It's here folks. MLB trade deadline week has finally arrived. We have so much, yet so little time between now and 3:00 PM CDT this coming Friday. We've talked ad nauseam about the White Sox needs (second base, bullpen, bullpen, and more bullpen). This team will certainly have challenges as they attempt to address the needs for a club that is a viable World Series contender. How they go about filling these needs in the coming days will ultimately decide the fate of the 2021 season.
I don't think it can be overstated that the minutes leading up to Friday will be the most pivotal time during Rick Hahn's tenure as GM. There have been a lot of things to criticize Hahn for since he assumed the position (I know I'm going to be called a #HahnBot for this but not EVERYTHING has been his fault). However, he has a golden opportunity to position this team to achieve their objectives of competing for multiple championships as the contention window has fully opened.
Many within the fan base have questioned Hahn for not being bold enough, particularly last season when he didn't meet the Texas Rangers exorbitant asking price for current South Side favorite, Lance Lynn. Yes, it was exorbitant because 29 other teams also balked at it, not just Rick Hahn. Nevertheless, I know I feel fairly calm about the White Sox current position, which is a strange place to be for someone born into this particular fandom. They have a nine-game lead over the Cleveland Indians, a healthy cushion that they will have a chance to pad this coming weekend.
The thing is, this team's performance in the face of mounting adversity all season has caused the measuring stick to change. It is no longer just about stepping on the Minnesota Twins and the aforementioned Cleveland Indians. It's about taking down the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and Oakland A's. Let's be clear about this, it's time for the White Sox to win a pennant and get to the World Series. I think collectively as a fan base we all believe in this starting rotation and their ability to position this team to win pivotal games in October.
The offensive cavalry is starting to return. First, with the return of Eloy Jimenez tonight while Luis Robert and Yasmani Grandal are just a few steps behind. This team is as close to being the fully functional lineup we envisioned when they reported to Glendale as they have been since mid March. Now, is the time for the White Sox front office to go for it.
We were told in the fall of 2016, that the goal was to win "multiple championships." You can't win multiple without winning the first one, and that opportunity is staring this organization right in the face. The last month has highlighted the glaring needs of this team. An inability by Rick Hahn and Co. to address these needs here and now will unequivocally go down as his greatest failure as GM.
A full-time second baseman, which will allow Leury Garcia to go back to his best role as a utility man seeing action a few times a week, has to be near the top of the list. Whether that's Eduardo Escobar (interesting that rumors have died down since Bob Nightengale tweeted it was only a matter of time), Jonathan Schoop, or some other option now that Adam Frazier is off the board, the team needs to get better in this spot. Garcia, who has seen a significant uptick in his offensive performance since June 1, has also had his deficiencies highlighted since the All-Star break. Providing more certainty at this spot needs to be at the forefront of Rick Hahn's thoughts.
As much as the White Sox could use that upgrade at the keystone, their greatest need is right-handed relief pitching. I don't think anyone in the fan base can argue against it at this time. Aside from Liam Hendriks and Michael Kopech, who do you trust among the current relief corps to cover the most pivotal outs of the season? The obvious answer is no one. Tony La Russa has tried a variety of guys all season from veterans such as Evan Marshall to youngsters like Codi Heuer, Jose Ruiz, and most recently Ryan Burr. All have had a few glimmers, but all have faltered and none inspire confidence.
Each and every season contenders are always in search of bullpen help, so this will be no small task. Given the changes to bullpen utilization in October in recent years, the glaring need for this team is about as bright as the lights on the Vegas strip. However, failure to address this area in any way simply is not an option.
The Clock is Ticking
With each passing minute, the fate of the 2021 White Sox season becomes a little more clear. If this team can find some way to fill these areas of need despite a shallow farm system that is devoid of the types of talent most rebuilding/re-tooling clubs look for, we will all feel a lot better when he head back to the corner of 35th/Shields this coming Friday.
Make no mistake about it, this is the biggest week of Rick Hahn's professional career. He has a tall task in front of him, but failure to do anything is simply not an option. This team has fought too hard and overcome too much already for the front office to not reward their efforts. These players, many of whom were not expected to be counted on this season, deserve to be given the best opportunity to win a World Series.
In the end, the White Sox may very well make a trade that hurts. Jared Kelley, Jake Burger, Yoelqui Cespedes, or some other low-level prospect that we have hope for may get a new address. But that is simply the cost of doing business. Many in the fan base are still dealing with PTSD from the James Shields debacle, but we collectively have to let go. I hope the White Sox make a deal that makes as little sense as the Lance Lynn trade did to some this winter (it actually always made sense). If the White Sox make a deal for an impact reliever and the player that is in Kannapolis turns out to be a star, it's ok. That's baseball it happens all the time. Remember folks, flags fly forever.
Get it done, Hahn and Co.