I’m going to begin this piece by admitting that there’s a chance I could have been wrong in my preseason prediction that the Chicago White Sox would finish the season with a 72-90 record. Now, granted, it’s not even June yet, but the team is still showing signs of being more than competent at this point in the rebuild, as of today (May 30), the team is 26-29, in third place in the American League Central and two games behind the second-place Cleveland Indians, though 11.5 games behind the division-leading Minnesota Twins. Three games under .500, at this point, would have been a dream scenario.
At the time I made my prediction, I didn’t think 72-90 was out of line at all. That’s a ten-game improvement from 2018. That’s nothing to snicker at. That’s 76-win territory and 76 wins is just five games below .500. I could foresee a consistent ten-game improvement over this and the next couple of years. A 72-90 record in 2019 would be an 82-80 record in 2020 and you’ve got a ballclub over .500. Another ten game improvement in 2021 and you have a 90-72 record and, more than likely, an AL Central Division title.
If the 2019 team is currently on a pace to finish five games under .500, it would seem that this rebuild could be sped up a bit, and there are a few ways to do that.
Here is my five step plan to improving this team right now to finish .500:
Yonder Alonso should be designated for assignment immediately and Jon Jay should as soon as he is healthy. We know there was only one reason these two were signed in the first place, and that was to placate Manny Machado. Well, Manny didn’t sign. As of May 30, Alonso is hitting .172 with six home runs as the regular cleanup hitter for the Sox, while Jay hasn’t seen the field due to injury. The Sox passed on resigning Matt Davidson for less than $3 million to acquire Alonso and his $7 million salary. These two have brought nothing to the table this year and won’t be around next. Let’s expedite the process and send them packing now, which leads to my second point…
Call up Matt Skole or Daniel Palka from AAA Charlotte to replace Alonso. Both players have double digits in home runs and batting averages in the .260 to .270 range, 100 points higher than Alonso. They are both several years younger than Alonso and both left-handed hitters. And Palka can play a laughable outfield while Skole can also double at first or third base. Neither will be an MVP, but either would be an upgrade.
Call up Zack Collins and designate Welington Castillo for assignment. We have a legit All Star catcher in James McCann who should be getting the bulk of the work behind the plate. Castillo is a has-been whose best days are behind him. This is the time that Collins, the Sox catcher of the future, should be in Chicago, learning as a backup and getting two or three starts per week, while learning the intricacies of the position from one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, and one of the best handlers of pitchers as well. These are things a kid like Collins could be learning up close right now.
Call up Carson Fulmer and Dylan Cease from AAA Charlotte. Fulmer needs to be a long reliever and spot starter at the Major League level. That’s his future, if he remains in the organization, so he should be doing it NOW. Cease has breezed through the minors and needs to be working at the MLB level. The whole point of the rebuild was to acquire the young players to compete, so those young players should be learning at the highest level. What you do in AAA doesn’t make any difference in the long run.
Replace the coaching staff. While it may seem strange to make a change like that when the team is trending upward, it also happens with every rebuild. Two recent examples being the Houston Astros (in 2014 they fired Bo Porter after a 72-90 season and replaced him with A.J. Hinch, who lead them to an 86-76 record in 2015 and a World Series title in 2017 with a 101-61 record) and the Chicago Cubs (who fired Rick Renteria after a 73-89 season and replaced him with Joe Maddon, who lead them to a 97-65 record in 2015 and a World Series title in 2016 with a 103-58 record). Now would be a good time to allow Omar Vizquel to take over as manager and hire his own staff.
A lot of these moves are no-brainers. This would allow the youngsters to learn at the highest level, under a manager who was also learning. Do you want to wait until you’re on the cusp of contending to make these moves? Or do you want to allow everyone to learn while they are in a position to make mistakes and learn from them?
There is a lot of talent on this team. James McCann, Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez make a solid foundation to build upon. Add Skole and Palka and Collins and Fulmer and Cease to that group and it gets a lot better. What’s to be accomplished by keeping placeholders in the lineup?
I want to see this rebuild work and I want this team to win. I think this is the best way to achieve that at this point in the rebuild. And none of my ideas are completely ridiculous, like signing major free agents to contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. These are legitimate, common-sense changes that could make a huge difference.
Thank you for reading, and GO SOX!