You must give the White Sox credit score for signing Fernando Tatis Jr. within the first place. They snagged the 16-year-old as a global signing out of the Dominican Republic again in 2015 for a bonus of $700Okay, years after Marco Paddy had restored credibility to the staff’s efforts in Latin America following the David Wilder scandal.
At the time, MLB.com ranked Tatis Jr. 30th in his class, which additionally included Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Juan Soto, and Cristian Pache. The most important accessible worldwide participant was Cuban star Yoan Moncada, at a time when a staff might elect to exceed its bonus pool and pay a 100% tax, as the Red Sox did.
Tatis’ father had played 11 years in the Majors, cracking 113 dwelling runs, so the bloodlines had been robust. Of their scouting report, MLB.com said, “Scouts like Tatis Jr.’s swing, his robust arm and his fluid actions on protection. He’s proven respectable arm power and uncooked energy to his pull facet. Tatis Jr.’s knack for barreling up balls and his repeatable swing have additionally impressed evaluators.” Jeff Buchanan of FutureSox wrote, “Tatis clearly doesn’t have the identical upside as [White Sox top 2015 international signing] Franklin Reyes, however his well-rounded skillset, excessive baseball IQ and professional mentality imply he possible comes with much less threat than Reyes and is a greater guess to maximise his potential as a potential on a regular basis participant.”
Tatis Jr. was definitely an fascinating July 2 worldwide signing, however in keeping with Dennis Lin’s excellent oral history in The Athletic, the Blue Jays, Indians, and Rays had been the one different groups to aim to signal him, which is why he didn’t land the multi-million bonuses others in his class did. If groups had an inkling of what Tatis Jr. would change into, he would have signed for ten occasions as a lot cash. Most of those gamers had been six years away from the Majors, and projecting that far out may be very tough. Many of these guys might have been traded for a veteran beginning pitcher the 12 months after signing and we might have by no means spoken of it once more.
11 months handed between the date of Tatis Jr. signing and the date of his fateful commerce to the Padres. How a lot peak the infielder gained within the interim might develop right into a tall story at some point, however in Lin’s article, the participant himself mentioned he added two inches. Padres GM A.J. Preller, then a member of the Rangers’ entrance workplace, had seen Tatis Jr. a number of occasions earlier than the participant signed with Chicago. Members of the Padres’ entrance workplace noticed him no less than twice after he joined the White Sox group: in the course of the Arizona Educational League within the fall of 2015, and once more throughout prolonged spring coaching in 2016. So Tatis Jr. was on the Padres’ radar because the 2016 season progressed.
Padres govt chairman Ron Fowler told Lin that the staff’s efforts to commerce veteran starter James Shields “grew to become accelerated” after the pitcher endured a May 31st, 2016 drubbing in Seattle by which he allowed ten earned runs whereas recording eight outs. Within the outing, Shields’ ERA jumped from three.06 to four.28. The day after that begin from Shields, Fowler went on the radio to time period it an “a humiliation to the staff, a humiliation to him.” After buying and selling each Shields and outfielder Matt Kemp, Fowler would throw shade in saying, “We made a aware determination to ship them out as a result of we would like folks which can be ready to enhance.”
So if the James Shields commerce talks picked up round June 1st, 2016, the place did the White Sox stand at that time? The membership’s document stood at 29-25, two video games behind the Royals within the AL Central and firmly within the Wild Card race as nicely. According to FanGraphs, the White Sox had a 33.eight% probability of constructing the playoffs, which was really higher than groups that sat forward of them just like the Royals and Orioles. The White Sox hadn’t reached the playoffs since 2008, and GM Rick Hahn was justified in looking for reinforcements.
On the time, the White Sox beginning rotation was fronted by Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Rodon. Free agent signing Mat Latos held down the fourth spot, however had a 6.54 ERA over his earlier six begins. The membership had recently released longtime rotation fixture John Danks, consuming vital cash within the course of. Miguel Gonzalez was capable of step on and quickly maintain the fifth starter job, with Hahn trying to make an acquisition.
As Hahn put it to Jon Greenberg of The Athletic, “That was a transfer, in going out to get James, that was as a result of lack of depth within the group. We didn’t have inner solutions when (John) Danks wasn’t getting again to a kind that was serviceable and (Mat) Latos was taking over water and regressing again to his extra possible kind for the remainder of the season. So we needed to do one thing stem the circulate right here. And that’s particularly reasonable to say that transaction is type of emblematic of that previous manner of doing issues and attempting to repair it on the fly.” The staff’s lack of rotation depth didn’t come out of nowhere, although, as depth appeared skinny even prior to the season.
