I didn’t think I would be hitting this subject again this soon but the more I see, the more I feel a need to try to understand what I’m seeing, as well as try to explain my thoughts. Having been a baseball fan for nearly 35 years, and a White Sox fan for going on 30, I think I have some level of knowledge to be able to put forth my thoughts.
The first thing I want to cover is the amount of dishonesty I am noticing in the White Sox front office. All of which kind of surrounds the failed attempt to sign Manny Machado this past offseason. Let’s begin with the acquisitions the Sox did make.
Minor league outfielder Alex Call was traded to the Cleveland Indians for first baseman/DH Yonder Alonso, a journeyman in the truest sense of the word (Alonso has played for six teams in nine MLB seasons) and then free agent outfielder Jon Jay was signed. The front office insisted these were deals made to improve the team, not to sway Machado even though Alonso is his brother-in-law and Jay is a longtime friend. I was skeptical, to say the least.
Considering the fact that the White Sox could have kept Matt Davidson for less than $3 million while paying Alonso over $8 million was a clue to the disingenuousness of the acquisition. In addition to being a fan favorite, Davidson could also play third base in a pinch while also performing admirably on the mound as a pitcher in a few select outings. Jay, meanwhile, was 34 years old and was exactly the kind of player we had been told the White Sox would not be acquiring: Players past their prime who weren’t part of the future. Does anyone think Alonso and Jay will be here in 2020?
Rick Hahn was able to look people in the eye and say he did not acquire Alonso and Jay to help sway Machado into signing with the White Sox. Straight dishonesty. But that’s also not the only company line lie regarding the Machado failed chase.
Machado was offered a ten-year, $300 million contract, fully guaranteed, by the San Diego Padres, which, obviously, he took. We were told the White Sox offered him an eight-year, $250 million but somehow there would be incentives and options that would push it to a ten-year, $350 million deal. Kenny Williams pushed that aspect of the deal hard, “he could have made more money overall.” As well as per year. The per-year aspect is true, as he pulls down $30 million in San Diego he could have pulled down $31.5 million per in Chicago. The “more money overall” part, however, is quite misleading, and leads to another slight of mouth statement from the front office that I haven’t been able to grasp.
KW has said, point blank, that the White Sox “could not afford” to guarantee Machado ten years at $300 million but somehow it was feasible that they could have paid him $350 million over the life of the deal, incentives and options included. Now, I’m no Albert Einstein, but I’m pretty good at mathematics and last time I checked, $300 million is less than $350 million, so if you can’t afford to pay him $300 million, how could you afford $350 million?
Easy. Those options would never have been exercised and it would have remained much less money overall. We have never been told the exact makeup of the deal the White Sox offered, but I have surmised the incentives would have been of the ridiculous variety and the options would have been team options that the club could have declined.
And how can you put $100 million worth of incentives and options into a contract that totals $350 million? If I were a player, I wouldn’t even consider such a deal.
This takes us to our next point of dishonesty with this front office.
Things changed drastically during the 2019 offseason, with a large number of potential 2019 and 2020 free agents signing contract extensions with their current clubs. I am not laying the blame on this on the White Sox, as no one saw this coming. However, it did shoot a big hole in the company line of “we’re going to spend on free agents” because suddenly there’s a big lack of quality free agents hitting the street. When Machado signed with the Padres, the White Sox Universe immediately turned focus to Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, who then signed a $260 million extension with Colorado and took himself out of the mix.
Luckily, the White Sox were either forward-thinking enough (or lucky enough) to cover themselves, by drafting second baseman Nick Madrigal, and shifting Yoan Moncada to third base, they were able to eliminate their need for a major free-agent third base acquisition. And so far, the Moncada angle has worked out better than imagined.
However, the front office began pushing the company line that since free agency wasn’t going to work out going forward, the White Sox would acquire premium talent on the trade market. I literally laughed out loud when I heard this. This franchise is on a razor’s edge with this rebuild, pretty much every prospect has to make it. If you want to trade for premium talent, you have to trade premium prospects. Take pitcher Jose Quintana to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Dylan Cease (among others).
If the White Sox want to trade for premium talent, who do they part with? They can’t exactly trade Yolmer Sanchez and Adam Engel for Mike Trout. Value receives value. So in order to acquire premium talent, they have to cut a hole in the roster somewhere in order to fill one somewhere else. Or, they just fall into the Pittsburgh Pirate model.
Beginning in the early to mid 1990s, the Pittsburgh Pirates began a rebuild, and I lived through all 20 years of it. It wasn’t called a “rebuild” in those days, it was a “five year plan for contention.” They would lay out a plan for five years, based on acquisitions and maturity of prospects. Only, the Pirates never saw one all the way through. Three years in, they would blow it up, trade whatever they had of value, and start over.
That went on for 20 years. And that’s what I’m scared to death is going to happen with the White Sox. Once they realize there is a massive lack of depth in the organization, maybe they decide to trade Yoan Moncada, pick up three or four prospects to help fill in. Now you have a gaping hole at third base again. Maybe pitcher Lucas Giolito has really hit his stride and becomes one of the top pitchers in baseball, maybe the Sox better move him to acquire a third baseman to fill the Moncada hole. Now there’s a hole in the rotation.
This can literally go on indefinitely. If three of the top ten prospects develop, trade them and bring in nine new prospects. Now you’ve filled in some depth in the organization and maybe one of those will fill in the holes you just tore open. And once they develop into serviceable Major League players, you can trade them for prospects. And so on and so on.
