One of the biggest early surprises of the 2017 season is the success of the Chicago White Sox.
The trades of Adam Eaton and Chris Sale indicated that the front office was on board with a total rebuild. The expectations going forward for this team were to tank, trade away more good players, and get good draft picks.
So far they have blown away all expectations. On paper this team does not stack up with most of the league, yet they still have a winning record.
Currently the Sox have one of the best pitching staffs in the majors, with a team ERA of 3.47. The scary part about that stat is that ace Jose Quintana is off to a slow start. This means they are getting solid contributions from just about everyone else on the staff. Miguel Gonzalez has been solid ever since he joined the Sox last year. Derek Holland is a pleasant surprise. Once Carlos Rodon comes back healthy, this rotation could be as tough as any in the league.
This raises the question: what do they do if they keep overperforming later into the season? What happens when a team that was expected to lose 95 games is still in the hunt in the second half? Should they stay the course with the rebuild or go for it?
If you are the Sox front office, you need to keep a tunnel vision. If they are still in the playoff hunt come July, it means a lot of guys are overperforming. This means that they are more valuable trade pieces than originally anticipated. The point of signing players like Holland is to fix them, hope they perform, and trade them.
Going for it does not benefit the team in the long term at all. The Sox do not need to trade Quintana or David Robertson, their most valuable trade pieces, just yet. The first players they should try to trade are Holland, Todd Frazier, and Melky Cabrera, who will be free agents after this season.
The White Sox do not need to contend right now. What they need is to stay the course and continue to load up on quality prospects.
It would be odd for a contending team to have a fire sale at the trade deadline. But if it means that they can be perennial contenders once the rebuild is done, it will have been worth it.