- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- The road has come calling for the Chicago White Sox, who will be in Cleveland and Boston over the next eight days -- with some players likely headed on a longer trip away from Chicago than others.
The White Sox just completed a six-game homestand -- of which they lost five -- to open the second half, and the miserable results appeared to have set in motion an inevitable sell-off of assets.
The White Sox's front office probably was already convinced that a playoff push wasn't going to happen this year. Wednesday's late-inning meltdown against the St. Louis Cardinals was merely more confirmation that selling, not buying, is the prudent move by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Just how many players get traded remains to be seen. The turnover isn't expected to get as far as Chris Sale, and probably not Carlos Rodon, but the White Sox might realistically be willing to deal everybody else, for the right price.
The turnover won't be that extreme, of course, but it is possible that Jeff Samardzija might have watched his last White Sox game from the home dugout.
The right-hander pitches Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series at Cleveland and is scheduled to pitch again Tuesday at Boston. The trade deadline will have passed by the time the White Sox and New York Yankees throw the first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field on July 31.
"I would hate to see somebody go," said starting pitcher John Danks, whose 6 2/3 scoreless innings were wasted Wednesday in a 3-2 defeat to the Cardinals. "It's part of it and we have nobody to blame but ourselves, but we definitely don't want to see anybody go. We have a pretty tight group here. We know what we're capable of. It's just a shame we haven't played up to expectations to this point."
A 42-50 record shows the White Sox haven't played anywhere near expectations. It started early, with a three-game sweep at Kansas City to open the season. A roster filled with talented players never did play inspired baseball together for any significant amount of time.
"We've got a great group of guys and we've had some good runs on the field, but we haven't been able to put it together every day," said closer David Robertson, who gave up the decisive three-run triple to Yadier Molina, the first batter he faced Wednesday. "I feel like sometimes luck's just not on our side and we need a few things to swing our way and hopefully we can get something going again."
If Samardzija is dealt, the White Sox are expected to call up right-hander Erik Johnson for another stint in the major leagues. He opened the season with the White Sox last year and struggled, but his first half at Charlotte this year earned him a start in the Triple-A All-Star Game.
If added, he would join Tyler Saladino, who has been a breath of fresh air during his first nine games in the major leagues. Other potential players to be called up included Double-A pitcher Frankie Montas, who showcased his 100 mph fastball in the All-Star Futures Game, and outfielder Trayce Thompson, who hit his 100th minor league home run Wednesday.
But trading guys like Samardzija, and whoever else might appeal to a contender, isn't only about who comes up now, but who is acquired in return to bolster the farm system and arrive at a later date.
Teams that have well over $100 million in payroll, like the White Sox, and can't come close to the .500 mark by late July have to resign themselves to the fate of trades. If done right, the 2015 team might actually be looked at fondly one day as the club that was bad enough to supply a star player of the future.
Had the White Sox made some waves to start the second half, maybe the front office would have been tempted to see this season through. But four games against the American League's best team in the Kansas City Royals, and two more against baseball's best team in the Cardinals, meant the odds were long and the results were predictable.
"They're good," manager Robin Ventura said when asked for the common denominator between the Royals and Cardinals. "They've got some great pitching and they can swing the bat. You look at both of those teams and they are very solid all the way, one through nine."
Perhaps both will be used as a blueprint for what the White Sox want to be one day, and the type of players they are looking for come next week's deadline.
"I feel like we have played better than our record shows this first week [of the second half], but at the end of the day it's all about wins and losses," Danks said. "We have to do better. We know that. Pick it up tomorrow. Hopefully we can beat up on a Central Division opponent and go from there."
It's a fine sentiment, but at this point it really is too little, too late.