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2016 MLB Trade Deadline Preview: Chicago White Sox

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A look at what the White Sox could do at the deadline.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

As we approach August 1, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.

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Chicago White Sox: 43-40, 4th in AL Central

To begin the 2016 season, the White Sox finally seemed to be showing the alleged strength of their star general manager. Unfortunately though, for Rick Hahn and the team, the White Sox have gone just 25-32 and fallen to fourth in the division since going 17-8 in April.

Despite putting some hope on the field this season, Hahn's efforts seem disappointing at best for a fourth straight season. That doesn't mean the team couldn't turn it around however, though it would take some substantial moves. Those arrows just might not be in Hahn's quiver anymore.

To worsen matters, the White Sox's run differential is in the negative and suggests a win-loss record closer to 41-42. But the trade deadline is less about doom and gloom and more about making bold moves, granting hope, and overcoming adversity.

What moves have they made so far?

Fearing the fade into obscurity early on, the White Sox's biggest move has been to acquire James Shields from the San Diego Padres. Unfortunately, it has also been a massive blunder. In his five starts so far with the team, Shields has pitched 20.1 innings and allowed 25 earned runs. To help put that into perspective, Danny Salazar and Clayton Kershaw have each allowed fewer runs in three times the starts.

Luckily for them, the deal seems to be pretty low-risk, as the Padres were willing to pay $31 million of the remaining $58 million of Shields' contract. Furthermore, with such a weak free agent class coming up, Shields may actually exercise his opt-out clause despite his first half struggles.

The White Sox also made a minor deal by acquiring the once highly-touted prospect Anthony Ranaudo. Currently stationed at Triple-A Charlotte, the 26-year old right-hander has yet to have any success at the major league level after being drafted 39th overall in the 2010 draft by the Red Sox.

Other than trades, the White Sox have worked to redefine themselves, and cut ties with what could be perceived as dead weight. Mat Latos was the first candidate, followed just a day later by Jimmy Rollins. Both were on contracts that wouldn't be a burden to take a hit on, and were playing at or below replacement level. It made sense to cut ties. Furthermore, the Rollins DFA made room for their top offensive prospect, Tim Anderson, who has been nothing short of spectacular.

Are they buyers or sellers?

As with many teams, this question is a difficult one to answer. The correct answer seems to be 'for now, they are buyers.' And that is a big caveat. And then, of course, are the quotes from Hahn himself from mid-June:

"We need to get it turned around fairly quickly, though, so we can continue saying that and reinforce our notion, our believes in ourselves that this team has the ability to contend."

Plans don't change in a couple of weeks, do they?

Buying on Shields was a big move that just hasn't panned out at all so far. If that trade had been slightly more effective for the White Sox, then the team would unequivocally still be in buy mode. The Indians seem to be runaway favorites to win the division now. Not that seven games is an insurmountable deficit by any means, but the three-way race behind them is so tight that it could end up just being a race for second place.

The White Sox are still within striking distance and nothing should have changed from their offseason plan. Three games above .500, the White Sox have most assuredly been in worse places by the All-Star break in recent memory. After Hahn and the rest of the White Sox front office seemed to be in contention mode, assuming anything has changed seems ill-advised.

Truly, in all likelihood, Hahn's statements can be taken in earnest. The White Sox could use a third- or fourth-starter at this point. Miguel Gonzalez has worked somewhat admirably behind Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Rodon, though a better supporting cast might alleviate some of that extra burden. Assuming Shields' last two starts aren't a mirage, perhaps 'Big Game' is trending in the right direction and can assist there. That's a lot to bank on though, and adding another starter seems key at this point.

Who will they target?

The White Sox have the fourth-worst wRC+ among American League teams. They also have the sixth-best rotation and fifth-best bullpen by FIP. With Sale and Quintana buoying their rotation, all the team seems to need is Shields to get on track. If his last start is any indication, the White Sox may be able to ascend to contention as a direct result. That seems to indicate that the team should chase a bat.

One bat that has come up as an option in rumors seems to be that of Jay Bruce. Somewhat of a hot item, Bruce has been generating interest from multiple teams, so his price could escalate heading into the deadline. Compounding matters further, arguably the last area the White Sox need offensive help is in the outfield and especially in the corner spots. Melky Cabrera is having yet another renaissance year and Adam Eaton continues to be their best player. Perhaps Eaton could move back to centerfield in the event of a Bruce trade, and alleviate the team of J.B. Shuck's lack of productivity on both sides of the ball.

What seems more likely then is that the White Sox look for a designated hitter or first base candidate, which Bruce could also be. Jose Abreu is having some trouble at the dish, and Avisail Garcia is the team's option behind him. Recent signee Justin Morneau is likely to join the team in mid-July, providing some potential relief at first base.

Of course, the bullpen might have been fifth-best up to this point, but with season-ending injuries to Jake Petricka and Daniel Webb, that performance could wane soon. Similarly, Zach Putnam is reportedly debating surgery for the ulnar in his right elbow which would also most assuredly end his season. While Nate Jones, David Robertson, and Zach Duke can likely carry the majority of the burden, adding an extra bullpen arm to share the load would also go a long way to keeping the team in contention.

Predictions

While the White Sox seemed poise to purchase at the deadline, staying put could also be an option. The addition of Morneau could help what ails them. Morneau just began a rehab assignment on his way back from a series of concussions that nearly forced his retirement. Further, Austin Jackson could help the outfield down the stretch, but that seems to be only in long-term plans and might not be worth waiting around for.

Instead, the White Sox could use some of their prospect depth to help now. Carson Fulmer is their best remaining prospect and is likely untouchable. Their other top-100 prospect, Anderson, has made himself entirely indispensable on the major league roster. The White Sox could still use some of their shallow farm to improve their bench situation though.