Bold stroke: GM Roland Hemond stuck his neck out to make baby shortstop Ozzie Guillén the centerpiece of a winter trade — and won it, bigtime. (@RonVesely)
In an effort to try to repeat as American League champs, Bill Veeck and Hank Greenberg decided to make a series of moves to bring in hitters at the expense of some of the top young players in the Sox system. Veeck originally tried to get young stars like future White Sox coach Orlando Cepeda from the Giants and Bill White from the Cardinals, but was turned down. So he went in the only direction he felt he could.
The first deal brought the Sox back outfielder Minnie Miñoso at the cost of future All-Star power hitting first baseman Norm Cash and future All-Star power hitting catcher Johnny Romano. Cleveland also got Bubba Phillips. Sox manager Al Lopez was quoted after the controversial deal as saying, “Some of us, like me, are not worried about next year because we might not be around then.”
It was one of the most brilliant and gutsiest deals even completed by GM Roland Hemond, a deal that paid dividends immediately and 20 years down the line. Hemond sent former Cy Young Award winner LaMarr Hoyt to the Padres in a package deal that netted the Sox a 20-year-old shortstop named Ozzie Guillén. The Sox also got valuable utility player Luis Salazar.
Guillén immediately went on to fill a gaping hole in the infield and was named Rookie of the Year. He’d win a Gold Glove and become a three-time All-Star before coming back as manager in 2004. He’d then win the World Series in 2005 and make the playoffs again in 2008. Hoyt would be out of baseball by 1987, after battling weight and drug addiction issues.
Frank Thomas, probably the best hitter in team history, became a free agent after the Sox declined to pick up his $10 million option. White Sox GM Ken Williams had no choice in the matter, as Thomas was coming off back-to-back injury-plagued seasons. At his age and weight, and with the addition of slugger Jim Thome, there was no longer a place for Thomas in the lineup. The Big Hurt would eventually sign an incentive-laden deal with the A’s in late January and continue his Hall of Fame career.
One of the biggest winter meeting trades in memory saw the White Sox send Chris Sale, one of the top pitchers in the game, to the Red Sox for a number of prospects. The deal included the top minor league player in the game, Yoán Moncada.
Sale was brilliant in his six-plus years with the White Sox, winning 74 games with a 3.00 ERA. He made the All-Star team five times, pitching five innings and winning the 2013 contest. He set White Sox records for most strikeouts in a season (274) and had four consecutive years of more than 200 whiffs. After four straight losing seasons, the franchise decided it was time to rebuild and Sale was in demand, so the painful decision was made to trade him and hope for a better future.