Fresh off of sending Chris Sale, Jose Abreu and Alexei Ramirez to Minneapolis for All-Star festivities, the Chicago White Sox began their post-All-Star break schedule by splitting six home games against the Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals
With the team entering play July 25 at 49-54, Baseball Prospectus is understandably pessimistic about Robin Ventura’s club gaining any meaningful traction in the standings the rest of the way, giving the team a 1.5 percent chance to reach postseason play.
Sale, perhaps the best lefty in the AL with his 9-1 record and scant 2.03 ERA, and Abreu, the front-runner to be named AL Rookie of the Year after Masahiro Tanaka’s injury with his .290 average, 29 homers and 74 RBI, are obviously the two biggest reasons to be optimistic about the White Sox going forward.
Jose Quintana, armed with a 3.5 WAR despite a 5-7 record and a 3.15 ERA, gives the White Sox a vastly underrated lefty behind Sale as he hopes to surpass 200 innings for the second time.
A late-season return of Avisail Garcia, who’s recovering nicely from his April 9 injury in Colorado, would improve an offense that's averaging 4.22 runs. Acquired in last July’s three-way trade with the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox, which saw Hahn ship out Jake Peavy, Garcia hit his only two homers of the year the night before suffering his injury.
According to Brian Sandalow of the Chicago Sun-Times, Garcia is making such good progress in his rehab that he could be close to going on a rehab assignment.
"Everything has been positive," he said. "They know what they’re doing, so they don’t want me to get hurt again. They just tell me to relax, easy, so now I’m good. They [checked] me out yesterday, and nothing hurts."
Sale and Quintana headline the staff, but the bullpen—hurt because of in-season injuries to Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom—needs to find a way to stabilize.
With the offseason trade of Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks and the setbacks Jones and Lindstrom have suffered, Ventura hasn’t had a set closer all year.
Looking to the second half of the season, ESPNChicago.com’s Doug Padilla said the organization’s goal is to remake its bullpen in the image of the Royals—as one that gets the job done consistently despite having the 13th-best ERA in all of baseball:
“That's a good bullpen,” said White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, who had two hits off Shields and never got a chance against Davis or Holland since they combined to retire all six batters they faced. “It seems like once they get to the seventh, it's a challenge to get a runner on base, much less try to get a run in. That makes it more important to take advantage of the situations early on.”
Contrast that to the White Sox’s plan and there couldn’t be two more different scenarios. The White Sox rotate their closer and setup man on a daily basis, a plan done out of necessity since nobody has been able to hold down the ninth-inning spot.
The White Sox still have 10 games remaining with the division-leading Tigers, along with road trips against the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees. The other two AL division leaders, the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles, are part of the White Sox’s remaining home schedule—which also includes three games with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Baseball Prospectus estimates that the White Sox will go 27-32 the rest of the way, which would represent a 13-win improvement from 2013 with a 76-86 record.
Hahn surely will be getting calls on the likes of Gordon Beckham, Dayan Viciedo and John Danks as the July 31 trade deadline approaches and as he continues to put his fingerprints on the club. Whether or not Beckham, Viciedo and Danks are still with the organization Aug. 1, continuing to build momentum toward 2015 may come from those who are still with the organization for the season’s final two months.
Marcus Semien saw action earlier in the year and could get called up once again should Beckham get moved. Micah Johnson, who entered 2014 as the organization's sixth-ranked prospect, according to Baseball America, will be in Chicago sooner than later.
Sale, Abreu, Eaton, Garcia, Johnson and 2014 No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodon represent the organization’s future. How quickly that future gets here may depend on the work Hahn gets done or doesn’t get done before July 31.
Blake Baumgartner, who has covered prep events as a freelancer for both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, can be reached on Twitter @BFBaumgartner.