Did July change Chicago's offseason?

Summer surge persuaded White Sox to hang on to Samardzija

February 4th, 2016

CHICAGO -- In the midst of a disappointing 2015 campaign, there was White Sox excellence. From July 23-29, Robin Ventura's crew won seven straight games in Cleveland and Boston, outscoring the Indians and Red Sox by a 54-19 margin.

The offense scored early, often and supported a strong pitching staff. It's a streak that pushed the White Sox within one game of .500, at 49-50, and moved them into contention for the American League's second Wild Card. It also came just prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline and might have altered the South Siders' current offseason direction.

"Our team was playing the way that you envisioned it playing when the whole thing was put together," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, whose team won 17 of 25 from June 30 to July 29. "Certainly the winning streak leading up to the deadline sort of reinforced that good feeling that, 'Hey, we were turning this corner here.'

"But it wasn't like if we lose tonight, we've got to make a move, and if we win tonight, we are staying the course. It was really an extended look at it. We spent a fair amount of time with some of our objective analysts trying to figure out exactly what's the likelihood we could make the postseason given the amount of teams in it and remaining schedule. We had an idea what the chances were."

That analysis pointed to the White Sox being more likely to miss the playoffs than make it. But they also thought the chances were good enough to stick with it.

So Jeff Samardzija, an impending free agent at season's end and a top Deadline commodity, stayed put. The veteran right-hander posted a 0-6 record with an 8.82 ERA in August after having posted a 3-1 record and 2.27 ERA over five July starts.

Without the July run, the White Sox might have been more inclined to move Samardzija and pick up a solid young player or two to strengthen the team's core. Instead, the White Sox hold a compensatory pick for Samardzija signing with the Giants this offseason.

Even during this hot stretch, the White Sox were working under their revamping/contending premise, which had been in place since 2013. The White Sox talked to a number of clubs about Samardzija, Hahn said, but nothing materialized and nothing was done in principal and then pulled back because of the late July surge.

"Every club knew exactly what we were doing," Hahn said. "We were having conversations with some clubs about adding, and we were having conversations with some about subtracting, potentially. Those don't necessarily happen July 27, 28, 29 and 30th. Those are going on for several weeks."