The White Sox were among the many teams showing interest in the Athletics’ available starters, with Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas on Chicago’s target list. Manaea has since been dealt to the Padres, with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reporting that the White Sox “nearly” landed Manaea instead, and are still looking at Montas. However, the A’s want young slugger Andrew Vaughn back in return, and the Sox are balking at the demand.
It isn’t surprising that the A’s would make such a big ask, considering that Montas is under team control through the 2023 season. Likewise, it is natural that the White Sox wouldn’t be eager to part with a former star prospect who was already in the majors less than two years after being picked third overall in the 2019 draft.
Oakland could also be looking to leverage Chicago’s sudden lack of pitching depth, as Lance Lynn (knee surgery) will be on the injured list until late May and Lucas Giolito (abdominal tightness) is also on the verge of being placed on the IL for what looks like could be the majority of April. The White Sox did recently sign Johnny Cueto, but the veteran will need some ramp-up time after missing all of Spring Training, and might not be available for a few weeks anyway.
Dylan Cease, Dallas Keuchel, Michael Kopech, and Vince Velasquez are now the top four in the White Sox rotation, with Reynaldo Lopez, Jimmy Lambert, or Tanner Banks candidates to fill in for Giolito. Adding a pitcher of Montas’ caliber would be a major help both in the immediate future and beyond, as this is the last guaranteed season of Keuchel’s contract, and it seems unlikely that the Sox will exercise their $20MM club option on his services for 2023.
Then again, Vaughn is also a possible long-term answer as an heir apparent to 35-year-old Jose Abreu, who is also in the final season of his contract. There does remain a solid chance that the Sox will sign Abreu to another extension, so Vaughn could play in a first base/DH timeshare with Abreu, or perhaps see more time as a corner outfielder, even if Vaughn isn’t ideally suited for outfield work.
Another complicating factor is that the White Sox could also use Vaughn’s bat right now, given that the injury bug has also extended to the position player side. Yoan Moncada is on the 10-day IL with an oblique strain and AJ Pollock left yesterday’s game with a sore hamstring, though Pollock doesn’t believe the injury is terribly serious.
Vaughn hit .235/.309/.396 with 15 homers over 469 plate appearances in his 2021 rookie season, resulting in a 93 OPS+/94 wRC+. These are certainly respectable numbers for a player’s first taste of the majors, especially since Vaughn still has so little overall pro experience. After being drafted, Vaughn played in 55 minor league games in 2019 but then didn’t see any official game action at all in 2020 due to the canceled minor league season, instead doing his work at Chicago’s alternate training site. Vaughn spoke with The Athletic’s James Fegan about his rookie year and the adjustments he has made both at the plate and in the field, which includes even taking some grounders at third base as a possible fallback option in Moncada’s absence.
Between Vaughn’s prospect pedigree and his big league-readiness, he is the type of player the A’s have traditionally targeted on the trade market, particularly during their most recent selloff of notable veterans. The likes of Cristian Pache, Shea Langoliers, Adrian Martinez, Kevin Smith, and Adam Oller have all been acquired since the end of the lockout, with Pache, Smith, and Oller already on the active roster.