Starting pitching, designated hitter and right field are among the areas that have been problematic for the White Sox this year, their 11th season in a row without a playoff berth. General manager Rick Hahn could address those spots during the winter, he told James Fegan of The Athletic and other reporters Friday (subscription link).
The White Sox’s rotation has been one of the game’s worst this year, but it’s clearly not a unit devoid of talent. The success of Lucas Giolito, who has given the team long-awaited front-line production, has arguably been the most encouraging development of the season for Chicago. Meantime, although their numbers are below average, there’s vast potential with Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease. The club also has stellar pitching prospect Michael Kopech, who missed all of this year because of Tommy John surgery but could earn a spot in its rotation from the outset in 2020. Carlos Rodon’s another recovering TJ patient, but he didn’t go under the knife until this past May. Consequently, Rodon won’t be an early season option for the White Sox next year. As such, Hahn suggested the team could bring in more than one starter during the winter.
On the offensive side, it seems any moves the White Sox make will be geared toward bettering their paltry on-base percentage. “That’s something we need to improve upon,” admitted Hahn, whose team ranks 22nd in the majors in OBP (.314) and dead last in walk percentage (6.3).
The DHs and the outfielders the White Sox have utilized this year have been some of the main contributors toward their deficient OBP. The club released Opening Day DH Yonder Alonso back in the first week of July after he got off to a terrible start, even though it still owed the offseason acquisition almost $5MM at the time. The White Sox have since turned to a revolving door of players there, including first baseman Jose Abreu, a pending free agent. The 32-year-old Abreu and the White Sox have made their affinity for each other known on many occasions, so it wouldn’t be any kind of a surprise to see a new deal come together between the two.
Meanwhile, in the outfield, it seems left and center are spoken for heading into next season. Prized left fielder Eloy Jimenez will return for the second year of his career, while Hahn “confirmed” standout prospect Luis Robert will be in the majors early enough in 2020 that center won’t be an offseason priority, per Fagan. The White Sox have relied on Adam Engel and Leury Garcia there to mediocre results this year. They’ve been worse off in right, where Garcia, Ryan Cordell, Jon Jay, Charlie Tilson and Daniel Palka have combined for woeful production. Free agents-to-be Marcell Ozuna, Nicholas Castellanos, Yasiel Puig, Corey Dickerson and Brett Gardner would provide easy corner outfield upgrades on paper, though Hahn and the Sox could take the trade route instead.
Second base has been yet another offensive weak spot for Chicago, which has seen Yolmer Sanchez post a .254/.321/.322 line with almost zero power (two home runs, .068 ISO) in 543 trips to the plate. Nevertheless, it doesn’t appear the keystone will be on the White Sox’s offseason to-do list. Just as Hahn looks for Robert to come up in the early going next year, he expects fellow top 100 prospect Nick Madrigal to do the same and help solidify second base.
Thanks in part to the White Sox’s collection of young talent, they’re “very, very pleased with the progress” they’ve made, according to Hahn, who did admit they haven’t won enough games in 2019. Chicago’s sitting on 70 victories with a couple days left in the season, and it’s clear Hahn will have a lot to address in the next several months in order to get the team closer to playoff contention next year.