2019 Chicago White Sox Wrap Up and Offseason Primer

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Well, here we are again, at the end of another losing season. The seventh in a row. But for the first time, I legitimately have a good feeling about the upcoming season. Now, clearly it’s too early to make any definitive predictions, since the postseason hasn’t even begun and no transactions will be made until after the World Series (and maybe even after the winter meetings, if last year is any indication of the future), but I’m going to do my best to gaze into the future based on what I hear and read from team sources and the Chicago press, as well as my own guesses culled from 30 years of following this franchise.

A lot of what I’m going to touch on will be taken directly from the end-of-season press conference with White Sox GM Rick Hahn, who, I assume, knows more about what’s going on within his own team than the fans who watch, so I will take his word about things that he is being, shall we say, “forceful” about. Because he is the man in charge.

Beginning with the coaching staff. I am not expecting much, if any, turnover. However, Hahn did make two statements that caught me off guard. First, he refused to say that the staff would remain intact. Second, he made a point of saying that this staff was built to foster player development. Which I found interesting considering that Don Cooper has been the pitching coach for 17 years and hitting coach Todd Steverson has been in his position since 2014. First base coach Daryl Boston has also been at his spot since 2013. So why these “player development” coaches were in place in 2016, for instance, I don’t know. I do, however, think that is giving Hahn some leeway to make some changes.

I do NOT, however, think that any of the previously mentioned coaches will be going anywhere. I had thought that, conceivably, third base coach Nick Capra could be moved elsewhere (he won’t be fired considering he’s been in the organization for well over 20 years as a coach and manager) to allow Birmingham Barons manager Omar Vizquel to have a spot on the MLB staff and, eventually, replace Rick Renteria. I now realize I was totally off on that because the Sox seem hellbent on allowing Renteria to manage as long as he wants to and Vizquel’s name has already been mentioned for the San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates managerial openings. It’s hard to keep a good manager secret.

So, if there is a move, I don’t know where it would be. I can’t imagine the Sox getting rid of Joe McEwing, who I believe has a future as a manager somewhere. Curt Hasler in the bullpen? I mean, the Sox let Bobby Thigpen go and no reason was given.

Now, on to the 2019 roster. There was some amazing growth, with Tim Anderson winning the American League batting title (.335 average) out of nowhere (after hitting a lackluster .240 last season) and Yoan Moncada (.315, 25 home runs, 79 RBI) and rookie Eloy Jimenez (.267, 31 home runs, 79 RBI) showing what they’re capable of doing in a full season.

Joe Abreu (.284, 33 home runs, an American League-leading 123 RBI) had an outstanding season, as did James McCann (.273, 18 home runs, 60 RBI), the two most-veteran players offensively. Both of whom I feel should be locked up with long-term contracts, as McCann will be a free agent following the 2020 season and Abreu will be in a month.

But there were also holes. Second base and right field and designated hitter. Second base seems to already have a superior replacement, with Nick Madrigal (.311, 4 home runs, 55 RBI, 35 stolen bases across three minor league levels) replacing all-glove, no bat Yolmer Sanchez (.252, 2 home runs, 43 RBI), especially with Yolmer about to hit around $6 million in salary for the 2020 season and better players (like Danny Mendick, who hit .282 overall with 19 home runs, 68 RBI and 19 stolen bases across AAA and at the MLB level) available to hold down second base until Madrigal is “ready” to take over in mid-April.

Right field was beyond awful, being manned by Daniel Palka (.107, 2 home runs, 4 RBI), Jon Jay (.267, 0 home runs, 9 RBI), Charlie Tilson (.229, 1 home run, 12 RBI) and Ryan Cordell (.221, 7 home runs, 24 RBI) during the season. An upgrade is badly needed.

Now we start to get into what’s available and what’s likely. Clearly, the biggest available name will be Mookie Betts, even though he’s not a free agent, he is expected to be traded and spend his final season before free agency somewhere other than Boston. That “somewhere” will definitely not be with the White Sox, as the cost in players wouldn’t be worth one season before he would invariably leave as a free agent for a $250 million deal elsewhere. Among free agents, there’s not much available in terms of guys who would “fit” the rebuild, though my choice (Yasiel Puig), does on every level. He hasn’t yet turned 29, he will not be cost-prohibitive, and his numbers (.267, 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 19 stolen bases) dwarf the combined numbers of 2019 Sox right fielders. Adding to that, he made $9.7 million in 2019, so even with a pay bump, he should fit right in. The fact that he would be on a team with a number of other Cuban players will help as well.

Then there are the right fielders I’m not fond of hearing about, including Kole Calhoun (.232, 33 home runs, 74 RBI), whom I believe benefited greatly from the juiced ball, as his previous three season totals in home runs were 19, 19 and 18, respectively, and he’s just about to turn 32. Also rumored regularly are Nick Castellanos (.289, 27 home runs, 73 RBI), Gerardo Parra (.234, 9 home runs, 48 RBI, about to turn 33) and our old buddy Avisail Garcia (.282, 20 home runs, 72 RBI) coming off a one-year deal with the Rays. Another good option in right is Corey Dickerson (.304, 12 home runs, 59 RBI) who played only 78 games in 2019 due to injury but won’t turn 31 until may and has a .286 career batting average.

I keep hearing and reading that potentially the Sox can trade for a right fielder, but this brings up two questions. First, who would they acquire and second, what would they send back in this hypothetical deal? Two things we know about the White Sox minor league system is that it is top heavy (outstanding top prospects and little depth) and injury-prone. And with the lack of depth on the MLB roster, the Sox can’t afford to be sending prospect packages out in trades because this rebuild has been razor thin from the start.

So, in a perfect world, the first move I make (outside of contract extensions for Jose Abreu and James McCann) is a four-year deal for Yasiel Puig to handle right field.

That leaves us with a pretty solid group in the field, with McCann behind the plate, an infield of Abreu at first, Madrigal at second, Anderson at shortstop and Moncada at third, and an outfield of Jimenez in left, Luis Robert (.328, 32 home runs, 92 RBI, 36 stolen bases and 108 runs scored across three minor league levels) in center and Puig in right. That is a group with power, speed and sufficient defensive ability assuming there is some improvement from Anderson and Jimenez and Robert is as advertised.

