What’s next for White Sox after woeful start to 2015?

SHARE What’s next for White Sox after woeful start to 2015?
SHARE What’s next for White Sox after woeful start to 2015?

For awhile this month the White Sox looked like a team capable of turning the ship around.

They won four consecutive series — one of which even came against a winning team — and gutted out a six-game winning streak that included a sweep of the A’s in Oakland.

But make no mistake: The White Sox are every bit as bad as their 19-23 record indicates. In fact, the team’s Pythagorean W-L record suggests the Sox should actually be three games worse than their current record.

The White Sox rank last in the American League in hits, runs, doubles, home runs, RBI, stolen bases, slugging percentage, OPS and total bases. They’re second-to-last in triples and walks, and the Sox have grounded into more double plays than anyone except the Tigers.

The defense, which also ranks at the bottom or near the bottom in nearly every measurable way, magnifies the already glaring issues with the offense. Alexei Ramirez’s shenanigans on the double play Monday were a case in point.

The Sox are eight games out of first place in the American League Central and five games out of a wild card spot. Sure, it’s not even June yet, but does anybody out there believe this Sox team deserves a playoff berth?

So, assuming 2015 is a lost season, what’s next? The Sox went for it during the offseason by signing Adam LaRoche, Melky Cabrera, David Robertson and Zach Duke. They acquired Jeff Samardzija for his last remaining season before free agency and extended Adam Eaton through 2019.

The July 31 trade deadline is a little more than two months away, and it’s hard to imagine the Sox being buyers in hopes of a playoff berth. The predicament the White Sox find themselves in, though, is there’s not much worth selling, either.

Ramirez is in the last year of his contract, but his .264 on-base percentage, defensive struggles and poor decision-making won’t do much to generate a return. Samardzija has strung a few quality starts together and a few more would make him worth the time of contending teams in the second half.

Jose Abreu, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are all signed to club-friendly, long-term deals that the Sox would be foolish to part with. Who does that leave?

Avisail Garcia — signed to a one-year, $500,000 contract — seems to have found his groove at the plate but has struggled to stay healthy. He and Abreu are the only two position players with a positive wins above average this season.

You can see where White Sox position players rate in wins above average at each position in this chart from Baseball-Reference.com:

The White Sox went over budget to assemble the current roster, which means there won’t be much to do in the offseason unless they free up cash by ridding themselves of one of their big-name players.

So back we come to the question of what’s next. FanGraphs writer Dave Cameron took a stab at answering that question at the beginning of the month.

His plan for the Sox was sound then and seems even more relevant today:

That isn’t to say the White Sox have to start the firesale tomorrow. There is still the core of a good team here, but there are just too many weak spots for this roster to make a real serious run in 2015. It could have worked, but it just didn’t, and now it’s probably time for the White Sox to start looking towards 2016 again. Swap out some of the go-for-it pieces they acquired over the winter for things that will help more next year, and then spend the next nine months trying to make sure that the scrubs around the 2016 stars aren’t quite so scrubby.

If the Sox can find value on the roster to trade or some cash to spend, they can try again to rebuild on the fly with Abreu and Sale in place. Or they can start a firesale of anyone with value. Doing nothing and hoping that 2015 was a fluke doesn’t seem like a good mindset to carry into 2016.

Right now the Sox seem stuck and need to find a direction. With a bevy of underwhelming options, what direction will they choose?

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