SAYING GOODBYE TO TONY LA RUSSA… … AND AN EARLY “HELLO” TO THE WHITE SOX NEXT MANAGER, WILLIE HARRIS (AND WHY)

To say the 2022 season has been disappointing would be an understatement of epic proportions. This is easily the sorriest season I’ve seen in 31 years of being a Chicago White Sox fan. Supposedly, help is on the way. But I’m very skeptical.

I don’t have any faith in the White Sox, due to the constant mistakes the club has made since the 2016 rebuild began.

One of the biggest mistakes the organization made was hiring Tony La Russa as the team’s manager prior to the 2021 season. La Russa had been retired as a manager since 2011, and it showed in his poor decision making. The Sox were able to overcome those shortcomings with talent in 2021, winning 93 games and the American League Central Division title.

Fast forward one year and the talent just couldn’t carry the team anymore and they’ll likely finish right around .500 in a year they were considered to be a World Series contender.

As of today (October 3, 2022) La Russa is now officially out as manager of the White Sox. While the decision for La Russa to leave was based on some medical issues (one being a pacemaker and the other La Russa refused to elaborate on), everyone agrees that retirement is the best thing for both La Russa and the organization.

Now, that brings us to his potential replacements.

Some ridiculous names have been thrown around (as usual, a number of former Sox players like A.J. Pierzynski, Jim Thome and Paul Konerko, none of whom have any on-field coaching or managing experience). I’m hopeful the White Sox remember the Robin Ventura era and don’t repeat the mistake of hiring a first-time manager with no experience.

A number of bench coaches and base coaches are being considered, including Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro, and Indians, er, Guardians first base coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. Former MLB managers Bruce Bochy and Fredi Gonzalez have also been mentioned.

But the name I keep hearing that fits all the boxes this organization likes to check is Chicago Cubs third base coach Willie Harris.

Former White Sox player? Check. Pulling a fast one on the Cubs? Check. Would make less money than any other potential manager? Check.

The White Sox haven’t hired a manager who didn’t have any White Sox connections since Jerry Manuel, who was hired in 1998. In 2004, the Sox hired former Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen as manager. In 2012, Ozzie’s former teammate Robin Ventura was hired. In 2017, Ventura’s bench coach, Ricky Renteria was hired, followed by La Russa.

No other team in baseball has such a track record. Most teams hire the best available option, the White Sox hire the best available option who has played for or coached for the team at some point in the past.

While Thome, Konerko and Pierzynski are ridiculous to even consider, Harris does have minor league managerial experience and MLB coaching experience.

This is exactly why he’s going to be the White Sox manager of the future.

Harris will be compared to Ozzie Guillen, as Harris was a member of the 2005 White Sox roster (he played for the organization from 2002 through 2005) and is currently serving as an MLB base coach (Guillen was hired after serving as a coach with the Montreal Expos (2001) and Miami Marlins (2002-03).

Most importantly, Harris will likely command the smallest salary among all the options listed, and that will play a very important role to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

Am I saying Harris would be a poor choice? No, I think he would bring a fresh perspective to the organization and an infusion of youth (Harris is 34 years younger than La Russa). Is he a perfect choice? Absolutely not. A team that is contending should be hiring a manager with managerial experience, not someone who is going to require on the job training.

My first choice? Dave Martinez of the Washington Nationals. Yes, they’re having a horrible season but they’ve also stripped the team down to the bare bones. He has a sub-.500 record but also has a World Series championship, something not a lot of guys can say. And with the Nats in a major rebuild and a sale of the franchise, it seems like the new owner would want to clean house and begin anew. Which would be great for the White Sox.

Martinez also is a former White Sox player so that clicks the important box for the Sox.

A new manager should be in place within the next three weeks, due to the fact that the organization needs to have a staff in place to help sell to potential free agent signings.

So, we’ll wait and see what happens. Right now, I’ll put $100 on Willie Harris as the next White Sox manager. He does seem to be a relatively good fit and I do think there are worse options out there. There are also better options, but I don’t think that’s going to matter.

THE FOLLY OF THE CHICAGO WHITE SOX REBUILD

This is a blog I’ve been thinking of doing for a long time, and something I’ve touched on in previous blog entries stretching back to 2018. This may draw the ire of the Chicago White Sox fan boys, who think this team can do no wrong regardless of what they do, but the fact of the matter is, this rebuild has not gone to plan in spite of the back to back playoff appearances in 2020 and 2021. While the original trades that set off the rebuild were universally praised, I think they need to be revisited, as well as the free agent signings and pursuits that have taken place since the rebuild was instituted following the 2016 season.

I want to take a look at the rebuild in a season-by-season view:

2016

This is where it all began. In December 2016, the White Sox made three moves that would have a profound effect on the organization, two trades and one Rule 5 Draft pick.

– On December 6, the White Sox traded LHP Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for IF Yoan Moncada (at the time the #1 prospect in baseball), RHP Michael Kopech, OF Luis Alexander Basabe and RHP Victor Diaz.

– On December 7, the White Sox traded OF Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals for RHP’s Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.

– And on December 8, the White Sox selected RHP Dylan Covey in the Rule 5 Draft from the Oakland A’s.

This was also the year the White Sox hired career loser Rick Renteria to be their manager, once again sniffing fumes from the Chicago Cubs, who had hired Renteria four years earlier to handle their rebuild on-field.

2017

Now fully into the rebuild, not much was expected in terms of free agent signings or trades, as the Sox had little left with which to deal (though they still made a major deal before the trade deadline).

– On May 27, the White Sox signed OF Luis Robert as an international free agent from Cuba.

– On July 13, the White Sox traded LHP Jose Quintana to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Dylan Cease, OF Eloy Jimenez, 1B Matt Rose and IF Bryant Flete.

– On July 19, the White Sox traded 3B Todd Frazier, RHP David Robertson and RHP Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees for RHP Tyler Clippard, OF Blake Rutherford, OF Tito Polo and LHP Ian Clarkin.

In the first season of the rebuild, the Sox finished the 2017 season with a 67-95 record.

2018

The worst season of the rebuild, by far. The Sox finished with a record of 62-100.

– On November 23, 2017, the White Sox signed OF Daniel Palka off waivers from the Minnesota Twins.

– On December 1, 2017, the White Sox signed C Wellington Castillo to a two-year deal with an option to lock down the catcher position that had been in flux since A.J. Pierzynski was let go.

– On December 22, 2017, the White Sox signed RHP Jose Ruiz off waivers from the San Diego Padres.

The Wellington Castillo deal was one of the first ones to implode on this team, as Castillo was suspended 80 games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy on May 24, 2018. Unaware of it at the time, this was going to be an omen of things to come, not in terms of drug policy violations but in terms of poor free agent signings and a poor performance in free agency, in general.

2019

This is where the rebuild really started to go south. Prior to the season, the White Sox were considered one of the front runners to sign free agents Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. In fact, some media outlets said there was a chance the White Sox could sign both. Instead, their offseason acquisitions amounted to:

– On December 15, 2018, the White Sox traded minor league OF Alex Call to the Cleveland Indians for 1B/DH Yonder Alonso.

– On December 19, 2018, the White Sox signed C James McCann as a free agent from the Detroit Tigers.

– On January 10, the White Sox signed OF Jon Jay as a free agent from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

– On March 22, the White Sox signed OF Eloy Jimenez to a six-year, $43 million extension.

