This is Year 3 of an extensive rebuild for the White Sox, who, as expected, aren’t in contention. While the club was in the wild-card hunt at the midpoint of the season, owning a 42-44 record at the All-Star break, reality has set in during the second half. Chicago’s now 58-69, on its way to a seventh straight sub-.500 showing and an 11th consecutive season without a playoff berth.
As you’d expect, White Sox fans aren’t enamored of the franchise’s long-running skid, which general manager Rick Hahn addressed Thursday. Hahn told Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times and other reporters he understands the fans’ frustration, saying, “Oh, I get it it. We all get it. We all get the impatience. We feel the impatience.” At the same time, though, Hahn’s not audacious enough to promise a return to contention a year from now.
“Let’s talk in Glendale,” stated Hahn, referring to the team’s Arizona-based spring training headquarters. In Hahn’s view, there is “a lot to be excited about” in regards to what the White Sox are building, but he acknowledged there will be plenty of work ahead once the season ends. “In terms of putting ourselves in a position to contend, let’s get to the offseason and then set some priorities and see how good we are being able to convert on hitting those priorities before we assess it,” he said.
For now, the White Sox have seen several major leaguers spring up as potential long-term cogs this season. The face of their position player cast, third baseman Yoan Moncada, has turned into the star the White Sox thought they were getting when they acquired him from the Red Sox in the 2016 Chris Sale blockbuster. Tim Anderson has further established himself as the White Sox’s solution at shortstop. Left fielder Eloy Jimenez hasn’t posted an eye-popping rookie season along the lines of, say, Yordan Alvarez or Pete Alonso, but he’s still an indispensable building block. And though he’s not particularly young (29), James McCann has been surprisingly effective this season, which could make him Chicago’s starting catcher again next year.
Turning to the rotation, Lucas Giolito – another of the fruits of the team’s ’16-17 offseason teardown – has morphed into a front-line starter at the age of 25. Meanwhile, Reynaldo Lopez (acquired in the same trade as Giolito) has put up a solid second half after a woeful first couple months of 2019. Those two and fellow past trade pickup Dylan Cease will return to Chicago’s rotation next season, while Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon should factor in after recent Tommy John surgeries. The White Sox aren’t nearly as well off in the bullpen, but 25-year-old lefty Aaron Bummer at least gives the team another youthful, highly talented core member.
That’s an enviable group overall, though an injection of further talent remains necessary. For one, the Sox will need to address first base and-or designated hitter, whether that means re-signing pending free agent Jose Abreu or bringing in an outsider(s). Second base, where Yolmer Sanchez hasn’t provided much offense, has been a sore spot. The same applies to the outfield, while Chicago still must find more aid for its rotation and bullpen. But whether the franchise will open the coffers in the offseason to add high-priced talent remains to be seen.
The White Sox made some attempt to sign $300MM-plus free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper last winter, though their efforts ultimately came up well short. To this point, despite its big-market status, Chicago hasn’t inked a player to a larger deal than the six-year, $68MM contract it gave Abreu going into 2014. If it wants to make an earnest effort to sign, say, ace Gerrit Cole in free agency, it’ll likely need to make an offer worth at least triple the value of Abreu’s pact.
Fortunately for the White Sox, they do have yet another enticing prospect knocking on the major league door in outfielder Luis Robert. Hahn touched on Robert’s status (via Bruce Levine of 670 The Score), saying he’s “doing fantastic” with Triple-A Charlotte, but the executive expressed uncertainty as to whether the 22-year-old will make his major league debut this season.
Keeping Robert down until next year would benefit the White Sox from a service-time standpoint, as Levine notes. Should Robert reach the majors this year, he’d be on pace to become a free agent after 2025, whereas holding off on a call-up into mid-April of next season would keep him in the fold through ’26. Regardless, Robert has justified his status as one of the game’s premier prospects this year. Robert crushed High-A and Double-A pitching to start the year and has done the same since a promotion to the minors’ highest level, where he has slashed .310/.364/.665 (150 wRC+) with 13 home runs in 176 plate appearances.
Robert’s among a slew of young White Sox who could help the club return to relevance soon. In the meantime, Hahn & Co. will work this offseason to augment the roster around Chicago’s core.