The White Sox had a great first month to open the season. In fact, they were the best team in the American League on May 1st. For a second there I was beginning to believe in them, but they were relying too heavily on their pitching staff. The Sox were winning through the efforts of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and a surprisingly great start from Mat Latos. The team’s offense was providing minimal support, which meant the pitching staff had little room for error.
Latos appeared to have worked his issues out after starting the season with a record of 4-0 and a microscopic ERA of 0.74, sadly that was not the case. His ERA ballooned to 4.62, and he was removed from the rotation. The front office felt that if they didn’t make additions, their success wasn’t going to last. GM Rick Hahn made it public that he was looking to make trades in the middle of May, just a month and a half into play. Many teams don’t know whether or not they’re going to be buyers or sellers until sometime around the All Star break, so there weren’t many options on the trade market.
One team that’s definitely a seller these days is the San Diego Padres. At some point these teams got in touch, and just about two weeks after telling the press he wanted to add players, Hahn struck a deal for James Shields (SP). I’m not quite sure if the team’s front office actually felt that Shields was a genuine solution to their problem, or if they just felt the urge to make a trade and acquired the first pitcher they could get their hands on. Regardless of their reason, the White Sox acquired James Shields, and designated Latos for assignment a few days later.
As it turns out, the Sox replaced a guy that was giving up about 4 runs per game with a more expensive guy that’s giving up an average of more than 21 (yes, I said 21) runs per game. At the time of the trade, Shields had an ERA of 4.28. That isn’t good by any means, but it isn’t really condemning either. The team was undoubtedly hoping that Shields was going to return to form, but instead he’s been downright awful. In his first 3 starts with Chicago, he’s given up 21 runs and struck out just 5 batters. Did I mention he’s only pitched a total of 8.2 innings? Everything that could possibly go wrong for Shields has proceeded to go wrong. He’s been walking more than a batter per inning, and has already given up 5 home runs. All-in-all, the White Sox version of James Shields has been the worst version of James Shields.
Following the offseason acquisitions of Todd Frazier (3B) and Brett Lawrie (2B), the team’s farm system was already depleted. They let go of two mid-level prospects to acquire Shields, and they’re unwilling to part with top prospects Tim Anderson (SS) and Carson Fulmer (SP). It’s completely understandable for the team to look for a rebound candidate and hold onto the small number of good prospects they have, but they should have been more selective and passed up on Shields. The White Sox had very little to bargain with in the first place, and now they’re left with even less.
Currently sitting 5.5 games back in the AL Central with a record of 34-36, this team has a good deal of catching up to do. While I do feel they made a mistake when they acquired James Shields, I don’t think there was a better starting pitcher on the trade market at this point. Considering that Rich Hill is injured and Julio Teheran is most likely out of their price range, they would have been better off waiting for more players to become available. In terms of an affordable pitching addition, Matt Garza comes to mind as a someone they might want to keep an eye on. The White Sox seem to be approaching that annual “do or die” phase a bit early, but things could be worse. On that note, I’ll leave you with the quote of the day:
“The Phillies are the league leaders in not being on bases” -Jeff Sullivan (Fangraphs)