The Chicago press pointed out that Alonso and Jay were offseason workout buddies of Machado, while the Sox front office did everything they could to downplay the connection publicly.

While the Chicago media circled the wagons around the franchise, the rest of the country was laughing at the White Sox over the attempt to sign Machado. After announcing they had made an eight-year, $250 million offer, and Machado had signed a 10-year, $300 million offer, White Sox team president Kenny Williams was left to try to justify that the offer could have reached 10 years and $350 million if all options were exercised and all criteria were met in on-field performance. In the same breath, he said the White Sox just couldn’t afford to go to $300 million guaranteed. I feel like this was lost on most people, saying “we can’t afford to pay you $300 million, but we can afford to pay you $350 million.” The White Sox were the laughingstock of baseball outside of the city of Chicago (and were publicly laughed at during Machado’s press conference announcing his signing with the Padres) and the Sox finished the season with a 72-89 record, a 10-game improvement from hitting rock bottom the previous year with a 100-loss season.

2020

The window of contention begins to open. And the White Sox struck hard and fast.

– On November 21, 2019, the White Sox signed C Yasmani Grandal to the largest contract in team history, four years and $73 million.

– On December 10, 2019, in an attempt to shore up right field for the contention window, they traded OF Steele Walker to the Texas Rangers for OF Nomar Mazara.

– On December 30, 2019, in an attempt to shore up the rotation, they signed free agent LHP Dallas Keuchel.

– On January 2, the White Sox signed minor league OF Luis Robert to a six-year contract worth $50 million with options that could push the deal to $88 million.

– On January 9, the White Sox signed Edwin Encarnacion as a free agent to plug a hole at DH.

The White Sox were rumored for months to be in the market for RHP Zack Wheeler, who signed with the Phillies for less money than the White Sox offered (no monetary information was ever released but the significant facts were never disputed by the White Sox or Wheeler) and for the second straight offseason the Sox were left with egg on their faces, and as I’ll address later, I think this was the end of the big market free agent pursuits by the White Sox. Whether they were scared or just figured it wasn’t worth it, I don’t know.

In the season shortened to 60 games due to COVID-19, the White Sox finished with a 35-25 record.

2021

The White Sox entered 2021 as legitimate World Series contenders, according to the press. They fortified the roster with the following moves:

– On October 29, 2020, the White Sox hired Tony La Russa as manager, replacing Renteria.

– On December 7, 2020, the White Sox traded Dane Dunning to the Texas Rangers for Lance Lynn.

– On December 10, 2020, after failing to acquire Joc Pederson for the third consecutive offseason and releasing Nomar Mazara after he fell flat on his face as the everyday right fielder, the White Sox signed Adam Eaton as a free agent from the Washington Nationals.

And while I can’t find the exact date, at some point during this period, the White Sox signed 3B Yoan Moncada to a five-year, $70 million extension.

– On January 15, the White Sox had a big day. They signed Liam Hendriks and signed international free agents Yoelqui Cespedes and Norge Vera.

The White Sox let C James McCann go, and he signed a $40 million deal with the New York Mets, a little more than half what Yasmani Grandal would make in the same four years.

The Chicago media was all in, thinking the White Sox would acquire everyone from Trevor Bauer to Michael Brantley to George Springer to Kris Bryant. The Chicago fan boys were picturing a $400 million payroll. What the White Sox got was a 93-69 record, an AL Central Division title, and a first-round loss in the playoffs.

2022

Again, the idea that the White Sox were going to break the bank hung over the team as free agency started in November, 2021. Such arrogant statements as “we’re going to sign Marcus Semien but in case we don’t, Eduardo Escobar is our backup plan.” (Escobar signed with the New York Mets before Semien signed with the Texas Rangers and the White Sox were clearly never in on either of them). Another embarrassing situation revolved around OF Michael Conforto, whose name was bandied about for months until it was revealed he wouldn’t be playing in 2022 due to shoulder surgery. (Prior to this announcement, a White Sox “news” site had posted a column saying that the Sox had a massive offer on the table for Conforto, but because he wasn’t vaccinated the team wouldn’t sign the deal. Every bit of that was subsequently proven to be completely fabricated in someone’s brain).

The 2022 MLB lockout lasted from December to March, and the White Sox made two moves prior to the beginning of the lockout (during which MLB transactions were not allowed):

– On November 30, 2021, the White Sox signed RHP Kendall Graveman as a free agent.

– On December 1, 2021, the White Sox resigned IF/OF Leury Garcia.

Following the lockout, and with most of the top-flight talent off the board, the White Sox made the following transactions:

– On March 14, the White Sox signed RHP Joe Kelly as a free agent.

– On March 15, the White Sox signed IF Josh Harrison as a free agent.

– On April 1, the White Sox traded RHP Craig Kimbrel to the Los Angeles Dodgers for OF A.J. Pollock.

– On April 3, the White Sox traded C Zack Collins to the Toronto Blue Jays for C Reese McGuire.

– On April 5, the White Sox signed RHP Johnny Cueto as a free agent.

At the trade deadline, the White Sox sent McGuire to the Boston Red Sox for LHP Jake Diekman.

Not mentioned in the transactions (as I made those strictly important acquisitions) was LHP Dallas Keuchel was designated for assignment on May 28.

Now, I went through all of those transactions so we can look on a case-by-case basis how the rebuilt roster looks and how the players who were acquired for and during the rebuild have fared. I’m going to list the most relevant statistics to each player listed above in bold and these numbers are the stats the player accumulated as a member of the White Sox ONLY. And I’ll start at the beginning:

Yoan Moncada: In six seasons with the White Sox, Moncada has compiled a 13.2 WAR and a .254/.337/.425 stat line. His 2019 season is an outlier, with a 5.2 WAR and .315/.367/.548 line and 25 home runs. A consistent stolen base threat in the minor leagues, he’s stolen 3 bases in 5 attempts since the beginning of the 2020 season.

Michael Kopech: Kopech missed the 2019 season with Tommy John surgery and the 2020 season with “personal problems” as best as I can describe them. He seems to finally be putting it together in 2022, but has compiled a 9-12 career record and a 4.1 WAR (four of those victories and 2.6 WAR coming in 2022). Hopefully his best years are ahead of him because he seems to really be perfecting his craft.

Lucas Giolito: This was the guy I thought would be the centerpiece of the rebuild. Like Moncada, he’s had one very good season and a lot of average-to-below-average seasons around that. In 2019, Gio made the All Star team and finished with 14 wins, a 3.41 ERA, a 134 ERA+ and a 5.5 WAR, all career highs. His 2022 season has been poor, with eight wins, a 4.91 ERA, an 81 ERA+ and a 0.1 WAR.

Reynaldo Lopez: Like Kopech, Lopez has really hit his stride this season, but not as a starter, as a high-leverage reliever. A failed starter (in 2019, Lopez compiled a 10-15 record with a 5.38 ERA in 33 starts, with an 85 ERA+ and 0.3 WAR). In 2022, after corrective eye surgery and a move to the bullpen, Lopez is 5-2 with a 2.84 ERA, 141 ERA+ and 1.0 WAR.

Dylan Covey: My choice for the worst player acquisition during the rebuild (and everyone knows my feelings about Adam Eaton). In three seasons with the White Sox, Dylan Covey compiled a 6-29 record, a 6.54 ERA, a 66 ERA+ and a -3.0 WAR. I don’t know who saw what in this guy, he is literally one of the worst pitchers I have ever seen in 30+ years of watching baseball. Absolutely pathetic. Thankfully he was let go in 2019.

