Possible South Side Moves as Winter Meetings Loom

20140124_mm_soxfest0117Before the frenzy of activity begins at the rapidly approaching MLB Winter Meetings, there already seems to be a little buzz going around in the Windy City. The Cubs were speculated to have an interest in trading SS Starlin Castro (.265/.296/.375 in 2015) for the Yankee’s speedy left-handed OF Brett Gardner (.259/.343/.399) according to New York Daily News, though the rumors were later dispelled.

Despite the Cubs’ recent accolade victories and early trade buzz, there is some talk on the south side of town of trades that could impact the 2016 club immensely. The White Sox made a colossal splash last offseason, and are likely to stray away from that trend this year. Nevertheless, there are still two big names that are being thrown out there in speculation that could really make or break the team’s foundation. Here are the trade rumors, trade possibilities and subsequent side effects that could make the 2016 campaign a very interesting one for Robin Ventura without Chris Sale and Avisail Garcia.

While it is highly unlikely coming off a season in which he broke the White Sox single season strikeout mark (274), Sale has become a prime target for the Boston Red Sox, who are in desperate need of a top-end of the rotation arm. Next to Sonny Gray, who earned $512,200 in 2015, Sale is the most cost effective ace in all of baseball, which would make the chance of an impending trade very slim. Sale is under contract to earn $9.15 million in 2016 and $12 million in 2017, and in 2018 he has a team option of $12.5 million and a $1 million buyout. Overall, it would take a pretty substantial package deal for Rick Hahn to even begin to think of dealing away his team’s best player.

However, according to CSN Chicago, the possibility of dealing Sale away is not 100 percent out of the question – it may just be at 99 percent. If any serious negotiations were to ensue as the winter progresses, it is likely that the prime target of Hahn would be SS Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts won the Silver Slugger honors this season and is no slouch defensively, and with Alexi Ramirez likely to be on the move in the coming months, Bogaerts certainly wouldn’t be bad fit. He is young, but also has a body of experience under his belt that is well beyond his years considering his immense contributions made to the 2103 World Series run for the Red Sox.

If the Red Sox could come up with the perfect package, there could be a blockbuster trade. It is likely though with the club control that the White Sox have on Sale and the abundance of starting pitching on the free agent market, Dave Dombrowski will aim at a David Price or Jordan Zimmermann to fix their starting rotation woes.

As for Garcia, his fate is much more in limbo.

Garcia was brought over to the White Sox in the three-team deal that sent Jake Peavy to the Red Sox and sent Jose Iglesias to the Detroit Tigers. In his first two full seasons on the club, Garcia has not lived up to his hype. In just 194 games the last two seasons, Garcia’s prowess at the plate vanished, only producing 20 home runs with a .251 AVG. Whie his labrum tear was in early 2014, it seems as though the right fielder has never fully recovered, and Hahn has come to notice the sad truth behind the club’s physical beast.

In a recent Bleacher Report article from Mike Norris, the positive talk of Trayce Thompson doesn’t seem to be the best indicator for Garcia’s future with the Sox. Hahn seems to be adamant in giving Thompson the chance at a starting position, believing that the consistency will translate to better results out of the rising star. With Thompson becoming a starter, the outfield becomes very packed, leaving Garcia without a spot to shine.

That being said, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to deal away the 24-year-old. If anything, he could really get a lot in return, possibly a bullpen arm or two, or even a middle infielder. The Sox have an abundance of outfielders as it is, and with there still being a lot of upside in Garcia’s potential considering his age, the Sox could very well get the better end of the bargain in a trade.

Garcia is not eligible for free agency for another four seasons (2020), which is attractive to prospective buyers to say the least. One team in particular that could really use Garcia’s offensive exploits is the Cleveland Indians, who have to worry about having All-Star Michael Brantley out of their lineup come Opening Day. Perhaps a trade including a couple prospect arms, could be the right package for the Sox to part ways with Garcia.

Regardless of what is being said about the Sox, the bottom line is that it is fun to hear these rumors being tossed around. Some trades may be more likely than not, but having names in the mix always keeps fan interest. While Sale may be locked in, you still never know what can happen. Garcia may have seen has last days on the south side, but there could still be the possibility of him putting up an All-Star year for the club in 2016. You just never know, and that is the fun of it all.