With the holiday season in full swing, this has been a fairly quiet week around Major League Baseball. If you’re a White Sox fan who happens to read MLBTR, though, we’ve had plenty of items relating to your favorite team over the past couple days. There has been Chicago’s one-year, $12MM agreement with first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, its reported interest (or lack thereof) in free-agent outfielder Yasiel Puig and Mark Polishuk’s piece on the extension candidacy of stud center field prospect Luis Robert.
Even before the White Sox committed to Encarnacion, the majority of voters MLBTR polled Tuesday declared they were having the best offseason of all AL teams that finished below .500 in 2019. The White Sox defeated the Angels, Blue Jays and Rangers – teams that are also enjoying impressive offseasons – for that honor. Before Encarnacion jumped aboard, the White Sox added catcher Yasmani Grandal and left-handers Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez in free agency, re-signed 1B/DH/franchise favorite Jose Abreu and acquired outfielder Nomar Mazara in a trade with the Rangers.
Now, with the bulk of the White Sox’s winter work likely done, it’s worth asking how good this team looks on paper. Undoubtedly, Chicago had a high hill to climb coming into the offseason. The club was then fresh off a 72-victory campaign, its 11th in a row without a playoff berth and the seventh straight season in which it lost more games than it won. Maybe the White Sox aren’t quite playoff-caliber now, but considering the moves general manager Rick Hahn & Co. have made in the past month and a half, they should at least push the .500 mark next year.
With Encarnacion, Grandal, Abreu, Mazara, third baseman Yoan Moncada, shortstop/reigning AL batting champion Tim Anderson and left fielder Eloy Jimenez comprising the majority of their offense, the White Sox should be a bear to deal with for opposing pitchers. That’s without considering the forthcoming promotions of Robert and second base prospect Nick Madrigal, who could emerge as regulars in the early going next season.
Likewise, there’s no shortage of promise in Chicago’s rotation. If all goes according to plan, Keuchel and Gonzalez will act as sturdy veterans, Lucas Giolito will continue blossoming into one of the game’s premier starters, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease will quickly realize their vast promise, and Carlos Rodon will return to form after Tommy John surgery. Odds are that everything won’t go right, but that’s still a lot of talent crammed into one starting staff.
If there’s one area Chicago hasn’t really addressed this winter, it’s the team’s bullpen. The White Sox did claim flamethrowing righty Tayron Guerrero off waivers from the Marlins, but they’re otherwise in line to return a familiar cast of characters at the end of games. That isn’t quite cause for panic, though, as their Aaron Bummer-led relief corps largely earned middle-of-the-pack marks last season.
Although we still have several weeks before pitchers and catchers report, this already looks like a much-improved White Sox roster. In an AL Central division with multiple teams in full rebuilds (the Royals and Tigers) and two quality clubs that could take steps back (the Twins and Indians), perhaps Chicago can break through as one of the majors’ surprise playoff contenders in 2020. What do you think?
(Poll link for app users)