After multiple seasons of being a contender in the American League, the White Sox were not been able to break through and win the pennant. No, I’m not talking about the current core White Sox group. I’m talking about the famed “Go-Go Sox” of the 1950s. From 1951 to 1957, the team consistently finished near the top of the American League but was never able to surpass the mighty New York Yankees and pesky Cleveland Indians.
Something had to give, as the team was looking for the right formula to win their first pennant in nearly four decades. The Sox decided to do something bold heading into the 1958 season to shake up the roster in hopes of getting the team to the next level. They traded one of the team’s prime superstars, a player many believed to be on a potential Hall of Fame track at the time. Dorothy Comiskey Rigney and co. sent none other than recently enshrined Minnie Minoso to the Cleveland Indians for starting pitching help.
This was an old-time baseball trade that we, frankly, don’t see often in today’s current baseball climate. Minoso was coming off a 1957 season in which he amassed 5.2 fWAR. That made him the team’s second most valuable player according to the metric behind second baseman Nellie Fox. In fact, since his 1951 arrival on the South Side, Minoso ranked seventh in all of baseball with 37.6 fWAR. He averaged roughly 5.3 fWAR per season during that span. To say he was one of the game’s most talented and exciting players would be an understatement. So, trading a top 10 player in the sport really was a bold move by the team.
In exchange, the Sox received 36-year-old hurler Early Wynn. During the same period from 1951-1957, Wynn ranked sixth in MLB fWAR at 29.0, averaging roughly 4.1 fWAR per season. However, Wynn had a down season in 1957 with an ERA over 4, so on the surface, the deal was very puzzling.
The Sox finished second to the Yankees in 1957 and had the second-best team ERA in the sport and sixth-best FIP. With Wynn in the fold, the team saw a drop in 1958, ranking sixth in ERA and 11th in FIP. So trying to fortify an area of strength didn’t have the intended result for the club.
At the same time, the offense saw a drop in production with the loss of the Cuban Comet. In 1957, the team had the fourth-best offense in the sport with a 101 wRC+. Without Minoso in the lineup, the Sox slipped to eighth in 1958 with a 93 wRC+.
So, the early (no pun intended) returns on the deal were not positive for the South Siders. They still managed to finish second to the Yankees again, but the trade’s result was not what the Sox had intended.
Things flipped in 1959 as the “Go-Go Sox” finally got over the hump, winning 94 games and their first American League pennant in 40 years. During that season, Wynn won the American League Cy Young and helped push the team over the top as they held off the Indians. The White Sox finally reached the World Series and did so without a franchise icon, who ironically would be reacquired following the 1959 season.
History Repeating Itself?
Had Twitter dot com existed in 1957, I think it would’ve been set ablaze by the very rumor of a Minoso for Wynn swap. Fast forward to late 2021, as we are not even a week into MLB’s lockout, and we are left wondering how the current White Sox group will get over the next hurdle to realize their World Series aspirations.
The narratives regarding the South Siders’ current roster issues are well-documented. The club has an abundance of corner players that aren’t particularly great defensively, and the lineup is predominantly right-handed. We know Jose Abreu will be in a White Sox uniform until he decides he no longer wants to be, given his relationship with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. That leaves Eloy Jimenez, Andrew Vaughn, and maybe Gavin Sheets as options the team could potentially trade to acquire a significant finishing piece in the rotation, right field, or at second base.
I am of the mindset that Vaughn or Jimenez are the players that would most likely have to be moved to fill the needs of this roster. Given the Sox’s minimal activity in the early phase of free agency, there is a level of fear that they will not be able to secure improvements on the open market. You may or may not know that I’ve talked frequently about my belief that Jerry Reinsdorf is trying to take as many dollar bills with him to the afterlife as possible, so I too am fearful that this team will not do what is necessary to address its current roster needs. It’s simply a foolish way to do business in a major market. But at this point, it is what it is.
Let me go on record as saying, I am not advocating for moving either player. However, I’m simply not sure how this roster can make these pieces fit going forward and address the needs they have.
There are pros and cons to moving each player. Eloy has shown flashes of being a prolific power hitter in the middle of the order. However, he has had issues staying on the field and has proven to be a defensive liability. Vaughn’s rookie season brought the expected ups and downs of a player that never saw pitching above Winston-Salem before 2021. The approach and the pedigree are there with Vaughn, but the track record isn’t to this point. At the same time, Vaughn won’t play his natural position as long as Jose Abreu exists. And despite being passable in left field in 2021, I’m not sure a team with serious championship aspirations should be playing him in that spot.
So the White Sox front office is in a precarious position where the best way to make serious roster improvements in its quest to win a championship, could be dealing one of these young hitters. It’s also a proposition that could turn out to hurt down the road. Neither player is a finished product yet, and both have significant upside to their games they can still tap into.
They say that fortune favors the bold, and moving either Eloy Jimenez or Andrew Vaughn this winter would certainly fall under the category of bold. Should the Sox be forced to go this route because their owner simply won’t allow money to be taken from the family trust, they must acquire impact talent in exchange with similar contractual control. Doing so would help extend the window of contention for as long as possible.
I don’t know if this is an avenue the front office is exploring at this moment. But as history has shown, sometimes an unconventional and controversial move can be the thing that gets a team to its desired destination. I would hate to see Eloy Jimenez or Andrew Vaughn not donning a Sox uniform in 2022, but I don’t think one can rule it out at this point. Maybe making a trade that hurts is just what this group needs.
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