It’s here I want to bring up Anthony Rendon, who is mentioned pretty regularly as a possible target and it literally makes me angry to hear it. This would be signing a guy just to sign a guy, he doesn’t fit an area of need and there’s no logic to it. And I’m glad I waited until today to write this piece, because just a couple of hours ago I found out that the Washington Nationals had offered Rendon a seven-year contract for $215 million which instantly removes him from consideration because the word in the media is 100% unified that the Chicago White Sox won’t spend $200 million on a player. There may have been an offer to Manny Machado last year that in some way was in the ballpark of over $200 million and conceivably close to $250 million, but that was a once-in-a-lifetime offer. Machado was considered a legitimate franchise player, which Rendon is not. And the fact that signing Rendon would probably lead to Moncada moving back to second base, where he is not as comfortable and removing Madrigal from the equation entirely, makes absolutely no sense in any way. So I’m glad we know that offer is on the table from the Nats.

There is one offensive spot that I haven’t talked about yet, and that’s the DH spot, which was horrible last season, as White Sox designated hitters combined to hit .205 with 17 home runs. As everyone knows, the name that keeps coming up is J.D. Martinez (.304, 36 home runs, 105 RBI), who may opt out of his five-year, $110 million deal with the Red Sox.

At first, I was completely against this idea. But it’s starting to grow on me. The main reason I held my nose at the idea in the first place was Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche and Yonder Alonso, all of whom were signed to be the full-time DH and promptly fell flat on their faces. But now I’m figuring lighting can only strike in the same spot so many times, right? And Martinez is a better hitter than any of the three previous mistakes.

My big issue here is money. I heard on a recent White Sox Talk podcast that the White Sox should just offer him his current deal. OK, I’m not a genius, but even I know that there’s no point in opting out of a contract just to sign an identical deal. His only reason for opting out would be to improve on the deal he already has. So you can scratch five years at $110 million off and consider that below the going rate. Would the White Sox be willing to go five years and, say, $130 million for a designated hitter? Time will tell. Most people (fans especially) seem to think it’s a done deal, J.D. Martinez will be the White Sox DH on Opening Day. I’m warming up to it, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

The other options among guys who are regular DH’s isn’t exactly anything to get excited over, with Edwin Encarnacion (.244, 34 home runs, 86 RBI and about to turn 37) and Nelson Cruz (.311, 41 home runs, 108 RBI and about to turn 40) as the best of the rest.

While Cruz is an incredible slugger, his age clearly doesn’t fit in with the Sox timetable.

So, my choice here is spend the money, see if J.D. Martinez will sign for five years and $130 million and if not, the Sox may be stuck with a revolving door at DH again, with Abreu and Zack Collins and alternating between the spot, with Collins filling in at first base. I think if this turns out to be the plan, the Sox will need to acquire another catcher or hope that Yermin Mercedes or Seby Zavala can somehow hold down the fort for the season.

With Martinez, the Sox have an incredible lineup, assuming Robert and Madrigal play up to their potential and Moncada and Jimenez continue to improve. I’ll take that lineup against most any in baseball. Without Martinez, they still should score some runs.

But no matter how many runs you score, you still have to give up fewer, which brings us to the pitching staff. And before I even begin, Rick Hahn has said as much (and the press has clearly stated) forget Gerrit Cole, the Sox aren’t signing anyone to a $200 million contract and Scott Boras has already said that $200 million will be the opening bid. So the idea of the White Sox signing the best of the best at any position is a pipe dream.

That does not mean there are not some damn good starting pitchers available. My pick would be Zack Wheeler (11-8, 3.96 ERA, 195 K’s in 195 innings), who won’t turn 30 until May, and due to losing the 2015 and 2016 seasons to injury, he has less wear and tear on his arm (749 career innings) than most pitchers at his age. Other reasonable options include Jake Odorizzi (15-7, 3.51 ERA, 178 K’s in 159 innings) and Alex Wood, who is coming off an injury-plagued season of only seven starts but is only 28 years old and was a 16-game winner (and an All Star) as recently as 2017. Any of the three would be a rotation upgrade over Dylan Covey (6-29 career record, 6.54 career ERA) and the other losers who filled in the rotation last season outside of Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Ivan Nova and Reynaldo Lopez.

With Michael Kopech coming back in 2020, we can basically fill in a rotation spot with him, but Nova (11-12, 4.72 ERA, 114 K’s in 187 innings and lead the American League allowing 225 hits) is a free agent, so his spot will need filling, even if he resigns with the Sox.

I think a rotation of Wheeler, Giolito, Kopech, Lopez and Cease is solid and while it’s not at the level of the offense, I think in a couple of years that it could be outstanding.

As starting pitching goes, the name I hear consistently is Dallas Keuchel, and I didn’t like it last year and I don’t like it this year. He’s basically a .500 pitcher now, as he finished 8-8 with the playoff-bound Atlanta Braves and finished 12-11 with the playoff-bound Houston Astros in 2018. He’ll be 32 in January and he’s definitely not a top-of-the-rotation ace anymore, he’s more along the lines of a third or fourth starter, and definitely not worth three years and $60 million. Look how paying that kind of money worked out for the Philadelphia Phillies with Jake Arrieta, who cashed in with a three-year deal for $75 million and has since gone 18-19 with the Phillies, and he’s only a year older than Keuchel.

There’s not much to say about the bullpen, we know Alex Colome will be back in the closer role with Kelvin Herrera and Aaron Bummer representing the best of the rest. I’m hopeful Jimmy Cordero comes back, he was outstanding in 2019 and definitely deserves a spot, along with Evan Marshall. I hope we’ve seen the last of Covey, Ross Detwiler, Jace Fry and Carson Fulmer, as none of them are legit pieces of a playoff team’s pitching staff.

I have heard multiple times that one reliever the White Sox will be in on is Dellin Betances, in spite of the fact that he pitched in a total of one game in 2019 (pitching 2/3 of an inning with 2 K’s) but I’m not sure that’s the smartest move the Sox could make there.