Luis Robert: This is a guy that I can honestly say, the numbers don’t tell the story. Robert has a career .297/.342/.488 line with an OPS+ of 128 and an 8.0 WAR in three seasons. The problem is, he’s played in 206 of 335 games (as of the time of this writing), which means he has missed roughly 40% of the Sox games he’s been eligible to play up to this point. The talent is definitely there. But if you can’t play the game, those “five tools” are completely worthless.

Dylan Cease: The real gem of the rebuild, Dylan has compiled a 34-23 record with a 3.66 ERA, 118 ERA+ and 7.3 WAR since 2019. His 2021 season was excellent, featuring 13 wins and leading the league in starts with 32, to go along with 226 strikeouts in 165.2 innings. His 2022 season has been transcendent, with 12 wins, a 1.96 ERA, 204 ERA+, a 4.4 WAR and 174 strikeouts in 128.2 innings. There is either a Cy Young award or a massive free agent deal with a better team in his future. Or maybe both.

Eloy Jimenez: Being honest, Eloy is my second favorite player on the White Sox after Jose Abreu. But he suffers from the same issue as Luis Robert: An inability to stay healthy. Eloy has played 271 games for the White Sox over the past four seasons, out of 497 possible. That’s roughly 55%. Just a little more than half of the games he could have played in. While his stat line is certainly solid (.273/.319/.498 with an .817 OPS and 118 OPS+), it doesn’t really matter if you can’t stay in the lineup.

Blake Rutherford: Blake was going to be the third outfielder with Robert and Eloy. He was highly-touted coming from the Yankees. However, in his six-year minor league career, he has compiled a .250/.286/.404 stat line with an OPS of .731. Those numbers wouldn’t cut it at the MLB level, let alone the MiLB level, and he was designated for assignment before being brought back off the 40 man roster.

Jose Ruiz: It’s amazing to think this guy is in his fifth season on the south side. Ruiz looked like he had turned a corner in 2021 (3.05 ERA, 144 ERA+, 1.1 WAR) but he has quickly fallen back to earth in 2022 (4.03 ERA, 99 ERA+, 0.5 WAR). Good stuff but nothing more than a spare arm that should never see a high-leverage situation.

James McCann: Even though he’s no longer on the team, I just wanted to point out that McCann signed a four-year, $40 million deal with the Mets the year after Yasmani Grandal signed a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox. Considering both of their numbers with those teams, I can’t imagine anyone would want four years of Grandal at $33 million more than McCann. Neither can hit a beach ball but McCann is certainly more mobile behind the plate. For the record, McCann’s stat line with the Mets (.223/.285/.335) compared with Grandal’s line with the Sox (.225/.368/.408 and Grandal’s OBP is out of whack due to his insane 2021 season and .420 OBP). Nothing will ever convince me that Grandal is $33 million better than McCann.

Yasmani Grandal: See above. I don’t know if the Sox thought they were getting Carlton Fisk 2.0 but they didn’t. Grandal was on the wrong side of 30 and was coming off a 2019 season with the Milwaukee Brewers in which he hit a career-high 28 home runs and drove in a career-high 77. He’s come nowhere near those numbers since while making $18 million a year. His 2022 batting line (.203/.307/.264) will be the worst of his career by far and he still has another season to go at $18 million. I know it’s unpopular to say, especially among the fan boys, but that was a truly poor signing.

Nomar Mazara: This deal made me angry because I really started to notice the Sox had decided to take the cheap way out in their future acquisitions. The Chicago press presented him as untapped potential, even though he had over 2,000 plate appearances at the MLB level. I heard numbers thrown about like “35 home runs and 100 RBI” from a guy who had never hit more than 20. I told everyone who would listen it was a bad signing. Come to find out, it was a bad signing. Mazara hit .228/.295/.294 with 3 home runs in 42 games and was not brought back after the season.

Dallas Keuchel: Another deal I didn’t like. Not that I didn’t like the signing at the time but the contract was insane from my perspective. Clearly on the downside of his career, Keuchel got a three-year deal from the White Sox for $55.5 million. This was nothing more than a way for the White Sox to save face after Zack Wheeler signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for less money, embarrassing the White Sox organization in the process. So what did the White Sox get for that $55.5 million? A 17-16 record, a 4.79 ERA, a 91 ERA+ and a 0.9 WAR. Also $18 million wasted that they have to pay him after he was DFA’d.

Edwin Encarnacion: Not much to say here, his contract wasn’t that outlandish (one year for $12 million) but in typical form, he was a free agent signing that woefully under performed. In 44 games, Encarnacion put up a .157/.250/.377 stat line with a 70 OPS+ with 10 home runs and 19 RBI. He topped off what is, in retrospect, and absolutely horrible offseason that was celebrated at the time.

Lance Lynn: I like Lance Lynn, and he’s been relatively successful in his White Sox tenure, but I would have stopped short of giving him the two-year, $38 million extension he received. While his first year was certainly acceptable (2.69 ERA, 163 ERA+, 5.3 WAR), he’s not looking like he’s worth the money in 2022 (5.88 ERA, 68 ERA+, -0.7 WAR). A starting pitcher could be found somewhere to put up better numbers than that at half the price.

Adam Eaton: This is just covering his second round with the White Sox. Eaton was signed to a $7 million deal after perennial target Joc Pederson refused to sign and instead took less money to play across town for the Cubs. Eaton’s return engagement was not quite as productive as his first, as he compiled a .201/.298/.344 stat line with a 75 OPS+ and 0 WAR. The hole in right field that Mazara was supposed to fill ate up Eaton as well. He was designated for assignment after 58 games.

Liam Hendriks: Another sore spot with me. The numbers didn’t tell the story with this guy, either. A failed starter who then became a failed middle reliever somehow caught lightning in a bottle and became a very good closer for a year and a half before the White Sox dumped a three-year, $54 million deal in his lap. Hendriks is a low-leverage closer who does his best work starting a clean inning with a three-run lead. Anything less than that and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for him to blow it.

Kendall Graveman: A good signing (though a bit expensive for a set-up man at three years and $24 million) who has pitched very well and looks like a good investment so far, with a 2.59 ERA, 155 ERA+ and 1.1 WAR so far in 2022.

Leury Garcia: Longest-tenured White Sox player, been with the team for a full decade. And in that full decade, he has put up a .253/.294/.353 stat line with an OPS+ of 77 (remember, 100 is average and this is over the entire 10 years he’s played for the White Sox) and a WAR, over 10 years, of 4.5. And signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract prior to the 2022 season. I don’t care if he can play every position on the field, pop the corn and clean the toilets, you can pick up utility players every day that would make half that amount and put up superior statistics. No one will ever be able to explain this to me to my satisfaction.

Joe Kelly: “Let’s throw money at the bullpen” seemed to be the mantra of the White Sox front office during the 2021-22 offseason. Joe Kelly was not really a needed asset, and his multiple injuries in 2022 to go along with his 5.84 ERA and -0.4 WAR show this wasn’t a great investment. Yes, his numbers are skewed by his poor start to the season, but this is supposed to be a team that’s contending for a World Series, not nursing guys back to health that shouldn’t have been signed in the first place.

