DETROIT -- If there’s anything the White Sox have excelled at this season, it’s being bad.
Strange as it sounds, it might not be the worst thing for the franchise.
As they entered play on Tuesday night, the White Sox own a .395 winning percentage that stands as the third-lowest in the major leagues.
Only the Houston Astros (.360) and Miami Marlins (.364) are on pace to finish with fewer victories in 2013.
Though not impossible, the prospect of a miraculous turnaround has to be measured against this: Tuesday night, an 11-4 White Sox victory at Comerica Park, was the first of 19 meetings against the Detroit Tigers.
They haven’t pulled away in the American League Central, but the Tigers are the class of the league with both a loaded lineup and starting rotation.
Detroit’s roster features six All-Stars. The Tigers also have a ton of recent history on their side.
Led by Miguel Cabrera and Tuesday’s starter Justin Verlander, Detroit has won nine of 12, 18 of 25 and 31 of 43 against the White Sox dating back to 2010.
Suffice it to say, the White Sox might have a tough time bouncing back with one of four against the Tigers the rest of the way.
Though they won’t say it publicly, and even if it comes at the cost of three more months of dismal baseball, the White Sox front office can’t be dismayed by the possibility of a horrible season.
In fact, they might be rooting for it.
Were the White Sox to continue on this path, they’d easily wind up with the franchise’s first top-5 pick in the amateur baseball draft since they selected Alex Fernandez with the fourth pick in 1990.
Since 1990, the White Sox have only had one top-10 pick in the draft, when they selected Gordon Beckham with the eighth pick in 2008. With the exception of 2008, the team’s first overall selection since has ranged anywhere from 12th to 47th in 2011.
If first-year general manager Rick Hahn wants to build a thriving farm system, and at this point the White Sox would seem to be a few years away from that kind of assessment, better talent is the only way to go.
Consider that the last five top-10 picks the White Sox have made are Beckham, Fernandez, Frank Thomas (No. 7, 1989), Robin Ventura (No. 10, 1988) and Jack McDowell (No. 5, 1987).
The ability to pick a player that high would afford the White Sox the chance to draft a player with high upside and potential for development rather than gamble on a pick in hopes of uncovering a superstar.
Not only would the available talent improve, the White Sox would also receive bigger bonus pools for the amateur draft and international free agency.
This season, the White Sox, who drafted 17th overall, had a total of $5.30 million to spend on draft picks. That figure is a mere pittance compared with the top five teams who picked: The Astros (first overall) had $11.69 million, the Cubs (second) had $10.55 million, the Colorado Rockies had $10.19 million, the Marlins had $9.50 million and the Pittsburgh Pirates had $8.88 million in slotted bonuses.
The team’s international spending allotment also would increase significantly.
This year, the White Sox have $2.168 million to spend on international free agency, an area they have felt far more comfortable in under the guidance of Marco Paddy, who joined the franchise in late 2011.
The Astros had the highest international bonus pool at $4.94 million.
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Last week, the White Sox added 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Micker Zapata, whose $1.6 million signing bonus was the highest in franchise history given to a player at the international deadline. With an increased pool and a willingness to spend along with improved coverage (they added seven new scouts this offseason), the White Sox could add several new capable prospects to the farm system within the next year.
Not that prospects guarantee future success. But a farm system full of talented players not only helps a big league club supplement its roster with affordable players, it also gives a GM currency to add players to its roster through trades with other clubs.
That’s a currency Hahn doesn’t currently possess much of at a time when the White Sox appear to have several big holes to fill.
With the contracts of Paul Konerko, Alex Rios and Adam Dunn all potentially expiring by the end of 2014, it wouldn’t be a bad currency to have.