Most of the available free agent relievers are in their mid-30s and probably won’t be around for any kind of long-term run. They’ll be signed and flipped if the Sox fall out of the playoff race in 2020, or replaced from within once the season ends next year.

So, the team I want to see is clear, as I mentioned above. But I am legitimately worried that one of two things could happen that will ruin the offseason, the first being that the Sox, desperate to show they “belong at the big boy table,” will blow their whole wad on Anthony Rendon, who doesn’t fill a need and just upsets the team at two positions and makes a former first-round pick (Madrigal) seem a waste (which rebuilding teams can’t afford to do a lot of) or they are going to play it cozy and we’ll hear “year four” all season and they’ll sign the likes of Drew Smyly for the rotation (4-7, 6.24 ERA, 120 K’s in 114 innings) and Lonnie Chisenhall (didn’t play a single MLB game in 2019) for right field. As a Sox fan, I am conditioned to expect that the team will lowball and try to find players who won’t make much money and probably won’t make much impact and hope to catch lighting in a bottle, as my good friend Paul Scarpelli says. But that rarely works.

So as of now, with the roster in the shape it’s in at this moment, I see a team that should finish 82-80 and probably eight to ten games out of the Wild Card chase. Bring in Wheeler and J.D. Martinez and Yasiel Puig and I think you have a team capable of 88 to 90 wins and a definitive Wild Card contender. This is, of course, barring injuries to any of the main contributors, because the Sox just don’t have the depth to cover a major injury. The fact that Dylan Covey has made 45 starts and made 60 appearances in three years shows just how bad the depth is in this organization. The Yankees can plug and play because they have outstanding talent and outstanding depth, the Sox lack that depth.

I’m excited about the 2020 season and beyond, because even though the White Sox will never compete for top free agents or ever draft exceptionally well, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a player like Luis Robert or Eloy Jimenez or even Yoan Moncada could be an MVP one day, and Giolito, Cease and Kopech could easily develop into consistent contenders for the Cy Young Award. The talent is here, it just needs to be supplemented with quality players who play positions of need. And they need to stay healthy.

I’ll blog again about this around the Winter Meetings, though I do worry that last year’s lack of activity may be an omen of things to come this year, especially with the possibility of a work stoppage looming in 2021, which would be the ultimate slap in the face to any Chicago White Sox fan after what happened during the last work stoppage in 1994. But we’ll worry about that when the time comes, for now, let’s look forward to the 2019-20 offseason.

Thank you for reading. And GO SOX!

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Jason J. Connor’s Chicago White Sox Update: July 18, 2019

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It’s been a while since I’ve given my blog the attention it deserves from a baseball standpoint because I’ve been too busy beating my own head against the wall. That will change from this point forward as I would like to put 100% into my blog and keep my life’s focus on the things that are important to me and forget the nonsense.

As I write this entry, the Chicago White Sox are mired in a seven-game losing streak, and not against what you would call “top flight” competition; a three game sweep at the hands of the Oakland A’s (at 55-41 a good bet to make a Wild Card run but nowhere close to being able to compete with teams like the Twins, Yankees and Astros), followed by a four-game sweep at the hands of the 36-62 Kansas City Royals, one of the three worst teams in baseball and the first time the Sox lost four in a row to KC in 25 years.

Since the All Star Break, the White Sox are 0-7 and have lost nine of their last ten overall.

A lot of things have been said about this team since January, some of which have been hushed up and replaced with different statements, and all of them bother me.

For example, early in the offseason, general manager Rick Hahn announced that this year we expected to see “results.” I assumed that meant in terms of the team’s record or in terms of the team’s play. Either/or. In spite of this current losing streak, the team is still ahead of it’s 2018 pace, but that pace was so horrible (62-100 record to end the season) that anything would be an improvement. There has been obvious improvement by a number of players (Jose Abreu and Lucas Giolito were both all stars and had equaled their output, in terms of home runs and wins, respectively, by mid-season).

But the team remains directionless due to their shortcomings in the manager’s chair.

This team is bound and determined to sink (or swim) with Ricky Renteria managing the team. I think his concept of “managing” is making up a different lineup every day regardless of what works and what doesn’t, and making as many pitching changes as possible. That is all that managing a baseball team requires, and he must be the best at it because the very idea of finding a better manager is spat upon by the front office.

Speaking of the front office, they have a bad habit of dishonesty, which I have touched on before. Friends of mine have argued with me that the rebuild had no timetable and I was quite certain there was a timetable for the White Sox rebuild, and announcer Steve Stone spilled the beans on a recent broadcast (and doubled down this afternoon) about the rebuild being a “five-year plan.” Since it started following the 2016 season, that means the rebuild will last until 2021 and the team is expected to be a World Series contender by 2022. OK, fair enough. They should have just said so in the beginning.

Instead, they put on a show about trying to acquire free agent infielder/superstar Manny Machado, down to trying to acquire him via trade from the Baltimore Orioles before he hit free agency. They traded for his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, and signed one of his best friends, Jon Jay, as a free agent. It turns out this was all a smokescreen. I don’t think they ever had any intention of making a legit offer to Machado. Let me explain.

Over the course of the winter, it was announced at one point the Sox had made Machado an offer of eight years, $175 million. This was quickly hushed up and it was announced that the offer was actually for eight years and $225 million. Either way it fell well short of the deal he signed with the Padres, both in years (10) and total compensation ($300 million). The White Sox weren’t even in the same ballpark with their ridiculous offer.

They tried to save face later on and explained that the deal “could have been” worth $350 million over ten years but that they could not afford $300 million over ten years.

Yes, I don’t get that either, other than the fact that the offer was more than likely eight years at $225 million (after he, no doubt, laughed in their face at the $175 million offer) and there may have been two option years valued at $125 million to make it seem that there was a “real” $350 million offer, but simply declining the “option” years would have left it at what it was at face value, far below the market price for a guy in Machado’s position.