I was all in on the rebuild and still am. Had we kept Sale and Quintana and Eaton and Frazier, chances are we would be in exactly the same place we are now, maybe with the same record. The past supports this. We wouldn’t have Moncada or Jimenez, instead of looking at 2020 and seeing Kopech and Cease we would be looking at “how are we going to replace Sale when he leaves?” There would be no light at the end of the tunnel.
At least this way, there is a possibility that this team can be a contender. The left side of the infield is set. Anderson at shortstop and Moncada at third base. Eventually Madrigal will take over at second with Jose Abreu at first. That should be a pretty solid infield. I imagine Jimenez will settle in at DH sooner or later. And that won’t be a bad thing.
The outfield and pitching staff is another matter, as is the catching situation.
While the White Sox have control over James McCann for at least another year via arbitration, they should just sign him to a long-term deal and let him mentor whoever makes it to the MLB level as our “catcher of the future.” As for the outfield, I imagine Luis Robert will settle into center field in the next couple of years, with some combination of young players flanking him (Micker Adolfo? Blake Rutherford?). That could make for a solid outfield.
I worry more about the pitching. Yes, there’s a lot of depth right now but hardly any of it is proven. While Giolito may have found his footing, I can’t see him being the ace of a staff with Kopech and Cease. Assuming they work out. Reynaldo Lopez is learning, and he has excellent stuff. Assuming Carlos Rondon comes back healthy, that’s probably your rotation going into 2021, when we are supposed to be legitimately contending.
Is there an absolute, guaranteed number-one ace starter in that group? I don’t know. Maybe Kopech. Maybe Cease. Maybe not. I guess time will tell.
I would love to see the Sox be able to acquire a legit ace, like Gerrit Cole of the Houston Astros, I know that the chances of that happening are beyond slim. But he would be a perfect fit at the front of the rotation, and he’ll be 29 years old when he hits free agency, a perfect age for a pitcher on a four or five-year deal to lead a staff.
But, in addition to the lack of money the club spends, there’s also the issue of the substandard coaching staff. I keep listening to pundits and scribes (and announcers) talk about the Houston Astros being the blueprint on rebuilding. And they’re right. They talk of the smart talent acquisitions, drafting well, especially in the later rounds and making the most of their down years. What they fail to mention is that the Astros fired manager Bo Porter right in the middle of their rebuild and then hired A.J. Hinch to take them over the top. The White Sox seem committed beyond reason to Ricky Renteria and his staff.
In the back of my mind I can’t help but think (and always have) that this is somehow the White Sox organization thumbing their collective nose at the Chicago Cubs.
“We’ll take the manager you didn’t want and win a World Series with him.” Well, let’s call a spade a spade, the Cubs didn’t want Renteria because a better option was available. Smart teams hire the best manager they can get. Except for the White Sox. When Terry Francona was available and could have been had, the White Sox hired Robin Ventura. When Joe Girardi was available and could have been had, the White Sox gave Renteria a contract extension coming off a 100-loss season. That’s not just stupid, it’s madness.
And that’s the part that scares me most about this rebuild, even if it is a complete success on the field, if every single prospect makes it, we have a coaching staff and a manager that is almost guaranteed to screw it up. I have heard for over a decade that Renteria is a “great teacher,” and maybe he is. But a great manager, he is not. Not even close.
I want to see this team win. I didn’t get to celebrate the 2005 World Series with anyone, I had to enjoy it completely alone, because here in the mountains of West Virginia I have no fellow White Sox fans, and at that point in 2005 social networking was in it’s infancy. It wasn’t until about 2008 that I really started networking online with other White Sox fans. And I have struggled right along with everyone else these past 11 years.
In my lifetime, the professional and college teams that I have followed (Pittsburgh Pirates, West Virginia Mountaineers, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, UCLA Bruins) have won a total of three championships. That’s including multiple sports on the college level. I didn’t get to “enjoy” the Bears 1985 Super Bowl title because I hadn’t started watching football. The 1995 UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team, the 2005 Chicago White Sox and the 2013 UCLA baseball team are the only titles I have witnessed.
That hurts. I can’t deny I am jealous of fans of the Yankees and Patriots and Lakers who got to watch their teams win multiple titles while I keep thinking “maybe next year.”
I’m ready to win. I’m tired of losing year in and year out, it’s been seven years since the White Sox had a winning season, 11 years since a playoff appearance. It’s time. The pieces may be in place. A new manager and staff could put it over the top in 2021.
Or, there could be a work stoppage and all of this will amount to exactly nothing. Anyone who was a White Sox (or Montreal Expos) fan in 1994 can remember what it was like to be so close and have it all just collapse in front of you. There is also the cloud of relocation hanging over this franchise once Jerry Reinsdorf decides to sell the team. He’s made a point of saying he doesn’t want to leave it to his family. I’m not a Portland White Sox fan. At that point I’ll either latch back onto the Pirates or look longingly at the Los Angeles Angels.
In conclusion, I’m not giving up on the rebuild but I’m also not about to believe everything that comes out of the mouths of Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams, because they have already proven themselves to be disingenuous. I’ll believe more in what I see on the field, in the dugout and in the clubhouse. The White Sox were supposed to show improvement this year and they are ahead of their 2018 pace. I still see a 72-90 record at the end of the year, a ten-game improvement over 2018. Another ten-game improvement in 2020 would bring them in at 82-80, a record over .500. Ten more in 2021 and you have a 92-70 team that would no doubt with the division and be a legit World Series contender.
So let’s get it done. Go Sox!
Thank you for taking the time to read. Peace.