Left: White Sox general manager Rick Hahn; Right: Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein

USA Today Sports

Spiegel: Sox, Cubs Deadline Moves Well-Orchestrated

The trade deadline has a way of revealing what teams believes themselves to be.

Matt Spiegel
August 01, 2018 - 11:04 am
Categories: 

(670 The Score) Nothing crystallizes the state of a baseball organization quite like the trade deadline.

After the weeks, days and final hours leading up to Tuesday afternoon’s frenzy, you know better than ever where your teams believe themselves to be. 

The White Sox have done their heavy trade lifting already, so their inactivity wasn't a surprise. There's a full offseason and one more deadline to trade either first baseman Jose Abreu or outfielder Avisail Garcia, so no need to force them off the roster. I continue to believe that Abreu’s value as a veteran leader and Cuban emissary of sorts outweighs what he’d return in trade, especially with the league-wide positional power glut that mirrors his skill set.

Garcia’s situation is more frustrating. He was acquired with so much anticipation, then proceeded to underwhelm severely for years with a few tantalizing teases, all while the organization was trying to win. Now he has surprisingly evolved and improved, but the White Sox are rebuilding, and Garcia isn't good or healthy enough to have real trade value. His entire White Sox career feels exhaustingly inconsequential.   

These weeks could register as a little disappointing as missed opportunities to continue the prospect stockpiling. Reliever Joakim Soria was a fine flip move by general manager Rick Hahn after arriving as part of a three-team team trade in January and being dealt to the Brewers for two minor leaguers. But that’s it. Reliever Luis Avilan has been OK after a rough start but not good enough to be desirable. 

But remember that last year, nine White Sox veterans were moved in July and August. The second year of transparent tanking accomplishes goals, even if sign-and-flips don’t happen as much as desired. As fans wait for Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez to fill out Hahn’s abstract, undefined checklist that will get them to the big leagues, it’s helpful to remind yourself that this White Sox rebuild is still making noise, even if no one is there to hear it.

The Cubs, meanwhile, are smack dab in the middle of their winning window, and they act like it. This means that even after an offseason in which two starting pitchers were signed for a combined nine years and $164 million, you go get another one in July.  Left-hander Cole Hamels is having a bad season. But he’s been a killer at Wrigley Field in his career, and his velocity has been fine of late. The prospect cost was minimal, and the money was carefully dealt with to avoid luxury tax issues.

Hamels is a proven postseason performer, suddenly thrust into a pennant race after a few years of irrelevance on a decaying roster in Texas. Consider this a baby version of what the Justin Verlander dreams were last year. Add the former ace and watch the exciting circumstances help him elevate his game. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein banks on humans and their visceral reactions to opportunities like this. If Hamels makes half the jump Verlander did after he became an Astro, this move will look terrific. 

New righty reliever Brandon Kintzler won't excite you with strikeouts and heat, but he knows what he’s doing. He’s been a successful closer in the past without classically dominant stuff. He avoids hard contact with the very best, doesn’t walk too many people and doesn’t give up many home runs. Something to keep an eye on: Kintzler has reverse splits, meaning lefties succeed less against him than righties. Cubs manager Joe Maddon loves pitcher like this, and the recent ugliness of lefty reliever Brian Duensing might mean Kintzler gets some of the chances against big lefty bats in the middle to late innings.

Jesse Chavez has been incredibly impressive since he got here and could end up as the most important of the three Cubs additions. Don’t rule out him being stretched out into a spot start or three, especially as the playoffs near. Mike Montgomery will need to be reassimilated into the bullpen before the postseason.

This assumes, of course, that the Cubs hold off the charging Brewers in NL Central. Milwaukee grabbed players like I used to fill plates at a Chinese food buffet in the '90s -- just grab whatever you can and figure out how to use it later. Seriously, first the Brewers had too many outfielders. That worked out, so now they have gone out and picked up too many infielders -- all this while needing a starting pitcher more than anything else. Weird. I still don’t think they’re ready to get over the hump and finish ahead of the Cubs. Just like last year.

It’s great to live in a two-team town. It’s been instructive to experience a successful teardown/rebuild on the North Side and to watch how a gluttonous behemoth continues to behave at a trade deadline. Seeing this should help White Sox fans stay patient in this placid down moment of the South Side’s organizational construction. Eloy is coming.

Here’s hoping by the time the White Sox are ready to harbor sensible World Series dreams, the Cubs are still a viable option to meet them there.

A couple more well-orchestrated deadlines on both sides of town might do the trick. 

Follow Matt Spiegel on Twitter @MattSpiegel670. For more from and about Matt, visit www.mattspiegel.com.​