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Sometimes It Hurts: Contentious Trade Could Be White Sox Best Offseason Option

Will the White Sox have to make a deal that hurts in an effort to get over the hump in the American League? They did so in the past. Will history repeat itself?

Eloy Jimenez Andrew Vaughn White Sox Trade
Photos: WhiteSox/Twitter

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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Former scrub JUCO pitcher

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Whitesoxfanthatknowsbaseball
Whitesoxfanthatknowsbaseball
1 month ago

Funny you think the White Sox would ever give up Eloy Jimenez

Steve Yost
Steve Yost
1 month ago

The Sox could have signed any number of great candidates to play right field or second base, without trading anybody. Their owner’s net worth is up some 200 million since 2020. If they go the route of trading to fill needs because an uber cheap, greedy beyond contempt owner refuses to spend, there is little reason to support a team that is certain to repeat October disappointments until they blow the team up again. I could care less if they cancel the season with how much of a fraud Reinsdorf has proven to be again and again. Utterly ridiculous levels of greed and selfishness for him to hoard money the fans have supported his teams with that is entirely responsible for his wealth in the first place. I mean 200 million in a single year, and he still won’t spend a dime to make this team legitimate. As an owner he is and will always be a disgrace.

J Ness
J Ness
1 month ago

I can live with moving either for a top-flight 2B, like K. Marte. I wouldn’t do it for just a useful, solid player, like Segura. And if I had to choose to offload one, it’d probably be Jimenez. He has as much natural hitting talent as anyone, but the work Vaughn puts in, his approach, and his willingness to adapt to new positions makes me believe he’ll grade out better over the long-term.

Jeff Donohue
1 month ago

After the 1959 season, Verck re-acquired Orestes “Minnie” Minoso but sent away Johnny Romano (to Cleveland and Earl Battey (to Minnesota) both Catchers and kept Sherm Lollar (Catcher) who was in the declining years of his career. Beck also got rid of outfielders Johnny Callison (Phillies) and Norm Cash (Detroit). Callison was a star for Philadelphia for years and ditto Cash for the Tigers. Cash was also in the hunt for awhile (with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris of the Yankees) for the Home Run title in that exciting 1961 season. Perhaps the White Sox would be a more complete team for years if Veeck had kept those players on the team.

Jerry
Jerry
1 month ago

You make a good point. Not to take away from the story, but Bill Veeck wasn’t behind the Minoso/Wynn deal. He purchased controlling interest prior to the 1959 season. Also, to make Wynn’s Cy Young award even more remarkable, at the time there was only one award in MLB.

Joel
Joel
1 month ago

I don’t think measures have to be that drastic. Vaughn and Sheets can battle it out for right field and/or DH (with the option still being — without trading anybody — to free agent-sign a Schwarber, Soler or Castellanos). Frankly, I think the biggest need is more second base than the outfield. If either of those two kids hit in right field, you don’t even have to worry about second base — simply go with a more defensive-minded guy, like Mendick. Biggest need, therefore is starting pitcher. And you could possibly get even a number 3 or 4 from another team by packaging Zach Collins with one or more Triple-A pitchers — a Lambert or a Stiever.
All is not lost…just yet. Just need to be a little more creative. And patient with Sheets and Vaughn.

Peter W. Kocsis
1 month ago

I wish Reinsdorf would sell or, you know. That idiot might is holding the team hostage for his own selfish interests.

Wallace ramsey
Wallace ramsey
1 month ago

You is out of your mind

John Dovalis
John Dovalis
1 month ago

Breck didn’t trade Minoso. He traded to get him back.

Mr. Jeffrey I. Gordon
Mr. Jeffrey I. Gordon
1 month ago

The White Sox also got Al Smith in that trade. Smith was a rising star at the time. Although his performance for the Sox in 1958 and 1959 was disappointing. He had several fine, 800+ OPS seasons for the White Sox in the early 1960s. The inclusion of Smith made the trade hurt less. The point of the article is still well taken. Wynn was the clear ace who took the Sox to the first pennant in 40 years.

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