughout the season, his power numbers have declined during July as he is slugging .371 so far this month.
The White Sox need to be cautious to not overpay for Frazier, as it is unclear if the 29-year-old will regress to the mean. His price will also be higher than some other potential targets because he is under team control through 2022. The Pirates are in a similar position to the Diamondbacks, where the focus is quickly shifting to future seasons. While the Pirates likely aren’t destined to contend in 2022 either, this likely won’t change their high asking price for Frazier.
Rodriguez, Frazier’s teammate in Pittsburgh, has enjoyed a decent season thus far. The Pirates’ closer hasn’t had many save opportunities, but he has converted 13 saves with an ERA of 2.65 and WHIP of 0.804 across 37.1 innings pitched. July hasn’t been kind to the righty, however, as he has a 6.43 ERA across seven appearances.
This could be a midseason slump for Rodriguez, but the White Sox can ill afford to have more bullpen issues this season. Regardless, Rodriguez will end up bringing back a decent haul of prospects to Pirates if he is traded due to his team control running through 2023.
At this point, there’s little doubt the White Sox will be active at the trade deadline. The first half provided plenty of indications as to what the team needs to be successful in October, so hopefully there will be some new players on the South Side by the end of the month. With today’s off day and the trade deadline looming just over a week away, the phones will more than likely be ringing nonstop in the front office.