So that was all a farce. They never had any intention of seriously pushing to acquire Machado. I’m not saying they didn’t want him, but they wanted him at their massive discount price, not at the price he ended up getting. And as for his brother-in-law (who has since been released), that was an $8 million mistake that I should have seen coming a mile away, because the White Sox declined to tender a $2 million contract to infielder/DH/pitcher Matt Davidson, and had made a point of not discussing his opportunities to pitch in 2019 because they knew all along he wouldn’t be back.

The next lie the front office laid out was they would not be acquiring anyone who didn’t fit into their vision of the future, yet they signed a 34-year old outfielder who can neither hit home runs or steal bases and is a bit of a liability in the outfield. Jon Jay.

Let’s stop being fanboys for a second and think about what this rebuild has meant to the bottom dollar for ownership. According to recent news, the White Sox are second in MLB in rising attendance, which means more money coming into the franchise. And the MLB roster is loaded down with guys making the minimum or there-about, with the exception of Jose Abreu who is the highest-paid player on the team by far.

The Pittsburgh Pirates taught me about that end of a rebuild, the more young players you have making the minimum, the less payroll you’re spending. Ownership likes that, especially if those young players pan out and more people want to go to the ballpark to watch them play. Then you trade them for other young players, making the minimum, when the players in question hit their salary arbitration years and are scheduled to make more money. In other words, acquire the best talent you can that is young enough to not be making much money. And you can do it in perpetuity and call it a “rebuild.”

After the Machado “chase” fell through, the fanboys started thinking who they could acquire with all that cash the team is suddenly flush with and the first name to come up was Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies, which made zero sense as he plays third base which is where Yoan Moncada is now set and he is supposed to be one of the pillars of the rebuild. I guess you could DH Arenado but he’s one of the best defensive players in baseball so that wouldn’t exactly make any sense, but it was a moot point because he signed a $260 million extension with the Rockies the White Sox couldn’t have even begun to afford, and I’m sure the Rockies got a hometown discount on him anyway.

Then Sox fanboys started dreaming of Washington Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon, the guy who will be at the top of the 2019-20 free agent listings. Who also plays third base and presents the same problems as Arenado, as he is negotiating a long-term deal with the Nats, plays third base and is defensively outstanding, as well as being far out of the White Sox contract comfort zone. So, another senseless waste of time.

The fact is, the White Sox fanboys aren’t interested in needs, they simply want a “Jon Lester acquisition.” This is in reference to Jon Lester being the star player the Chicago Cubs signed that put them over the top of their rebuild and lead them to a World Series title. What Sox fanboys fail to mention here is that (a) Lester was a need, as the Cubs starting rotation wasn’t top-notch without him and (b) he had a history with Cubs general manager Theo Epstein, which made his acquisition a lot less surprising.

If the White Sox are taking this rebuild seriously, they know their “Jon Lester acquisition” also needs to be a starting pitcher. The White Sox could have a killer lineup, but their pitching is suspect, to say the least. Both in the rotation and the bullpen. There are a ton of “what if’s” and very little actual production. The lineup is showing actual production, from James McCann and Jose Abreu to Yoan Moncada to Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez (when they’re healthy) and some of the legit hole-pluggers in the minors (Luis Robert in center field and Nick Madrigal at second base) could be legit superstars.

The lineup is not the problem. The pitching staff in total is the problem.

The only starting pitcher in this organization to win more than 15 games at the MLB level is Ivan Nova, who is a one-season stopgap and who won 16 games for the New York Yankees back in 2011. He hasn’t won more than 12 games in a season since.

Adding to the lack of production is the insane number of injuries White Sox organizational pitchers have endured in the past couple of years. Those injuries not only can ruin a career, but they’re losing valuable time and experience. And that will hurt.

I am all for this rebuild and I got really tired of the 70 to 78 win seasons, year in and year out with no hope for the future. Now there is hope for the future, even if that future is guaranteed to end by 2027 because all the young prospects will be hitting salary arbitration or free agency in that general time frame and at that point, it’s gonna get ugly again. And this is all assuming there’s no work stoppage in 2021.

I would like to see the team stay the course but begin by upgrading the coaching staff. The only guy on this staff that doesn’t annoy me is Daryl Boston, the first base coach. Everyone else should be replaced by more competent coaches who can teach these kids how to play instead of “here is our 150th different lineup in 150 games… Go up and try to hit a home run every at-bat… I think I’ll burn through the bullpen tonight and worry about the ramifications of it later” kind of bullshit. Because clearly, that ain’t working.

I would like to see all of the top prospects called up within the next year, not to be optioned back down in a week, but to learn at the MLB level and see if the talent matches the forecast. This will not only help in talent evaluation for the players themselves, but also to see where the holes are that will require future free agent signings or trades.

Jon Jay should follow Yonder Alonso out of town and a young player should be getting evaluated in his place. Is Jon Jay going to be with the White Sox in 2022? For that matter, I would guess he’ll be retired by 2022. His spot on the roster is being taken by a guy who has no future with this team. Send him packing and call up a youngster and see if he, in fact, has a future with this team. And I know fanboys will cry about service time and the fact that the team can’t manipulate it if they call the kids up too early.

Too bad. This isn’t a typical situation like most of the other teams are dealing with. And the White Sox have been smart in locking up their young players with long-term, “cheap” contracts that eliminate the worry about things like service time.

Back in the 1990s and 2000s I can remember Jerry Reinsdorf talking about managers or general managers who could take the team from point A, to point, B to point C, with point C being a championship. I wish he would go back and think about that, because there is no doubt in my mind at all that Ricky Renteria is not gonna take this team to point C.

As I said earlier, this may ultimately come to nothing, if there’s a 2021 work stoppage it may cripple this franchise like it did in 1994, though the current franchise has a lot more depth in the minor leagues than the franchise did in 1994, it still took six years for them to redevelop into a contender (2000 AL Central champions) and 11 years to redevelop into a championship team (2005 World Series champions). I don’t think any of us want to sit through a five-year rebuild and have to wait for 2030 for a championship win.

Right now this team should be talented enough to avoid a four-game sweep by one of the worst teams in baseball but that’s clearly not the case. With a series against a really solid Tampa Bay Rays team coming up this weekend, things don’t look good for the streak being broken any time soon. They say this kind of thing builds character, but how much character does a young team need at this point in it’s development? They need to learn to WIN.