Josh Harrison: I like Josh Harrison, but I didn’t like this signing other than it would have been perfect as a replacement for Leury Garcia. Harrison’s days of being an everyday second baseman should have ended around 2017 in Pittsburgh, and he should be a full time utility player, a role I believe he would excel in. He started extremely poorly in 2022 but has since ramped up his stats to an acceptable level (.245/.312/.381 with a 96 OPS+ and 1.7 WAR) for a utility player, far better than Garcia is producing.

A.J. Pollock: I wanted to see the Sox acquire Pollock in 2019, when he left the Arizona Diamondbacks for the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent. That version of Pollock was coming off a 21 home run season, a .257/.316/.484 stat line with an OPS+ of 108 and a 2.2 WAR. The A.J. Pollock the White Sox got is hitting .236/.287/.351 with five home runs and a -0.1 WAR.

Johnny Cueto: After all those acquisitions that failed to pan out or even come close to what was expected, Johnny Cueto was a Godsend. A 2.91 ERA, 137 ERA+ and 2.9 WAR in 15 starts is outstanding, and I’d have to think there’s nothing less than a 100% chance he’ll get a free agent deal this offseason that prices him right out of the White Sox plans. In fact, to put it into perspective, Cueto is making roughly half what Lucas Giolito is making and about about ¼ what Lance Lynn is making.

If we look at this rebuild academically, with our minds instead of our hearts or fandom, it’s clear it’s been a massive failure pretty much across the board. This team, as it is built now, has no chance whatsoever of getting to the World Series. The offense is worse than any I’ve ever seen, regardless of how poor the opposing pitcher is. Pitchers with ERA’s above 5.00 routinely shut down the White Sox offense.

I’m worried about where we go from here. The concept of just saying “well, let’s just take the same group into next season and hope it’s better” isn’t going to do anything for anyone, and I’m sure Jerry Reinsdorf doesn’t want to spend another $200 million on a .500 team. But those long-term contracts that Eloy Jimenez and Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert signed, along with the overpays for Liam Hendriks and Leury Garcia and Kendall Graveman and Lance Lynn have the Sox in a precarious position, there isn’t going to be a lot of roster turnover (Cueto and Jose Abreu and Josh Harrison are the only pending free agents) unless the White Sox can somehow convince another team to take one of those overstuffed contracts off the books.

That’s not gonna be easy because I can’t picture anyone saying “sure, I’ll take two years of Yoan Moncada at $41 million and I’ll give you a nice prospect package or a serviceable veteran at a lower pay rate in return.” The long-term deals didn’t quite work out the way the deals for Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana did. Those were the building blocks of the rebuild. This team is in a purgatory where they can’t really move those contracts to rebuild because the players attached to them are not worth the money they’re being paid, pretty much across the board (with the exception being Johnny Cueto). This is basically what happened to the Chicago Cubs, who priced their players right out of their payroll. But at least they got a World Series ring out of the deal. The only White Sox players with rings in their future will be getting wedding rings.

If I were running this organization, this offseason I would trade Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito (both of whom I don’t expect to be around long term and both of whom are at the height of their value as trade pieces), I would see if Jake Burger is a legitimate full-season third base option and if I can’t trade Moncada, I’d DFA him after next season (it would be easier to accept blowing $20 million than $40 million for absolutely nothing). I’d also DFA Leury Garcia. The Sox were willing to do so with Dallas Keuchel and the money would be less if Garcia were DFA’d next season. The problem is I just don’t see the Sox being willing to either eat that much money in DFA’s or be willing to admit that chances that extreme need to be made. But the Sox managed to get rid of Chris Sale, who had far more success than Lucas Giolito (who is guaranteed gone as a free agent after the 2023 season anyway). The bottom line is, changes need to be made.

If you took the time to read this entire presentation, I thank you. I’ve worked on this for the better part of three days because I’m tired of arguing with people about the state of this franchise. It’s in a bad way right now. The Sox aren’t suddenly going to “get hot” and just mow through the rest of the season and the playoffs and win the World Series. Those things just don’t happen. Or don’t happen often. Everyone uses the 2021 Atlanta Braves as an example but what are the chances of that happening two years in a row?

I sincerely believe the Cleveland Guardians will win the AL Central in 2022, with the White Sox finishing second and the Minnesota Twins finishing third. The Sox will also fall short of the Wild Card. At that point, hopefully changes will be made. Or they’ll stand pat and say “if it wasn’t for all the injuries…”

Time will tell. Peace.

My Take On The Sox Machine 2021-22 Offseason Plan Project

Every year the Sox Machine blog posts a template for what is known as the “offseason plan project,” where anyone can give their thoughts on what they would like the White Sox to do in the offseason, in terms of whether to tender or non-tender eligible players, sign or not sign pending free agents, propose trades and things like that.

Rather than filling it out and posting on their blog I just decided to pinch their template and fill it out myself, which will make my offseason plans blog a lot easier to follow along with. I don’t want this to end up being 5,000 words like my last entry. And I need to point out, this isn’t what I think the team is going to do, this is what I would do.
I did this last year as well, and was horribly wrong with all of my predictions, so we’ll see how it flies this year. I think things are a little more “defined” this year with the roster so there won’t be a lot of changes except in the bullpen and at second base.

So, here we go.

PREAMBLE

The White Sox are still the class of the AL Central, though the Detroit Tigers are closing the gap and closing it fast, especially with their young pitching. I still see the White Sox winning the division by at least five games, however.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE PLAYERS

The number after the player name is what MLB Trade Rumors projects the player will receive in arbitration.

Lucas Giolito: $7.9M – Tender. This is a textbook example of a “no-brainer.” Lance Lynn, Giolito and Dylan Cease are the backbone of the rotation.

Reynaldo Lopez: $2.8 – Tender. He did a great job in the spot I said three years ago he was made for, a long reliever and spot starter. Now that “bullpen games” are a thing, it’s nice to have a former full-time starter in that spot.

Evan Marshall: $2.3M – Non-tender. Some people say bring him back on a Minor League deal since he’s about to have Tommy John Surgery. I say don’t bother, thanks for the help the past few years but it’s time for you to move along.

Brian Goodwin: $1.7M – Non-tender. I like Goodwin alright but at this point he would be a fifth or sixth outfielder and I don’t see that being worth $1.7 million.

Jimmy Cordero: $1.2M – Non-tender. This guy’s career was nearly ruined by Ricky Renteria, but he’s not worth $1.2 million at this point. I would extend a Minor League deal and an invitation to Spring Training, however.

Adam Engel: $2.2M – Tender. Last season I wanted to see Engel start full time in right field, but the Sox brain trust decided that signing Adam Eaton was the answer. I said that wasn’t a good idea, come to find out it wasn’t a good idea. I do like the idea of bringing back Engel but just as a fourth outfielder, pinch hitter and pinch runner.

Jace Fry: $1M – Non-tender. This guy has pitched in 162 games at the Major League level. He has a career ERA of 5.04. He shouldn’t be anywhere near a million dollar salary.

CLUB OPTIONS

Write “pick up” or “decline” or “rework” after the option. These were already announced but I’m giving my theory behind what I would have done had I been in charge.

Craig Kimbrel: $16M – Pick Up. Yes, he sucked with the White Sox but lights-out closers don’t grow on trees and he’ll be worth something to someone, a team that’s smart enough to use him where he’s comfortable, not as a set-up man. The Sox won’t get a return anywhere near what they paid, but getting anything back at all is a bird in the hand.

