American League Central "showdowns" with Cleveland and Detroit are looking more and more like a string of spoiler games and auditions for 2008 for the White Sox.
The Sox acknowledge that's their unenviable position entering a three-game series at Cleveland starting Monday night at Jacobs Field.
"We have to go in and win every game we possibly can," pitcher Jon Garland said Sunday after the Sox dropped their third consecutive game, 5-3 to the Orioles. "We can't think we need to sweep one series. We need to sweep them all."
How tough is that? For starters, Cleveland has the best home record in baseball and has beaten the Sox in four of six meetings thus far, with 12 left. The Sox (40-50) then head to AL East leader Boston before opening a five-game home series against Detroit on July 23. They have 14 games left against the Tigers.
"If we keep playing this way, there's no reason not to make any trades," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "That's business."
Sunday's loss increased the likelihood that these could be the final days for pitcher Jose Contreras and right fielder Jermaine Dye, both staples of the Sox's 2005 World Series title, heading toward the July 31 trading deadline.
According to radar gun postings at Camden Yards, Contreras (5-11) rarely threw harder than 90 m.p.h. Sunday. Contreras is 1-7 with a 6.92 ERA in his last nine starts. But he remains healthy, and the fact that he's under contract the next two seasons at a total of $20 million is appealing to teams, considering the escalating market for starting pitchers. .
If they deal Contreras the Sox could promote Gavin Floyd from Triple-A Charlotte for an extended look.
Dye hit two solo home runs to increase his season total to 15. National League contenders Los Angeles, San Diego and New York like Dye's right-handed bat but might be reluctant to deal top prospects for a midseason rental.
Bob Bry, Dye's agent, declined to comment Sunday on his client's status.
The Sox have committed about $84.825 million for 10 players for 2008 and hold options on three players. They could start looking ahead to next year and promote Charlotte second baseman Danny Richar, as Tadahito Iguchi can become a free agent.
Or they could look for more established help this winter by trying to pry All-Star second baseman Orlando Hudson away from Arizona, or sign free agent Luis Castillo. Hudson told a Phoenix radio station two weeks ago he doesn't believe the Diamondbacks will re-sign him.
Midseason free-agent talk was virtually nil two years ago when the Sox embarked on an AL Central title run while slugger Paul Konerko calmly put up impressive numbers with free agency looming.
The Sox won, and so did Konerko after the season, signing a five-year, $60 million contract that will include full no-trade rights starting in early 2008, when he gains status as a 10-year veteran with five years of service with the same team.
"In spring training, you have three, four, five guys who can become free agents, the team gets off to a tough start the first couple months, I can guarantee you that questions about those guys are going to come up," Konerko said. "But I don't know if the contract things were a distraction when we lost."
Despite the Sox's struggles, Konerko preaches pateince.
"No matter what happens this year, the cost of players probably will only go down, so why don't we just wait?" he said.
"I can understand why everything was so astronomically high [last off-season]. It can either stay the same or go backward. It probably won't go forward, so why don't we take a chance and wait till the end of the year?"
The waiting appears over.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times