I stick by my projection I made seven months ago, this team will finish the year 72-90. That will mean a long and difficult second half, but it will also mean a ten-game improvement from 2018 and that’s nothing to snicker at. Next season, if Michael Kopech delivers and Dylan Cease develops and Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert turn out to be all they are advertised this will be a .500 team and that would be another ten-game improvement. Then if Carlos Rodon comes back fully in 2021 and Nick Madrigal locks down second base and the Sox get their “Jon Lester acquisition,” another ten-win improvement and you have a team with 90+ wins and probably another AL Central Division championship.

It’s there for the taking, but everything has to work out and a managerial change is absolutely necessary. I have no doubt about that. But it’s gonna take some work besides. Yes, I’m annoyed at the current state of affairs, anyone who is a fan would be annoyed at a seven-game losing streak that is not against the best of the best, but it is hopefully just a blip on the radar and nothing more, and things will continue to improve on a year-by-year basis. The foundation is in place, it just needs to work out all the way down the line.

Thank you for taking the time to read. Peace.

Five Changes I Would Make Immediately As General Manager Of The Chicago White Sox

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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!

More Thoughts On The Chicago White Sox

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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.

Updated Thoughts On The Chicago White Sox Rebuild

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I could have probably found a happier time to jump into this than during a losing streak but that’s where we are. I guess it’s better just to get it out of the way.

Let’s begin by remembering what we were told during the offseason, and I don’t mean the mistruths about how the Sox were going to be a big-time player in free agency. Admittedly, not all of that was the fault of the White Sox organization, as free agency has completely changed and the rug may have been pulled out from under the Sox.

I can’t count the number of times I heard Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and even talking heads like Chuck Garfien have reminded us, the fans, that 2018 was rock bottom. It was all uphill from there. That was the worst of the worst. A 100 loss season, it would get better from there. There would be real improvement during the 2019 season.

Well, here we are. Ten games in, the White Sox have the worst ERA in Major League Baseball. The starting rotation is worse now than at any point last season, and the bullpen is already overworked only 90 innings into the season. Ouch.

Amazingly, the offense ranks 15th in batting average, right in the middle. In spite of the horrible starts by Welington Castillo and Yolmer Sanchez and the ungodly bad opening to the season by Daniel Palka. That’s 1/3 of the starting nine. Of course, if you take the incredible numbers that Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada have put up out of the equation, suddenly the Sox drop to near the bottom of the league in offense.

And, of course, we can’t overlook the coaching staff. Rick Renteria is in completely over his head, Don Cooper lost his “magic touch” a decade ago and Todd Steverson never had one to begin with. But, as we know, there’s little accountability on this team. Never has been. The last manager to actually be “fired” was Jerry Manuel, in 2003.

Coop has been in the organization since 1988, for some reason. But, even if the White Sox were to end the season with the worst ERA in baseball, it doesn’t matter. We learned that last year when the White Sox set a record for strikeouts in a season by hitters and looked lost at the plate most of the time, unable to make adjustments or do anything to help themselves at the plate. Doesn’t matter, Steverson is still there.

Since the day he was hired, I have wondered how much actual due diligence the White Sox did before hiring Rick Renteria. I still think this was a move made to “get one over” on the Cubs, figuring how cool it would seem when the White Sox rebuild was complete and they won four straight World Series titles with a manger they filched from the Cubs. Except they didn’t, because the Cubs didn’t want him, they hired a better manager.

From where I’m sitting, Renteria has a credibility problem. He’s out here trying to lead a team of youngsters, but he’s pushing 60 and has no body of work to earn the respect of these players. If I were running a rebuild, I would either hire a manager who is closer in age to these kids, or find an older manager who has had some on-field success and let him use that to impress these players. Renteria fits neither of these prerequisites.

Renteria built a reputation as being a “good teacher” and, while he may be, I have seen no proof of that and what does that have to do with being a good field manager?

I’m also tired of the old “he’s never had any talent on the team’s he’s managed” nonsense. How much actual “talent” was on the 2005 Chicago White Sox? Yeah, there were 4 All Stars on that team but none of them are Hall Of Fame players and Scott Podsednik was a fan vote selection. Even Barack Obama, as a state senator from Illinois, recognized the club on the senate floor while announcing there were no “superstars” on the team.

Yet they won the World Series without a team full of great players. Great players do not a great team make. A good team can beat a great team if they outplay them strategically and are lead by a manager who knows what he is doing, at least sometimes.

The 2019 Chicago White Sox will be lucky to win a series this year against anyone. When the bullpen has been completely overworked ten games into the season with a number of built-in off days, it makes you wonder what’s going to happen when the team plays seven weeks straight with two built-in off days. I think it may get even uglier.

A large part of my apprehension with the rebuild is the fact that I watched the Pittsburgh Pirates “rebuild” from 1993 to sometime around 2007. Back then, it wasn’t referred to as a straight “rebuild” but as a “five-year plan to contend.” So the Pirates cleaned house and started rebuilding with youngsters. After three years some of those youngsters reached the Major League level and produced, and were promptly traded for prospects and the “five-year plan” was rebooted and started over. And again, prospects came up, produced and were traded and the plan was reset. This went on for years. I lived it.

Can that happen in this day and age? Yes, absolutely. Because we, as fans, have been conditioned to accept five years of losing for the hope of three years of contending before it has to be blown up and rebuilt again. The White Sox are not the Yankees or Dodgers or teams that can just contend for 25 years at a time before having to reload.

Suppose next offseason Rick Hahn, KW and the brain-trust decides that the team is short of Minor League talent and maybe it would be a good time to trade Tim Anderson while his value is high for three or four prospects. Then, maybe Yoan Moncada. “Yeah, we’ll push our window back a few years but we’ll score six or eight prospects and only lose two players in the process.” The Pirates pulled that for an entire generation.

There is also the fact that there is no accountability with this franchise.