Cesar Hernandez: $6M – Pick Up. Yes, he sucked with the White Sox (is there an echo in here?) but given his salary and the lack of good available second basemen, I’d absolutely have brought him back and given him a chance to make us forget 2021.

OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS

Try to retain, or let go?

Leury Garcia (Made $3.5 million in 2021) – Resign – I would bring Leury back at the right price, as insurance at second base and as my main utility player. Having said that, he would NOT play every day or even close to that. Once or twice a week, unless he’s filling in for someone injured.

Carlos Rodon (Made $3M in 2021) – Let Go – So long, Carlos. His inability to stay healthy for a full season in seven years is not lost on anyone, and the idea of him getting a three or four-year deal in this economic climate in baseball is a joke. He’ll get a one-year “prove you can stay healthy just once” deal and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t get another one-year deal for 2023, or maybe a one-year deal with a club option or vesting options if he pitches a certain number of innings.

Billy Hamilton (Made $1M in 2021) – Resign – I like the idea of bringing Billy back as a fifth or sixth outfielder because there is no one equal with the glove or the speed that he can bring to the roster. I wouldn’t want to see him starting for an extended period but he definitely has a place on the roster.

Ryan Tepera (Made $950,000 in 2021) – Resign – He was absolutely lights out with the Sox in 2021 (and with the Cubs, as well) but he’s going to make up for his paltry salary. Given the lack of arms in the White Sox bullpen right now, I would offer Tepera a two-year deal for $8 million as a starting point and be willing to go two-years for $12 million at most.FREE AGENTS

List three free-agent targets you’d pursue during the offseason, with a reasonable contract.

Ryan Tepera (White Sox relief pitcher) – For the reasons mentioned above. There are few better relief arms available on the market and the White Sox bullpen has been decimated. Hold on to one of the best. Two years, $8 million.

Leury Garcia (White Sox IF/OF) – As I said above, I don’t want to see Leury on the field every day unless there’s an injury. He’s the longest-tenured player on the team and deserves to see it through. He can also play any position on the diamond except first base and catcher and play them well. His bat isn’t gonna win a Silver Slugger anytime soon, but it’s far superior to Danny Mendick and years of experience counts for something too. He’s also go the hottest wife in the organization but that’s neither here nor there. Two-years, $8 million.

Collin McHugh (Rays relief pitcher) – I acquired this guy in 2020 on MLB The Show because (a) he’s got a career ERA under 3.80 and is 20 games over .500, (b) in 37 games last year, including 7 starts, he had a 1.55 ERA and (c) he was born in Naperville. This is the guy you want in your bullpen as a contender, not Jose Ruiz.

TRADES

Propose trades that you think sound reasonable for both sides, and the rationale behind them.

Dallas Keuchel and $10 million to whatever team will take him for whatever they’ll offer. Some of you will no doubt think I’m crazy but I didn’t realize until just a few days ago that Dallas Keuchel does NOT have a mutual option in his contract, he has a VESTING option: If he pitches 160 innings in 2022, he will then be under contract in 2023 for $20 million. If you think there’s NO chance of that happening, he pitched 162 innings in 2021. Get a Minor League player who ranks between 15-20 on his club and get this guy out of town, fast.

Yoan Moncada to the Seattle Mariners for one of their Minor League outfielders. The Mariners are loaded with top-shelf Minor League outfielders and their starting third baseman for the past decade, Kyle Seager, is a free agent. While I’m a fan of Moncada, his salary more than doubles in 2022 (from $6 million to $13 million) and tops off in 2024 at $24 million. For that kind of money, I’d like more than .263/14/61 and 157 strikeouts. This will also give some payroll relief going forward. I’d give Jake Burger every opportunity to take over at third base, even if that means hitting him in the 9th spot in the order and letting him work through whatever issues he’ll have, just like the Sox did with Robin Ventura over 20 years ago. Robin had an 0-41 streak at one point during his rookie season but they didn’t lose faith and he became one of the best third basemen in franchise history.

Craig Kimbrel to the Philadelphia Phillies for MiLB IF Logan Simmons and LHP Kyle Dohy. These two are not top prospects for the Phillies but given Kimbrel’s poor two months with the White Sox, it’s definitely not a bad return. Dohy made it to the Phillies last season after a tough year at AAA but you can always find room for a LHP in the bullpen. Simmons is more of a long-term flier, he can play second, short and third and he’s only 21 years old, showing good power (21 home runs in 413 career Minor League at-bats) and speed 14 stolen bases). He won’t help now, but when the next rebuild begins in 2024 or 2025, he could be a good piece to have on hand.

SUMMARY

My lineup will consist of Yasmani Grandal at catcher, Jose Abreu at first, Cesar Hernandez at second, Tim Anderson at shortstop and Jake Burger at third, with Eloy Jimenez in left, Luis Robert in center and Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets platooning in right. Vaughn and Sheets would also split the DH role with whoever needs a day off. The bench will consist of Zack Collins, Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, Billy Hamilton and a couple of current minor leaguers as depth pieces.

My rotation would consist of Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech and Jimmy Lambert, with a mix of Reynaldo Lopez and Garret Crochet handling long relief and spot starts. Aaron Bummer and Ryan Burr handling set-up duties with Liam Hendriks closing. The rest of the bullpen would consist of Tepera, McHugh, Matt Foster and whatever Minor League arms have a good Spring Training, possibly Jimmy Cordero.

I know the fan boys are going to hate this, because I’m sure they’re sitting with their phones right now just waiting to hear that the White Sox signed Marcus Semien to play second base and Nick Castellanos or Michael Conforto to play right field. I absolutely guarantee none of those moves are going to happen. The payroll currently sits around $140 million, and that’s before those arbitration numbers are figured in.

This is why I think now is a good time to try moving some excess payroll. Moncada is not so dynamic that he’s worth the money he’s going to be making the next three seasons, Keuchel could be making $38 million over the next two seasons (and definitely making $18 million in 2022). Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert are also due raises each year for the next few years as well, and the White Sox only have control over Lucas Giolito until 2024.

I’d love to see the White Sox just go balls out with a $200 million payroll but that has never happened and it’s never going to happen, at least not this decade. So if you’re looking for free agents, don’t look for the $200 or $300 million deals, look for the one-year or two-year deals for under $20 million to fill in the holes. The rebuild is over, for now.

And for everyone who wants to crucify me every year for saying the Sox aren’t signing any $100 million free agents, just remember that they never have, even when they had the payroll flexibility to do so. And by 2024, this team, just as it is now, will have an astronomical payroll, and at that point, a new rebuild will begin. So hopefully, over the next couple of years, the White Sox can get to (and win) a World Series. They have the talent.

Thank you for reading, and God bless.

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!

The Jason J. Connor 2020 Chicago White Sox Season Wrap-up and Off-season Preview

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JULY 16: Manager Rick Renteria of the Chicago White Sox watches during Summer Workouts at Guaranteed Rate Field on July 16, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

All I can say is “wow.”

I had planned on doing a season-ending critique of the 2020 Chicago White Sox, much as I had last year, but had planned on waiting until after the World Series. Today’s situation, however, made me move my timeline up a bit.

October 12, 2020: The Chicago White Sox announced they were “parting ways” with manager Rick Renteria and pitching coach Don Cooper, and that the rest of the staff was basically waiting to see if the new manager would retain them. This really came out of left field, as it was pretty much set in stone all season that Renteria and his staff would return until he decided it was time to move on.

