Updated Thoughts On The 2020-21 Chicago White Sox Offseason

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 30: Yasmani Grandal #24 of the Chicago White Sox is congratulated by Jose Abreu #79 after Grandal hit a two-run home run against the Oakland Athletics during the eighth inning of Game Two of the American League Wild Card Round at RingCentral Coliseum on September 30, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

As a longtime Chicago White Sox fan, I can say this offseason has been quite a roller coaster ride. The disgust over the deciding third game of the 2020 American League Wild Card series against the A’s turned into absolute euphoria at the announcement that manager Rick Renteria and pitching coach Don Cooper had been relieved of their duties.

That quickly turned to surprise and confusion when general manager Rick Hahn did a 180 on his “what we’re looking for in a manager” talk, telling the press he wanted to hire a manager with recent championship experience, only to turn around and pass on the guy he was describing (A.J. Hinch) to bring back a nearly 80-year old Tony La Russa.

In turn, that negativity quickly turned around with the hiring of pitching coach Ethan Katz, who turned the career of Lucas Giolito around completely and will hopefully be the breath of fresh air the White Sox pitching staff has needed for five years or more.

While I really did think Hinch was the goal, I can live with La Russa for a couple of years managing the team because I know he’s well-schooled and one of the most successful managers in the history of the game. No one will out-manage him. But I do admit I’m worried about what comes after La Russa leaves the dugout, who will replace him.

As to the roster, I was never stupid enough to believe the White Sox would drop $30 million a year on Trevor Bauer, though I did think maybe there was a chance they would loosen the purse strings for George Springer, not at $30 million annually but maybe at or around $20 million. As it turns out, the purse strings are still quite taut, as instead of spending $30 million on one player, the White Sox will spend $15 million for two, acquiring starting pitcher Lance Lynn from the Texas Rangers and signing retread Adam Eaton as a free agent, with Lynn making $8 million in 2021 and Eaton pulling down $7 million.

So far, these are not the moves of a major market team gearing up for a championship run. These are the moves of a small market team who thinks they have enough in the tank to make a one-year run at a championship before it all comes crashing down.

Rick Hahn had said on numerous occasions that the White Sox would not be taking on “rentals,” or players with one year (or less, depending on when they were acquired) of control in exchange for younger talent that they had multiple years of control over. In a trade that reeks of Kenny Williams, the White Sox traded former Top 100 prospect Dane Dunning (who is basically under control until 2027, the last year he’ll be arb eligible) for ONE YEAR of Lance Lynn. And if Lynn goes out in his first Spring Training appearance and his elbow pops? The White Sox are just plain out of luck, without much depth behind him.

Big market championship teams have depth. They can overcome a serious injury and still make a run. If the White Sox were to lose one of their starting five, it’s anyone’s guess where they’re going to get a replacement. Pull Garrett Crochet out of the bullpen and stick him in the rotation to work 200 innings? To put that into perspective, in three years at the University of Tennessee, Crochet worked a total of 132 innings. Jonathan Stiever? He has worked a total of 173 minor league innings. Of course, there’s always Reynaldo Lopez.

After those three, there is literally nothing. A major injury would be a disaster. Two major injuries would cripple the franchise in 2021 and possibly beyond, especially if the injury turned out to be a Tommy John situation. These are dangerous waters.

There is also the back end of the White Sox bullpen, as they are rumored to be pursuing Oakland A’s closer Liam Hendriks (or at least the Chicago press is hoping they are) while the White Sox own closer for the past two years, Alex Colome, is also a free agent. While the smart money says they’ve GOT to bring one of those two in to close, there’s also the possibility that they hand the job to Aaron Bummer and his $3 million contract.

Again, this is what small market teams do, they make due with what they can.

The offense can be otherworldly, assuming catcher Yasmani Grandal doesn’t get injured, third baseman Yoan Moncada bounces back from COVID-19, Luis Robert makes adjustments from his poor final month of the season and Eaton shows his three year regression with the Nationals is a fluke rather than a trend (everyone already knows what I think).

Barring injury, there’s no reason this team can’t win the American League Central with the team they have. But one catastrophic injury, especially in the rotation, and their goose is cooked. I’m still hopeful of at least one more starting pitcher as well as one of the two closers mentioned earlier and maybe an extra outfielder who can split time with Eaton or Jimenez in the outfield and also spend time at DH. I think the perfect pick for that spot would be Michael Brantley, of the Houston Astros. A veteran and a winner, with a .297 career batting average, he could play a day or two a week in the outfield while Eaton or Jimenez serves as DH, and then DH himself while those two play the outfield.

This would also be good for top prospect Andrew Vaughn, who has never played above Class A and if he were handed the DH job with no safety net and failed, now you’ve got another hole in the lineup. Brantley would solve a lot of problems in one signing. You also can’t overestimate having a winning veteran in the clubhouse with a young team.

So at this point (December 18, 2020), I’m underwhelmed with the White Sox offseason so far. The bungled managerial hiring, trading seven years of Dane Dunning for one year of Lance Lynn and bringing back Adam Eaton were all poor decisions, but none of them should have lasting implications, as I doubt La Russa lasts more than two years in the dugout and Lynn and Eaton will both likely be gone in 2022, regardless of Eaton’s option.

However, a lot can be rectified by signing Brantley and either Colome or Hendriks, as well as another starter, preferably either Jose Quintana or James Paxton, who can fill in the back of the rotation, allow Dylan Cease to hold down the fifth spot as he works to regain his lost command, let Michael Kopech get himself back into game shape at AAA Charlotte after a full two years off and move Reynaldo Lopez into a swingman role as a long reliever and spot starter, a role I think he would excel in because he still has outstanding stuff.

Next year (2021) will mark 30 years I’ve been a Chicago White Sox fan, and while it’s been great to experience the 2005 World Series title and the division titles in 1993, 2000, 2005 and 2008 and the Wild Card appearance in 2020, that’s not much to show in 30 years. I’m hoping the 30 years going forward, and especially the next five or six, will exceed the previous 30, but this team needs to develop a winning attitude, not so much on the field as they do in the front office. So I’ll wait to see what happens between now and February before I make a final grade on the White Sox offseason. But there definitely needs to be some more improvement and it would still be cheaper overall than signing Trevor Bauer for $30 million.

Peace. And GO SOX!

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