Robin Ventura managed out his contract in spite of the fact that he was completely in over his head and had no managerial ability whatsoever. Rick Renteria has never had a winning season anywhere other than the minor leagues a decade ago but he’s still managing at the Major League level. Todd Steverson’s career achievement is the single-season strikeout record, but he’s still there. The pitching staff is awful, but Coop’s still employed. So what does it take to actually get fired? Maybe the White Sox would consider relieving Renteria of his duties if they could sign Joe Maddon and get one over on the Cubs again?

It’s legitimately tough being a White Sox fan, especially at times like these.

Then there’s the possibility of a work stoppage and the ever-present danger of the club moving after Jerry Reinsdorf either passes away or sells the team.

At that point, I would be out. I’m not following the team if they move to Portland or Las Vegas or Montreal. I would probably just quit watching baseball altogether and go back to watching college football and basketball and forget about baseball. Of course, there’s a good chance that may happen anyway if there’s a work stoppage in 2021.

Do I still have faith in the rebuild? Yes. I trust the process and I think it was well done. But it was well done under the idea that we would sprinkle in some free agents at the spots that the prospects didn’t develop, and that’s looking increasingly unlikely with the large number of stars who are signing contract extensions. Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn like to remind us that we have the option of trading prospects for established players, but where do you dig that hole in order to fill in another one? Team’s don’t want to trade for bust prospects or guys who haven’t reached the MLB level and they’re pushing 30.

As I have said, this rebuild was conceived on a razors edge, unless 80% of the prospects pan out, there are going to be holes on the roster that could sink the team going forward. And this comes two years after Rick Hahn said he expected “25%” of the Sox prospects to become full-time MLB contributors. The Sox can’t afford that. They don’t have the ability to fill in all those holes, and they don’t have the talent to reset the rebuild.

So, we’ll spend the next five months seeing what happens. I’m not changing my preseason prediction, I think this team will finish 72-90 and ahead of the Tigers and Royals in the AL Central. While that may not seem like much, it’s an improvement of ten games over the 2018 “rock bottom” season. Of course, it’s not out of the question this team could lose 115 games and what the end result of that would be, I don’t know.

Hopefully the team will go into New York on Friday evening and look better than they did in Chicago against the Rays. But I don’t think I’m gonna hold my breath.

We’ll see.

Peace.

The Chicago White Sox 2018-19 Offseason, Part II

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Let me preface this piece by saying this has to be one of the most boring offseasons in history. I can remember around 25 years ago when things would really pop at the Winter Meetings, days of trades and signings, surprise moves and lots to talk about. I spent more time yawning than talking about the Winter Meetings in 2018.

It’s January 2 as of this writing and the Chicago White Sox offseason moves are as follows:

– Signed pitcher Evan Marshall to a minor league contract with a Spring Training invitation.

– Traded for pitcher Manny Banuelos from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

– Traded catcher Omar Narvaez to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Alex Colome.

– Non-tendered IF Matt Davidson and OF Avisail Garcia.

– Traded for pitcher Ivan Nova from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

– Traded for 1B Yonder Alonso from the Cleveland Indians.

– Signed catcher James McCann, who was non-tendered by the Detroit Tigers

That is the sum total of the White Sox offseason so far. Now, I know a lot of people legitimately believe the Sox are going to sign either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, that they are going to put a ten-year, $350 million – $400 million offer on the table and one of the two of them will accept, and then we’re set at third base or right field for the next ten years. I have a multitude of issues with that on several levels.

First is the obvious, this team doesn’t spend that kind of money. Ever. After all, the White Sox could have had Babe Ruth but elected to lowball the Red Sox and he ended up with the New York Yankees, so this isn’t an organization known for liberal spending. And, as has been brought up numerous times in the media, the largest contract the team has ever handed out was six years and $68 million to Jose Abreu prior to the 2014 season.

Second, we have two guys here who have never won. Both have played on solid teams in the past, but neither has won a ring, and in fact in their combined 14 years at the MLB level, they have made one World Series appearance, Machado last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. So they have not known a lot of success.

Yes, I know the most important thing to them is their wallet, but does anyone really believe that (a) the White Sox of all teams will have the largest contract offer, either overall or AAV, or (b) that the White Sox window of opportunity for winning will last any longer than, say, 2026? This is when several of the prospects will be hitting free agency, so there’s a pretty solid chance that in 2027 the team will begin to rebuild again.

More importantly, neither Harper or Machado is a pitcher, and the White Sox have a black hole in the bullpen and at least one opening in the starting rotation. If the season began today, the rotation would consist of Carlos Rodon, Ivan Nova, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Dylan Covey. While Giolito and Covey will more than likely have ERA’s over 5.00 by the end of 2019, Rodon is a good bet to have at least one trip to the disabled list. That leaves two pitchers that we should be absolutely able to count on in the rotation. And this is assuming the White Sox don’t offer James Shields a minor league deal and an invitation to Spring Training, which I said months ago I expected without question.

The bullpen looks worse. While there may be a legitimate closer for the first time in a long time (and I don’t consider David Robinson a “great” closer, by any stretch) in Alex Colome, getting a lead to him may be a problem with that rotation and a bullpen that lacks arms, beyond a guaranteed-to-get-hurt Nate Jones and a solid Jace Fry.

The White Sox will play their yearly game of picking up scraps from the garbage dump and plugging them into the bullpen in the hopes one will pitch to some level of decency and he can be flipped to a contender at the trade deadline.

One of the main problems I see with this franchise is that someone in the front office, or maybe everyone, thinks that putting together an offer for Harper or Machado is somehow a “win.” Like somehow you get a consolation prize when Machado goes to the New York Yankees and Harper goes back to the Washington Nationals.

No one cares who finished second in these free agent chases. I direct your attention to 2016, when the White Sox were the “clear favorites” to sign OF Yoenis Cespedes as a free agent. Of course, he resigned with the New York Mets for $110 million over four years and the White Sox were blown out of the water. This time is no different.

As much fun as it may be to sit and hope that either Harper or Machado will decide that they’re willing to play for half what they think they’re worth and they’re willing to play on losing teams for five years out of a ten-year deal, assuming all the prospects the Sox have collected pan out and they can contend from 2022 to 2026, I prefer to take a more intelligent approach and wonder what happens when they DON’T sign with the White Sox, because there has to be a plan B on the table in Rick Hahn’s office.