Of course, maybe he did. The whole “parting ways” thing really doesn’t give us much insight into who made the decision and what exactly went down. The White Sox are becoming notorious for playing things close to the vest, as Renteria received a contract extension that was not mentioned until months after it had been signed, and no information about length or amount was ever discussed openly.

So first, I’ll touch on the 2020 season and then I’ll move into my top five picks to replace Ricky Renteria, with an “honorable mention” dark horse candidate that most people probably would never even consider.

When I think of the 2020 season, looking back a year or a decade from now, I’ll always think of this team winning in spite of it’s manager. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before. This team is so talented that the worst tactical manager I’ve seen in 32 years of watching baseball couldn’t derail this team from a playoff birth. With the exception of DH, third base and right field, this team was exceptional.

Third base should fix itself, once Yoan Moncada recovers fully from COVID, assuming that people do fully recover. Since we don’t know what the long-term effects of the virus are, we can’t really say he’ll immediately bounce back to his 2019 form (.315/25/79). While he only missed eight games in 2020, his numbers took a nosedive (.225/6/24, which would project out to .225/19/75 over a 162 game season).

Moncada clearly looked like he was fighting every day to make contact. If he is able to recapture his health, there’s no reason he can’t bounce back.

Designated hitter and right field are a different matter. I was stoked when the White Sox signed Edwin Encarnacion, I figured there was no reason he couldn’t come in and drive in 45 runs and be the best DH the Sox have had since Jim Thome left town. Instead we got a .157 batting average and 19 RBI in 44 games. A total waste.

Right field was even worse. While I was really happy about the Encarnacion signing, I hated the acquisition of Nomar Mazara from the day it was announced. I saw Mazara for what he is, a worse version of Jason Heyward, a guy who looks like he should be a .300/40/120 hitter who, for whatever reason, just isn’t. In a full season, Mazara is a .260/20/70 guy. He has a track record. There is no “untapped potential,” he’s been the guy he’s going to be for the past five years. There’s nothing hidden in his ability.

I will admit I was impressed with his glove, as I was under the impression he was not much of an outfielder but he played reasonably well, displaying a soft glove and a strong arm. But as much as his defense improved, his hitting tanked.

This was the first spot where I started to ask myself “why does Renteria insist on playing this guy so much when there’s a better option on the bench?” Adam Engel hit .295 in limited time, has a far better glove (even taking into account Mazara’s improvement) and showed himself to be at least a borderline option to start in 2021.

I had figured all season the Sox would retain Mazara because he’s eligible for arbitration and would surely not be so foolish as to take his case to a hearing, considering his .228/.295/295 slash line. However, after the Renteria firing, I now am not so sure this team won’t just cut it’s losses and non-tender him. Which just makes the whole acquisition that much more ridiculous because they could have Steele Walker in the system and instead may end up with absolutely nothing. Those are loser moves.

The rest of the team, from Jose Abreu’s incredible MVP-caliber season to Tim Anderson’s chase of a second batting title that ran out of gas to James McCann’s excellent second-showing to Eloy Jimenez continuing to improve to the solid debut seasons of Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, this team is really solid top to bottom.

That said, Madrigal will improve on his base running and defense and Robert will improve on his strike zone judgment; neither is a finished product.

The pitching was amazing considering the shortcomings. The Sox had only two legit starters and a collection of maybe’s to fill in the other three slots. But they were able to overcome that with a lights-out bullpen that may be the best I’ve ever seen. My hope is that if they can’t sign closer Alex Colome they’ll at least make him a Qualifying Offer, which would give the team an experienced closer again in 2021 and give Colome a nice raise ($18.9 million) for the outstanding season he had. But works needs to be done.

Rick Hahn has been vocal about the faith he has in his young pitchers, mentioning Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Dane Dunning and Garrett Crochet in particular. I have faith in Cease and Dunning and Crochet, but am not really sure what Kopech will bring to the table, assuming he ever makes it to the table to begin with. He needs to learn that there’s more to life than women and get his head screwed on straight.

So if I were serving as general manager of the White Sox heading into the 2021 season, there are a few obvious areas of need. One, maybe two starting pitchers. A decision to make at closer. A bullpen arm or two to compete with the likes of Jimmy Cordero and Jose Ruiz. A decision about James McCann. And Nomar Mazara. And what to do with the DH spot and whether or not to exercise the option on Edwin Encarnacion.

I’ll begin with the pitching situation. The obvious #1 option on everyone’s board is Trevor Bauer, and no question he would be an incredible addition to the White Sox rotation. However, if his goal is to be a vagabond for the rest of his career, and sign only one-year contracts, I’m going to pass. The White Sox are more than one player away from a World Series-contending team, so signing a guy who is a “final piece” doesn’t make sense if you only get one round into the playoffs and then he leaves.

I’m OK with the names I hear most often after Bauer: Jose Quintana and Marcus Stroman. Yeah, they’re not the biggest names in the world but since we already have Ace 1 and Ace 1-A, we don’t really need to go out looking for a top of the rotation starter. The Sox need back of the rotation production and these guys are both viable options. Neither will be particularly expensive and could be easily jettisoned if one of the younger options (Cease or Kopech or Dunning or even Jonathan Stiever) locks down a spot.

As much as I like James McCann, it’s also time to let him walk. He’s earned an opportunity to be a #1 starting catcher somewhere. Had I been running the team last season there is NO WAY I would have given that massive contract to Yasmani Grandal, I would have given McCann an extension and used what was left over to bolster the pitching staff. Grandal was a luxury this team really didn’t need under the circumstances.

But now that he’s here, we’re stuck with him and hopefully there won’t be a massive decline in his skills as he’ll turn 32 in November.

Since I would also not even consider exercising Encarnacion’s option, my roster would consist of Grandal and Zack Collins at catcher and a platoon of Jose Abreu and Andrew Vaughn at first base and designated hitter. I don’t see the need to add anyone to this mix, though if Collins fails as the backup catcher, bring up Yermin Mercedes or Seby Zavala and give them a fair shake. There’s lots of depth at the position.

As for right field, my plan there would be the same as it was a year ago. Sign Yasiel Puig. He could probably be had for next to nothing and chances are he’ll give you .265/25/80 and steal 15 bases, far better production than the team has gotten at the position in several years. Worst case scenario, just hand the job to Adam Engel.

This team has proven it is talented enough to win in spite of these holes, but there’s no need to have them when upgrades are available and cheap.

Now, to move on to the managerial vacancy and what I see ahead.

First, I’ll give my top five options as I see them and my darkhorse candidate and I’ll explain who I think will actually get the job and why I see it that way.

DARKHORSE CANDIDATE:

CLINT HURDLE

Yes, this will probably be eye-rolled over but hear me out.

You want someone whose been a winner recently? This guy lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to the playoffs three years in a row, a team that hadn’t been there in 21 years. He also has a World Series appearance on his resume with the Colorado Rockies.

I would imagine his age (63) would be the biggest obstacle to his hiring but he’s known as a player’s manager and his resume is excellent. Definitely worth a look.

CANDIDATE #5

JOE McEWING

I think Super Joe is more than qualified to be a Major League manager, and it has shown itself when he’s stepped in for Renteria. The team plays hard for him and he seems to have a plan. He also likes to use the running game, which for some reason Renteria never did, even though this team is loaded with speed and could dominate teams with it, as the old St. Louis Cardinals teams of the 1980s did during their run of success.

