Actually, they should be the first phone call White Sox general manager Rick Hahn makes.
Let's start in the outfield.
With their right fielders hitting a combined .238/.302/.378 for the lineup’s second-lowest OPS (shortstop is much worse), the position is ripe for an upgrade. That spot has been a recurring problem…which makes a longer-term solution involving Rios sensible, particularly given that the team should be willing to add payroll beyond its current $66.8 million in order to break its 20-year losing streak.
Entering play on Wednesday, they were hitting .242 as a team and ranked in the bottom third in both OBP and slugging. Rios’ power, ability to get on base and overall speed would fit in nicely with the way the Pirates' other outfielders—Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte—play the game.
Simply stated, adding Rios to their lineup immediately makes it more formidable
They are also in need of a reliever, as ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield alluded to in a recent article. He cited the 2011 Atlanta Braves as an example of a team that faded in September, in part, because of an overworked bullpen.
While Schoenfield did not go so far as to say that the Bucs relief corps is actually overworked, he did note that it is “something to watch,” while FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal said on Full Count that the “Pirates figure to look for a reliever.”
Their bullpen, which ranks second in MLB with a 2.87 ERA, needs a veteran like Crain—0.74 ERA, 2-3, 46 K, 1.145 WHIP, 36.2 IP—to round it out. He is a dominant right-hander who has pitched limited innings, possesses a dynamic off-speed repertoire and is on an expiring contract.
Even though Crain is on the 15-day disabled list, he holds immense value.
Trade scenarios between the White Sox and Pirates are already circulating.
One of them, suggested by ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (subscription required), has Rios and shortstop Alexei Ramirez heading to the Pirates in exchange for prospects Gregory Polanco and Nick Kingham, while also acquiring current major league shortstop Jordy Mercer.
Even though the NL Central leaders need a shortstop, Ramirez may have more value going to the Cincinnati Reds, so I have another idea.
Rios, Crain and cash go to the Pirates, and in exchange, the White Sox receive Polanco and fellow left-handed hitting Double-A outfielder Alex Dickerson along with Class-A third baseman Jordan Steranka.
Polanco, 21, is a star in the making and projects as both an “outstanding defensive outfielder” as well as a “long-term basestealing [sic] threat,” according to MLB.com. Most impressively, he destroys left-handed pitching, compiling a .393/.414/.393 slash line against them.
Alex Dickerson, 23, originally drafted as a first baseman, is a gap hitter with 22 doubles and nine home runs that could thrive in hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. He is particularly adept at driving the ball to the opposite field.
When does Hahn make his first significant move this season?
Steranka, 23, was a power hitter at Penn State, but has yet to hit a home run in his first season of pro ball. He would be given the opportunity to grow at Double-A while providing some depth at third base.
While Steranka will need significant time to reach his potential, both Polanco and Dickerson could be ready for the White Sox’s 25-man roster as soon as next season.
Three weeks ago, I would have said that the New York Yankees were ideal trade partners. Well, things have changed.
All told, the Pirates will have both short-term and long-term solutions in place, while the White Sox will get younger and bolster their farm system with this deal.
The next 20 days are going to be interesting, but Rios and Crain to the Pirates is a great jumping-off point.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.