Or Kenny Williams’ office, you know, whoever is running this team, for real.

Do you feel comfortable heading into 2019 with the rotation mentioned above? Do you not worry about the bullpen arms evaporating and going elsewhere before you have a chance to sign them, or do you just bring up fringe prospects from Charlotte to fill out the bullpen until you find an arm to plug in? An outfield of Leury Garcia, Adam Engel and Daniel Palka, with Nicky Delmonico filling in as needed? The only upgrades this team has made will make no difference once they start contending, as Nova is a huge upgrade over James Shields (I guarantee that Ivan Nova’s 2019 season will exceed James Shields’ 2018 season in every measurable category so long as he stays injury-free this season) and Yonder Alonso is a huge upgrade over Matt Davidson. But neither will be here in 2022.

And I still think Alonso was acquired as an enticement to Machado.

So, we wait. Eventually Machado will sign with the Yankees and Harper will return to the Nationals or may sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then the White Sox will announce that they made “significant” offers to both. No one will care, the lack of bullpen arms will remain, the lackluster rotation will remain, the lack of offense from the outfield will remain and another 100 loss season will be in the cards.

And then the press will begin (actually, have already begun) to tout the 2019 free agent class, and how much better it will be for the White Sox than Harper or Machado. The three names I see most often are Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole and our old buddy, Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale.

Next offseason will be just like this one, as the White Sox are on the outside looking in as those three and many others sign (or resign) elsewhere. Hopefully, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Dylan Cease will join the Sox at some point in 2019 and make a smooth transition to the big leagues and become solid contributors, which will help the lack of free agent signings and take some of the sting out of that situation.

The bottom line is this team isn’t very good, and even if everything breaks right, they’re not going to be good for a couple or three years, and once they are good, they’re only going to be good for about a five year window, before these youngsters hit salary arbitration and, eventually, free agency. That’s the problem with a rebuild and bringing in a large number of prospects, it’s guaranteed to fizzle out after five to seven years.

So if I were Machado or Harper (or Arenado or Cole or Sale) I would want to go to (or stay with) a team that has had consistent success over a long period of time. If we look at the White Sox from 2012 to, say, 2029, which would be the third year of a potential second rebuild, and we’ll say they’ll be a juggernaut from 2022 to 2026, that would leave them with 12 losing seasons out of 18. I wouldn’t call that sustained success.

I don’t think the White Sox will be looked at as a front runner in free agency until 2023, once the prospects are called up and they have had at least one season of legitimate, on-field success, along with replacing manager Rick Renteria, who is not the second coming of Tony La Russa no mater how you slice it. Renteria’s star was rising a decade ago, and he’s done nothing since to enhance it or show he’s at all capable.

As we’re now down to the final six weeks of the offseason before Spring Training, maybe the White Sox will bring Shields back on a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite and a $3 million MLB salary, or maybe a Francisco Liriano or a Marco Estrada on a one-year deal to hold a spot for Michael Kopech, and maybe a John Axford or a Brad Boxberger or a Brandon Maurer for the bullpen with hopes of flipping a formerly successful pitcher into a minor leaguer at the trading deadline. That’s about the best we can expect.

I honestly wonder if the Machado/Harper “chase” is just a way of laying off free agency until most of the big money players are off the table (like Adam Ottovino, who would be a great addition but I’m sure the three years and $30 million are more than the Sox want to pay for a 7th or 8th inning guy) and then the Sox can sign whatever is left over at bargain prices and blame their lack of spending on Harper and Machado.

Now, I’m not saying I want them to spend without reason, I don’t want to see Dallas Keuchel in Chicago under any circumstances. But there’s no reason the White Sox couldn’t have taken Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp off the Dodgers hands instead of the Reds. Kemp could have filled in at DH this year (he’s a free agent after the season) and Puig could have been a fixture in right field for the next five years, or even through the entire contending process. And probably at 1/5 the price of signing Bryce Harper. Or pretending to try.

In closing, I’d like to say the White Sox can surprise me and make a really great move this offseason and next and build a team that can be competitive immediately, but as a fan of this sport for more than 30 years, I’ve seen enough to know how this movie ends.

Thank you for taking the time to read, and I’ll probably post a final piece about the offseason the second week of February, prior to teams reporting for Spring Training. We should have a much better picture of what we’re dealing with by that point, and I doubt it’s going to be a whole lot different than what we’re dealing with right now.

I hope I’m wrong. But I rarely am.

God bless.

The Chicago White Sox 2018-19 Offseason, Part I

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With news of the Chicago White Sox decision to extend the contract of manager Ricky Renteria yesterday (November 6), I decided I would do a two, or three-part series of blogs on my thoughts about the 2019 offseason.

Naturally, I am disturbed by the first major decision and question it.

Someone, somewhere, once thought Rick Renteria was a good manager. I’m not sure how they came about that opinion, because his record as a manger (264-384, a .407 winning percentage) would get him fired from any other job in the league, let alone his inability to handle a bullpen (who else wears their bullpen out in the first game of a series?) and write out a sensible lineup every day?

The White Sox front office is still living under the delusion that they pulled something over on the Chicago Cubs when they hired Ricky after he had been fired by the Cubs to make room for Joe Maddon, who is clearly superior to Ricky in every phase of managing a baseball club. That’s not even debatable.

So, the Sox extend their clueless manager. That’s the first step to guaranteeing that the better free agents are not going to want to sign with you. That’s not the kind of move a winning organization makes. And regardless of who wants to fight about it, nothing this team has done yet in this rebuild has actually paid off.

Yoan Moncada was supposed to be a superstar. Some of the preseason baseball literature actually had him winning Rookie Of The Year in 2017 and being an All Star in 2018. Instead, he’s carrying around a .234 career batting average and striking out once every three at-bats, while looking disinterested in the field.

Then there’s Michael Kopech, who looked outstanding overall in four starts despite a 5.02 ERA. In 14 innings, he struck out 15 and walked two. But all that is meaningless because Tommy John surgery has put him on the shelf until 2020.