But I think Joe may have the same stench of losing on him that Renteria does, not because he’s a loser but because he’s so closely identified with this team during the rebuild, first as third base coach and then as bench coach under Renteria.

CANDIDATE #4

JOEY CORA

A former White Sox player, Joey Cora has done it all in his career except manage at the MLB level. He’s been a minor league manager, MLB coach (including serving as Ozzie Guillen’s bench coach in 2005) and has even served as a broadcaster for MLB Network during the 2013 World Baseball Classic. For whatever reason, he’s never gotten a shot at managing an MLB club and currently serves as third base coach of the Pirates.

Cora should have gotten an MLB managerial job a decade ago, especially coming off serving as bench coach for a World Series team. Not sure what the problem is.

CANDIDATE #3

ALEX CORA

The pluses and minuses here are obvious, as the younger brother of Joey Cora has excelled as a coach and manager, winning two World Series in two years, as a coach with the Houston Astros in 2017 and as manager of the Boston Red Sox in 2018.

Then there’s the sign stealing scandal that caused him to lose his job with the Red Sox heading into 2020. That’s likely to follow him wherever he goes and be a detriment to the team that hires him. Honestly, considering the firing of Ron Roenicke, I think the Red Sox will bring Cora back into the big chair again and move forward with him.

CANDIDATE #2

SANDY ALOMAR, JR.

Much like Joey Cora, I think Sandy Alomar, Jr. should have had a MLB managerial job a decade ago. A former catcher (which is always considered a plus for a manager since they’re basically an on-field manager and handler of a pitching staff), I can’t for the life of me understand why he hasn’t been hired as a manager. It was rumored that the White Sox wanted to hire Alomar to serve as bench coach under Robin Ventura (a job which subsequently fell to Rick Renteria) but Alomar didn’t want Ventura to be feeling the heat if the team played poorly and his replacement was right there.

There’s another angle to the Alomar story, and that’s the health of Indians manager Terry Francona, who missed a large portion of the 2020 mini-season with health problems. If Francona is unable to return, Alomar would certainly be his replacement, I can’t think there would be any second thoughts about making that move.

CANDIDATE #1

A.J. HINCH

The obvious choice. World Series winning manager who is only 46 years old and famously has a degree in psychology from Stanford University. The only downside to Hinch is the cheating scandal with the 2017 Houston Astros and the bad blood that will follow him wherever he goes, much like Alex Cora. But I think it will be worse for Cora than it will be for Hinch, as Cora has been guilty of the charge twice.

Like Alomar, Hinch is a former catcher and one of the best bullpen managers I’ve seen, he’s basically the polar opposite of Ricky Renteria. He’s originally from Iowa and has seven years of managerial experience in spite of his age.

There’s literally no downside here. The guy has a .558 career winning percentage. He’s managed three 100-win teams in his career.

There is also the elephant in the room with Ozzie Guillen, who I think is a better choice than Hinch, because of his connection to the team and the city, the fact that he’s bilingual and the fact that he’s won here before. But Rick Hahn was quick to mention that he would not be considered for the job. At first I thought this was ridiculous, but the more I think about it, the more I understand why they made this decision.

Let’s take a recent example of how managers deal with things today. Late in the 2020 season, Renteria put pitcher Carlos Rodon into an unwinnable situation, pitching him out of the bullpen in an important game when he hadn’t worked out of the ‘pen in five years and was just coming back from injury. The move backfired badly and Ricky was quick to go to the press and say “put that one on me,” meaning the criticism.

Let’s be honest, first, Ozzie would never have made a move that ridiculous. Ozzie was an excellent bullpen manager. Second, if a guy went out and completely blew it, Ozzie wouldn’t think twice about going to the press and saying “Rodon really blew it today.” That was about accountability. That’s not really popular in today’s world.

So maybe if this team was a little older, Ozzie would be perfect. But these are still “kids” in the grand scheme of things and I don’t think they wanted Ozzie throwing them under the bus while they’re still “growing.” And I kind of understand that.

Naturally, there will be other candidates besides these and the manager may end up being someone we haven’t even considered. I’m thankful that Rick Hahn mentioned he wanted someone who had experience because that eliminates guys like A.J. Pierzynski, Jim Thome, Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko, who have no business managing a team that’s on the cusp of being a legit World Series contender for multiple seasons.

As this coming year will mark 30 years that I’ve been a fan of this franchise, I have kind of become cynical when anything happens, expecting the team to make the worst decisions but they seem to be growing out of that, so I’m not going into the offseason automatically expecting the worst. I did expect them to keep Nomar Mazara and platoon him with Adam Engel in 2021 just because they had a year of control left, now I’m not so sure. They finally seem to be at the point where they know they can contend and they’ll do the best they can to win. Today’s decision proves that point beyond dispute.

I now want to address Renteria and Cooper. I was never a fan of Renteria’s hiring, and made that clear publicly on a number of occasions immediately after his hiring as well as in the three years since. I always thought of his hiring the same way I looked at the White Sox hiring of Eddie Stanky 50 years earlier or the White Sox trade for Ron Santo in the early 1970s, it was just a way to “put one over” on the Chicago Cubs.

“We’ll take the guy you couldn’t win with and we’ll win with him.”

Naturally I don’t have any personal dislike for Renteria. He’s a good coach and seems to foster a good vibe in the clubhouse. He seems to be a good teacher. But he’s as poor of an in-game strategist as I’ve ever seen. While most managers are playing chess, he seems to be playing 52-card pick-up. Some coaches are just not cut out to be managers and yet they still get opportunities. Lloyd McClendon is a good example, as he proved to be a poor manager with the Pittsburgh Pirates but somehow has gotten opportunities since, with the Mariners and as a interim manager with the Detroit Tigers.

Ricky will be known from here on out as a guy you hire when you do a rebuild and get rid of when it’s time to compete, since it’s now happened twice. The Cubs were smart enough to get rid of him before they were ready to make the jump. The White Sox held onto him a year too long but at least they wasted little time in fixing that.

Coop is a different situation entirely. For whatever reason, the front office was always enamored of Coop even though I think his abilities were grossly overrated. When you look at the parade of guys who were either stars before he got a hold of them (Mark Buehrle was a 16-game winner the year before Coop was promoted to the MLB staff) or were legit starters that saw their careers point down with Coop (Javier Vasquez and Jeff Samardzija). The only two starters that Coop really developed who amounted to anything were Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, which isn’t much to brag about in 19 years.

We were told how great Coop was almost daily from Steve Stone and Rick Hahn and now he has a chance to go get another job and prove it. I think enough people realized that the 2005 staff was loaded with good veteran pitchers who were successful before they came to the White Sox and his recent failures (Samardzija, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease dealing with regression, Lucas Giolito going to his high school coach for help) have rightfully tarnished whatever reputation Coop had cultivated in the past.

This is a “what have you done for me lately” world we live in and Coop hasn’t done anything of note in a long time. And I’ll stick to what I’ve said throughout the mini season of 2020: This team won IN SPITE of the coaching staff, not with it.

So, in closing, this should be a really fun off-season. In a perfect world, the White Sox will hire A.J. Hinch and sign a couple of back-of-the-rotation starters, resign Alex Colome and bring in a legit right fielder who is more production than “untapped potential.” This team can be dominant for a good five or six years, so it’s time to put the pedal to the metal and go out and win. The Renteria Era is over. The Winning Era has begun.

