What You Need To Know About The Charlie Tilson Trade
The White Sox have made their first selling move of the 2016 MLB trade deadline.
Zach Duke, whom the Sox signed to a three-year, $15 million dollar deal before the 2015 season, and was supposed to be a part of a playoff team -- Melky Cabrera, Jeff Samardzija and David Robertson headlined the 2015 winter, but Duke was considered a key part by the Sox -- has been shipped to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Charlie Tilson.
Who the hell is Charlie Tilson?
We'll get to that soon enough, but here's what Rick Hahn had to say about him in the release.
"Charlie is a left-handed hitting outfielder whose speed and defensive ability enable him to do a number of things well to help his team win ball games," said Hahn. "We have liked him as a player since the Cardinals selected him out of New Trier in the second round in 2011."
Okay, there's that. Now let's get to what you really need to know about this deal.
SO WE'RE OFFICIALLY SELLERS NOW?
Yeah, I believe that's clearly been the case for a while now, even if the Sox weren't quite ready to just come out and say it completely. There was a moment during last night's game that made me laugh when it comes to the team's situation. Hawk was giving one of his many, many cliches when he said "every team is gonna win 60 and lose 60, it's the other 42 you need to pay attention to." It was at this point that Steve Stone jumped in the conversation, but Hawk wasn't done talking, and he finished his statement a bit under his breath.
"I stopped paying attention about three or four weeks ago," he said, indicating that he's known this team was done for a while, just like the rest of us.
And they are.
Now, just because we're sellers does not mean the rebuild is coming, and that Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are moments away from being shipped out. If I had to guess, I'd say if the Sox make another trade before Monday's deadline, it'll be David Robertson getting traded, and I'm not even all that confident that'll happen.
The Duke trade might be it, but even if that is the only move, it makes it clear what the team is thinking heading into the offseason. They had a plan before 2015 that they tried to continue working on for 2016, and they now realize it isn't going to work.
It may not be a rebuild, but the Sox are ready to try something new.
OKAY, COOL. SO WHO THE HELL IS CHARLIE TILSON?
He's our new outfielder, stupid! We just got him from the Cardinals for Zach Duke.
NO, REALLY, WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT HIM?
Well, first of all, he has a perfect name for a St. Louis Cardinal. Even if you had never heard of Tilson before this trade was made, had I told you that Charlie Tilson was a minor league outfielder, and then asked you which organization he belonged to, you'd guess the St. Louis Cardinals. Charlie Tilson just sounds like the name of a guy St. Louis calls up out of nowhere, and then he hits .300.
Maybe he'll do that with the White Sox!
As far as background, Tilson's a local kid. He played in high school at New Trier in Winnetka, and was drafted from there by the Cardinals in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft.
In MLB.com's latest prospect rankings, Tilson was ranked as the No. 12 prospect in the Cardinals organization.
From everything I've read about him, and looking up his stats in the minors, he profiles as your prototypical fourth outfielder type, but with some upside remaining. The scouting reports basically peg him as a guy that makes contact, but doesn't have a lot of pop in his bat. He has very good speed, which is useful to him in centerfield, though he doesn't have a strong arm.
He led the Texas League in both hits (159) and stolen bases (46) last season, and his minor league numbers suggest that he takes his walks, and makes a lot of contact. Scouting reports say he uses all parts of the field while hitting, and can lay down a bunt to use his speed to get on base.
In other words, he sounds like a Cardinals outfielder, and that's a good thing! Those are all things the Sox can use more of.
He's spent five seasons in the minors and has put up a slash line of .293/.346/.392. This year in Triple-A he's hitting .282/.345/.407, giving him an OPS of .753, which is the highest he's had at any level since his eight games of rookie ball in 2011.
He has a strikeout rate of 14.6% and a walk rate of 7% in his minor league career, further driving home my point about him putting the ball in play, and not being a hacker.
SO WHAT DO YOU SEE HIS ROLE BEING WITH THE WHITE SOX?
I'd say the floor for him would be as a fourth outfielder as early as 2017, and we may even see him down the stretch in 2016. I think that, as is, the Sox might be better off with Tilson playing center every day right now than they are with J.B. Shuck, but I don't know if the Sox really have any plans to do that right now.
As for how things work in 2017, I'd hope that the Sox aren't going into next year with the plans of having Tilson as an every day starter. You'd like to think they sign an outfielder in free agency -- probably not Yoenis Cespedes, but somebody -- and Tilson gets a shot as a bench player.
But that's not to say that's all he can be. Like I said, Tilson still has the talent to be worth more. Any time you have his ability to make contact, a good eye, and can steal bases -- Tilson has 93 stolen bases in his career -- there's always a chance he can blossom into something more, I just wouldn't count on it.
Whatever the case ends up being, I believe you're a lot better off having a guy like Tilson on your bench as an outfielder than you are Shuck or Avisail Garcia. He can just do more for you, and he gives you an excellent pinch-runner off the bench.
SO YOU LIKE THIS TRADE FOR THE WHITE SOX?
I like it for both teams. The Cardinals are getting a useful pitcher in Zach Duke, and considering that Duke isn't really a high-leverage reliever, and was still owed $5.5 million for 2017, I think Tilson is just about as good a return you can hope for if you're the White Sox.
You shed that salary for 2017, and you get a player that has a good chance of being on your 25-man roster next season. It's hard to be upset about this deal.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE REST OF 2016?
Well, I hope you're ready for more bullpen blowups.
I don't think a lot of White Sox fans -- at least the ones I deal with on a regular basis -- completely understood just how good Duke had been for the team this season. In a bullpen without a lot of swing-and-miss arms, Zach was striking a lot of guys out.
In K-rate he was just behind Nate Jones.
Now that Duke's gone, the Sox bullpen is basically David Robertson, Nate Jones and then a lot of eyes closed and fingers crossed. I mean, just looking at the 40-man, it seems the most likely guy to replace Duke will be Matt Purke.
You remember him, right? He wasn't good.
So unless the Sox build big leads, or the starters go seven innings every time out, things are only going to get uglier in the bullpen over these next couple of months.
And, honestly, as frustrating as it'll be, that's fine. It's not fun to watch a team losing, but winning games really does nothing for the White Sox from this point on in 2016.
DO YOU THINK TILSON WILL BE IN CHICAGO THIS YEAR?
If he is, I don't think it'll happen before September when rosters expand. I just don't see the Sox making room for him on the roster by getting rid of Shuck or Avisail. There's no need to start the arbitration clock on him when you won't really be looking to win games.
UPDATE: Apparently Tilson will join the White Sox in Detroit on Tuesday. Just another reminder that I don't know shit.
WHAT'S YOUR GUT FEEL ON WHETHER OR NOT THEY'LL MAKE ANOTHER TRADE?
If I had to give it odds, I'd say there's a 50% chance David Robertson is traded, and can you imagine how the bullpen will look then?
The odds of a Robertson trade increased last night when the Royals had to send Wade Davis back to Kansas City for an MRI on his elbow. That's horrible for Davis, and it's horrible for the Royals, but it could be to the White Sox benefit, as it takes a premier reliever off the market for now, because I have a hard time believing someone will want to trade for Davis now.
Which makes Robertson more attractive to a team looking for late inning relief. You know, a team like the Red Sox, whom the Sox have been scouting a lot lately.