None of the other prospects, whether it be Dylan Cease or Eloy Jimenez or Micker Adolfo or our 2018 #1 Draft Pick Nick Madrigal has done anything at the MLB level. And with Moncada looking like an overrated bust, who is to say any of the other youngsters won’t turn out the same way in the long run?

No rebuild is guaranteed. Ask the Pittsburgh Pirates.

So, now the White Sox are blowing smoke about being in the running for major free agents. Sometimes I fall in and think anything is possible. Then I remember how this team operates. The largest contract ever given out was a six-year, $68 million deal to Jose Abreu, who has been worth every penny, no doubt.

In my mind, I see free agent targets Manny Machado and Bryce Harper signing ten or 12-year deals for over $350 million elsewhere as Rick Hahn announces that the White Sox made a “very competitive bid” but won’t elaborate.

Behind closed doors, those offers were in the six-year, $75 million range.

Then, to prove that the team isn’t tanking in free agent negotiations, Hahn offers someone like pitcher Dallas Keuchel a monster deal (three years, $60 million) and badly overpays just to show that the Sox will spend money.

While Hahn acts like a schoolboy trying to impress the girls, most of the baseball press has already figured this team out, and I have read on a number of sights that the best bet for a White Sox free agent signee is pitcher Anibal Sanchez.

Sanchez had a career revival last year with the Atlanta Braves, compiling a 2.83 ERA in 136.2 innings with 135 strikeouts and 42 walks, he certainly isn’t the franchise-defining free agent signing that Hahn is trying to fool us into believing is just around the corner. Sanchez will be 35 in 2019, and no part of a contending team, assuming the Sox are able to actually put together a contending team.

If I were running the White Sox, my first move would be to trade for Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, whom I sincerely believe is the Carlton Fisk of this generation. His 2018 season (.274, 21 home runs, 74 RBI, All Star) dwarfs anything any White Sox catcher has done since A.J. Pierzynski. And there is no question that catcher is the most important position on the field. At least, there shouldn’t be.  I would give the Marlins whatever they want, short of Jimenez, in terms of a three or four-player deal and then sign Realmuto to a long-term contract.  Not a second thought.

But, the Sox are happy to get by with Omar Narvaez, who is a solid hitter but lacks any kind of real defensive prowess behind the plate, along with journeyman cheater Welington Castillo, while waiting for top catching “prospect” Zack Collins (who has a .232 career minor league batting average while only working his way up to the AA level) to develop into a guy that can actually hit in spite of his subpar defense.

I would sign Jose Abreu to a contract extension. He’s the only guy on this team over the past several years who has produced any kind of quality numbers. Yes, 2018 was an injury-plagued season, but his injuries certainly were not typical “wear and tear” injuries that guys suffer, and he still hit .265 with 22 home runs and 78 RBI.

As for free agency, there are clearly some holes on this team, starting with third base. I like Yolmer Sanchez as much as the next guy, but .242 with eight home runs and 55 RBI isn’t going to cut it at the hot corner. That’s always been one of the traditional power spots, unless you had a once-in-a-generation hitter like Wade Boggs. Yolmer is no Wade Boggs. He’s a good little utility player. Nothing more.

As free agency goes, Mike Moustakas is clearly the best third baseman available, coming off a season of 28 home runs and 95 RBI split between Kansas City and Milwaukee. Here is a guy with four 20+ home run seasons in the past six years and is not even a blip on the White Sox radar. Why? Because Jake Burger is the answer?

The outfield is also a sore spot, but I don’t see a lot being done there, with the expected promotion of uber-prospect Jimenez likely in April and the eventual promotion of Luis Robert to play CF. More than likely, a utility OF who can handle all three spots will be about as far as the White Sox go. They may want you to think that Bryce Harper is on the radar, but take my word for it, he isn’t going to sign for six years and $75 million when someone else will offer him four times that.

The pitching staff is where I expect most of the “action” to take place, much like last year and the year before. Several down-on-their-luck relief pitchers will sign and the Sox will try to flip them at the deadline for some borderline talent.

I sincerely doubt that one move the team makes this offseason will have any impact whatsoever on the roster once the team is competitive. I suspect Hahn will sign stopgap players again just to get through to 2020 when Kopech returns, and hope that Cease develops into a reliable starter and then the team can consider trying to fill holes with players who are a little more Bryce Harper than Melky Cabrera.

Which brings me to next offseason. If this offseason plays out as I think it will (i.e. exactly like last offseason) then there will be a drumbeat to sign third baseman Nolan Arenado. That’s assuming he even reaches free agency, as the Rockies are already rumored to be trying to sign him before he reaches the market.

As of tonight (November 7) the big name flying as a potential White Sox free agent target is pitcher J.A. Happ. Happ is coming off a 17-win season split between the Yankees and Blue Jays, and I’m not quite sure why anyone sees him signing with the White Sox. He should be able to turn that solid season into a nice payday with a contending team. But I’ll leave that for the “experts” to explain.

The more I look at the list of free agents, the more I realize the White Sox are in a state of purgatory. Even pretending to pay top dollar for a player on the wrong side of 30 makes no sense because this team isn’t going to be contending for at least a couple of more years. I think a run at a Wild Card spot in 2021 is their best bet.

But attempting to sign a young player like Harper or Machado makes little sense, as players of that caliber have been adding opt-outs to their contracts which lets them get out of a long-term deal after three years if they so desire. The upshot of that is if the Sox sign them before 2019, they can hit the market again after 2021.

Having said all of this, I’m willing to set back and let Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf prove me wrong. I sincerely hope they do. But coming out to the press and announcing a “competitive offer” isn’t going to fool anyone. If you want to impress me, make Machado a 10-year, $350 million deal and make it public knowledge. Then, if he declines, the fan base can say “they tried.”

But make those kinds of offers to the players who really deserve it, don’t overpay an over-the-hill pitcher twice what’s he is worth just to show that you are willing to spend money. And that is what I am most afraid is going to happen.

I’ll write another entry on this subject after the MLB Winter Meetings are held in Las Vegas, December 9 through December 13. I don’t expect any major happenings between now and then, but, who knows. In the meantime, this is how I see it playing out and if something unforeseen happens, I’ll address it.

Thank you for reading and GO SOX!