Peace. And Go Sox. #ChangeTheGame #WhiteSox



EDIT

After writing this blog I heard that the White Sox are entertaining the idea of talking to former White Sox manager Tony LaRussa about the job.

I can’t even begin to express how ridiculous that idea is. LaRussa is 76 years old and hasn’t managed in nine years. Who in their right mind would want to take a young club and saddle them with a manager who was born during World War II?

There is no way LaRussa could interact with the baseball player of the 2020s, there’s a cultural divide there that’s unbridgeable. And there is an example of the White Sox trying that once before, with disastrous results: In 1976 the White Sox rehired former manager Paul Richards, who had managed the team from 1951 to 1954. He was 67 years old (a decade younger than LaRussa) and hadn’t managed since 1961, a layoff of 15 years. He was totally unprepared for the job and the Sox finished 64-97.

LaRussa was a great manager a generation ago. But his time has passed and the very idea of even discussing the job with him makes me cringe. Don’t do something so ridiculous when you have a great, young team that’s ready to contend.

The Jason J. Connor 2019 Winter Meetings Wrap Up: Chicago White Sox

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Overall, the 2019 MLB Winter Meetings, held in San Diego last week, will be remembered for being a lot more action-packed than previous installments. The signings of the top three free agents (Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon) were almost a watershed moment, since we had to wait until Spring Training had started last year for the top two free agents to finally sign their massive contracts.

At last year’s Winter Meetings, the Chicago White Sox made a blip-on-the-radar trade, acquiring starting pitcher Ivan Nova from the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor leaguer Yordi Rosario and $500,000 in International Bonus money. Not exactly setting the world on fire but bigger things were expected with the pursuit of Manny Machado. In the Rule 5 Draft, the White Sox selected pitcher Jordan Romano from the Toronto Blue Jays and immediately sold him to the Texas Rangers for cash considerations.

This year’s winter meetings were not much more exciting than last, and there’s no huge signing to look forward to that explains the lack of movement. The only White Sox transactions to take place were the acquisition of outfielder Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers for Steele Walker, the 46th overall selection in the 2018 MLB Draft and considered the sixth-best prospect in the White Sox organization.

In the Rule 5 Draft, the White Sox made no moves until the minor league portion, when they selected pitcher Will Carter from the Yankees.

A lot of negativity came from the Mazara acquisition, and I can certainly see the reasoning, considering the fact that the front office made the point that they were going to really shake things up this offseason. A below-average corner outfielder isn’t exactly making anyone buy season tickets, so where do they go from here?

People are down on the team (as usual) but this time, it’s not so much the White Sox fault directly as it is the White Sox fault that they’re just not a “destination team.” It’s a fact that the White Sox offered more money to pitchers Zack Wheeler and Jordan Lyles, but both accepted less to sign with the Phillies and Rangers, respectively.

Both were interesting case studies in the White Sox not being a “destination.” Wheeler took less money because his wife wanted him closer to her New Jersey home, which made the White Sox look even more ridiculous since last off-season they figured the way to get Manny Machado was to tug at his heartstrings by bringing in his good buddy Jon Jay and his brother in law, Yonder Alonso. This year, family did matter.

Jordan Lyles, while not a huge acquisition, struck me as even more strange. He turned down less money to sign with the Rangers without giving a reason, but acknowledged the fact that his best season to date (12 wins in 28 starts with a 4.15 ERA and a 1.7 WAR) was a result of working with catcher Yasmani Grandal, now with the White Sox. But apparently working with the catcher that helped him succeed and making more money than he would have made with the White Sox was not enough to seal the deal.

I truly believe the White Sox were going into the Winter Meetings expecting to “win the offseason,” and they had the rug yanked right out from under them.

Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams love to fall back on the rebuild and use that as an excuse every time something doesn’t go their way. After the Machado deal went nowhere last year, the company line was “we were a year too early,” which I agree, made sense. However, what did I hear from Hahn after the Wheeler deal failed? “we are probably a year too early.” Yeah, that’s the kind of excuse that works exactly once.

Unlike every other team in baseball, the White Sox front office does not want to be competitive one second before they absolutely have to be. I’m not sure where this mindset came from, or if it’s just loser thought from a loser franchise, but they are already falling back on the “it’s just year four of the rebuild,” which I expected, but they are spicing it up a bit with “the rebuild slowed down in 2019 due to injuries in the minor leagues,” which means they can try to add a year or two at the end and make it a six or seven-year rebuild instead of five, simply to cover their butts for more losing seasons.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have signed Gerrit Cole to a nine-year contract and I doubt they are going to just lay down and let the White Sox walk all over them when it comes time for the Sox to finally be “competitive.” It may just get uglier.

I still see parts of this rebuild that remind me of the 20-year rebuild of the Pittsburgh Pirates, which began in 1993 and finally ended with a playoff appearance in 2013, the first of three Wild Card appearances. But, alas, it went nowhere, no World Series appearances, let alone a championship. Is that in the White Sox future? Maybe.

So, as we move from the 2019 Winter Meetings into the holiday season, little is expected to change until January rolls around. At that point, expect the remaining free agent pitchers (Ryu, Keuchel and Bumgarner) to finally find new homes and I don’t see the White Sox making a major push for any of the above. I see more of a plan of re-signing Ivan Nova and bringing in a pitcher like Shelby Miller on a minor league deal, like the White Sox did last offseason with Ervin Santana, which was a major disappointment.

The White Sox are not close to contending, regardless of what fan boys and manager Rick Renteria will tell you. The pitching staff has one verifiable starter in Lucas Giolito, followed by question marks with Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon (injury), Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez (poor production) and a few minor league options.

And the push for 2021 being the “White Sox year” when it comes to free agency, it seems the train has already left the station because 2021 is going to be one of the weakest free agent classes, especially for pitching, in the past decade or more.

Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts will absolutely be the gem of the players available, while a few will command big money deals and get them (including Astros outfielder George Springer, A’s shortstop Marcus Semien and Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto potentially hitting the open market, depending on if any sign extensions before then).

The pitching that will be available is nothing to get excited over, the best likely being Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks (an All Star in 2017) and Marcus Stroman of the Mets (a 2019 All Star despite finishing the season with a 10-13 record). Neither is the kind of pitcher you want as your #1 or #2 option on a championship team.

There is a part of me that truly believes the White Sox hope is that they can fill in their entire team with players they have drafted, minor leaguers they have acquired via trade and castoffs or “change of scenery” players and avoid having to pay a true “superstar” to play for the team. This will get to be a problem as guys like Yoan Moncada and Giolito head into salary arbitration and, eventually, free agency, unless they can pull the Chris Sale/Jose Quintana/Eloy Jimenez trick again and sign them to friendlier deals.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but look at the Astros, whose rebuild is the blueprint other teams like to follow, and even though they have a fantastic minor league system with a number of home-grown talents on their MLB roster, they still had to supplement that group with Cole, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Michael Brantley in order to reach the World Series. You have to acquire top talent to be a top team in this era.

So, a lackluster Winter Meetings performance (which is less the Sox fault than it was last year) will leave the team as a third place entity behind the Twins and Indians in 2020 and if Kopech and Cease and Lopez develop into front-line starters, a run at a Wild Card birth is possible but I’m thinking this team is going to finish 2020 at 82-80.

I’ll blog again in the event there is some kind of free agent signing or trade acquisition between now and the start of Spring Training. Thank you for reading.

And GO SOX!

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!

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.