The Chicago White Sox are rapidly reaching the point where wholesale changes go from being the worst-case scenario, to a likely reality.
Fact is that the White Sox stand on the precipice of a massive overhaul, and the New York Yankees are the ideal trade partner when it happens.
It’s pretty simple. The Yankees have a primed for an upgrade at multiple positions, possess the requisite talent in the minor leagues to help the Sox for years to come and will be buyers at the non-waiver trade deadline.
The conversation begins with the holes the Yankees have on their 25-man roster, starting with right field.
Ichiro Suzuki (264, 2 HR, 11 RBI, .637 OPS, 0.6 WAR) is well past his prime, and while loved by many, may best serve the Yankees by splitting time in center and right.
If the Yankees were to acquire Alex Rios (.293, 11 HR, 33 RBI, .840 OPS, 2.0 WAR), they would instantly be better in right and at the plate. Rios would replace Mark Teixeira as the No. 3 hitter and become a legitimate right-handed presence in the lineup.
The White Sox could help the with their relief corps, too.
Their bullpen—which ranked sixth in the AL going into Thursday’s action—primarily relies on just a few guys, and they will need to get deeper if they hope to earn a postseason berth.
Matt Thornton can certainly help with the depth. As it stands, the only left-hander the Yankees use with any regularity is Boone Logan, and he has amassed a grand total of 18.2 innings in 28 appearances.
Thornton does not have many more innings pitched (21.2) than Logan, but he does have 14 holds and his presence would balance out the Yankees bullpen.
The Yankees could also use some right-handed relief help.
Joba Chamberlin—who recently returned from the disabled list—is an experiment that has to end in New York, and Rivera is a commodity best saved for the ninth inning. That leaves David Robertson and Preston Claiborne to handle the right-handed responsibilities.
While Claiborne has been a revelation, Jesse Crain would arguably make the Yankees bullpen the best in baseball.
Crain (0.60 ERA, 39 K, 17 holds) is having an All Star-caliber season and can pitch in the seventh or eighth innings. His presence would finally provide manager Joe Girardi with some of the flexibility he has missed so far this season.
Now to what the White Sox would receive in return from the Yankees.
Outfielder Zoilo Almonte would be a great fit. While Almonte is not typically regarded as one of the top-five prospects in the Yankees system, he does have tremendous upside. At Triple-A Scranton this season, he is batting .276 and has hit six home runs while collecting 35 RBI in 234 at-bats.
The White Sox have so many holes in the minor leagues that two of these prospects—along with some lower-level infielders—would provide a major boost to the farm system.
Here is one potential scenario. The White Sox send Rios and Thornton to the Yankees for Almonte, Campos and a Low-A shortstop.
The Bronx Bombers have suddenly become a more complete playoff-caliber team, and the South Siders have dramatically improved the farm system with their sights set on 2014.
To be sure, the White Sox may need to provide some financial incentive to the Yankees in certain circumstances.
Rios, for example, has another year left on his contract, so the Sox may need to cover a part of his 2014 salary to maximize the prospects they receive.
He does have a team-friendly $12.5 million contract in 2014, though, so I would expect any trade to focus more on prospects and less on cash considerations.
When it comes to Thornton and Crain, however, the sky is the limit. Both are in the final year of their respective contracts and have massive value for a contending team like the Yankees, who are only three games behind the Boston Red Sox.
As White Sox general manager Rick Hahn tries to get his team out of the mess Kenny Williams created, he would be wise to talk with Yankees GM Brian Cashman.
The White Sox and Yankees fit each other to a tee.