PHOENIX -- As billed, the White Sox are in the midst of a rebuilding period, although as Memorial Day approaches, the South Siders are unexpectedly in the middle of a tight American League Central race.
But don't let the standings fool you. Rick Renteria is satisfied that his club has been competitive, but in his first season as manager, he's balancing his desire to win now with the stated goal of the organization.
The White Sox went into action on Tuesday night just four games out of first place. Even so, they are expected to be sellers on the open market, general manager Rick Hahn said -- with veterans Todd Frazier, Jose Quintana and David Robertson the most likely candidates to be moved prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"We've had a lot of phone calls because of the talent on this roster," Hahn said. "We remain very open-minded about whatever opportunities present themselves to make us better for the long run. Our focus is on something that is more sustainable than this one season. We're in the same mode we were in this past offseason, looking for some long-term pieces to put us in position to contend on an annual basis."
Frazier, the third baseman who's struggling with a slash line of .192/.290/.344, four homers and 17 RBIs entering Tuesday, is a free agent at the end of the season. Quintana, 2-5 with 3.92 ERA in nine starts, has one more guaranteed year to go on his $21 million contract. The club has options on 2019 and '20 at a relatively inexpensive $10.5 million for each season.
Robertson is in the third year of his four-year, $46 million free-agent deal. He's 3-1 with five saves and a 2.81 ERA in 14 appearances. His K/9 rate is up a bit from 10.8 last season to 12.4 right now. His WHIP is down from 1.36 to 1.06.
At 32 and in his 10th season between the Yankees and White Sox, Robertson is trending in the right direction and is most coveted by the Nationals, whose bullpen is having all kinds of problems. Washington has been engaged with Hahn since the offseason about the right-hander, but the two sides haven't been able to match money or prospects, and Hahn is going to want a lot of them for any of the three players.
The White Sox moved Chris Sale to the Red Sox last December for four prospects, including Yoan Moncada, who has a slash line of .331/.401/.504 at Triple-A Charlotte, but was placed on the disabled list recently with a left thumb injury.
"It's just got to fit for the long term," said Hahn, who's about to sign Cuban Luis Robert and add him to the mix. "That's the same approach we've had for the entire offseason -- let's build something for the future. Some of it you'll see here in 2017 and some of it's going to take a little longer."
The Nationals are in for the here and now. They entered Tuesday leaidng the National League East by 6 1/2 games and have the top offense in Major League Baseball. But their bullpen ERA of 5.40 is 29th out of the 30 teams and is dead last with opponents hitting .281 against it.
The Nats have converted 12 saves. For context, Greg Holland is 19-for-19 for the Rockies. Manager Dusty Baker looked particularly forlorn last Friday night in Atlanta when right-handed reliever Enny Romero took the ball in a 4-4 tie in the eighth inning and gave up three runs, two of them on a Kurt Suzuki homer. The Braves won, 7-4.
It was the second game in a row that Romero had been roughed up and the third straight time the bullpen had blown up in the late innings, all losses. Right now, the Nationals don't have a formal closer or setup guy. Baker knows that might be fine for the short term, but not when things get tight -- and certainly not in the playoffs.
"We have to fix the bullpen," he said. "We're looking around, but nobody is going to help us."
Robertson, or any other option at this point, is not going to come cheap. The question is how long the Nationals will blow games before making a correction? Robertson could be the first move. They could add another bullpen piece later on.
Frazier and Robertson are trying to stay above all the noise. Robertson's name has been linked to the Nationals since the offseason.
"My name's been bounced around a lot," Robertson said this spring. "But nothing's come to fruition. Nothing's happened yet. There's nothing I can do about it."
Nothing's changed. Not yet.
Frazier, who went through this with the Reds when he was traded to Chicago prior to the 2016 season, said he's trying to improve his own performance. He knows that as a potential free agent, he'll likely be moved.
"I didn't know what kind of direction they're trying to take, but for me it's just playing," he said. "I can't really think about anything else because where I am right now is not where I want to be. The better I play, when I get hot, I think it helps out both of us. But I don't think you're ever prepared to move, to be honest with you."
Be prepared, because that's the direction in which the White Sox are heading.