In nearly each write-up of the Shields commerce on the time, Tatis Jr. was listed after Erik Johnson, the opposite prospect the Padres acquired. Johnson, a 26-year-old righty, had been drafted by the White Sox within the second spherical out of UC Berkeley again in 2011. Coming via Chicago’s farm system, Johnson was seen as a possible No. three starter. His worth peaked previous to the 2014 season, when Keith Legislation (then of ESPN) ranked him because the 59th-best prospect in baseball. However Johnson failed to stay within the White Sox rotation from 2014 up till the commerce.
May the White Sox have acquired Shields for various prospects? In accordance with Preller in Lin’s article, “We talked about two of their high prospects. They weren’t going to maneuver these guys. And we talked about Tatis as nicely. You bought the sense that he is perhaps the man they might speak about within the preliminary conversations, simply because he was additional away and hadn’t performed a recreation but.” The highest White Sox prospects previous to the 2016 had been Tim Anderson and Carson Fulmer, as that they had shipped off Frankie Montas within the offseason within the Todd Frazier deal. On the time of the Shields commerce, Anderson was lower than every week away from supplanting Jimmy Rollins to change into the staff’s beginning shortstop. Fulmer had been drafted eighth total by the White Sox the earlier 12 months, and it could be ridiculous revisionist historical past to counsel they need to have had the foresight to commerce him as an alternative of Tatis Jr.
Was it cheap for the White Sox to count on a midseason enhance from Shields? MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth and Connor Byrne wrote at the time:
Shields, 34, isn’t the pitcher he was throughout his finest years with the Rays and Royals, however he stays a reliable innings eater who’s on tempo to exceed the 200-inning plateau and surpass the 30-start barrier for the 11th straight season. That apart, Shields does include crimson flags. After a dreadful ultimate begin with the Padres, Shields’ ERA (four.28) is at its highest since 2010. Additional, his strikeout fee – which spiked to a personal-best 9.61 per 9 innings final 12 months – has regressed to 7.62 (nearer to his 7.84 profession common) and the management that he displayed in his earlier days has declined. Shields’ stroll fee is at three.61 per 9 innings, which is in keeping with final 12 months’s three.6, and his velocity has dipped. To Shields’ credit score, he has lengthy been a succesful ground-ball generator – at 48 p.c this 12 months, there’s no signal he’s slowing down in that space. That ought to assist his trigger as he shifts to the hitter-friendly confines of U.S. Mobile Subject, however he does have the third-highest dwelling run fee amongst certified starters since final season (16.9 p.c).
Whereas Shields might have been an innings eater at that time in his profession, nobody anticipated him to put up a 6.77 ERA for the rest of the season. It wasn’t loopy to view him as a helpful veteran addition. Plus, the Padres kicked in over $30MM, greater than half of the cash remaining on his contract. To the White Sox, Shields seemed to be an reasonably priced rotation piece for the rest of 2016 in addition to the ’17 and ’18 seasons.
The White Sox pounced on Shields early, principally kicking off the 2016 buying and selling season. Later that summer season, the Padres would additionally go on to commerce their finest starter, Drew Pomeranz, in addition to Andrew Cashner. The Orioles picked up Wade Miley, the Dodgers acquired Rich Hill, the Pirates snagged Ivan Nova, the Angels and Twins swapped Ricky Nolasco and Hector Santiago, and the Blue Jays bought Scott Feldman. There are various alternate universes the place the White Sox purchase somebody apart from Shields, and who is aware of whether or not Tatis Jr. would have been concerned. In addition they might have plugged in Miguel Gonzalez in June, held off on trades for a month like most groups, and realized they need to be sellers slightly than patrons.
Hahn has owned the Tatis Jr. commerce, calling himself a “jackass” in entrance of followers and telling MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, “That was in all probability the final deal we made with having a short-term mindset in thoughts. Finally when this factor will get proper, we’re going to as soon as once more have a shorter time arising objective with our trades. It doesn’t imply you wish to make a deal that haunts you for the long run, clearly.” Each GM has a commerce he’d prefer to take again. Round that very same time, the Marlins traded Luis Castillo, bought him again on account of a medical dispute, after which traded him once more within the offseason. It was additionally the summer season the place the Dodgers traded Yordan Alvarez, as outlined here.
Although Hahn admitted to Greenberg in 2017, “I in all probability bodily cringe every time I see a Tatis spotlight,” the membership launched into what appears to have been a profitable rebuilding effort after the ’16 season. The White Sox introduced in Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, and Michael Kopech in subsequent trades and pounced on Luis Robert within the worldwide market. Tatis Jr. might at all times be the one which bought away, however an prolonged playoff run ought to take the sting off for the White Sox.
For extra on the subject of the Tatis Jr. commerce, make sure you take a look at Jeff Todd’s video on our YouTube channel.