Since the 2013 trade deadline, the White Sox have replaced three starting spots in their moribund position player crop. Each of these replacements have been under 30 years of age, with at least five years of team control in front of them, during which time they can be expected to grow. Two of them have scratched at least a month of above-average MLB play. The other one is the most statistically proficient hitter in recent Cuban history.
As much as I reject the notion that everyone should take it easy on the White Sox (given their goals and allocation of resources, the last five years are pretty embarrassing), there’s a growing list of credits, or just individuals that can be pointed to as evidence that a rebuild is indeed taking place.
That there’s a possible fourth piece (Marcus Semien) for whom room has not been created yet, might be part of the perception of the White Sox’ inactivity, along with the retention of primary 2013 culprits Paul Konerko and Tyler Flowers. The White Sox simply exit the Winter Meetings, the floating concept of when all offseason activity takes place, with incompletes in some primary objectives.
The catching situation is arguably worse than last year, since the ways in which Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley could be disasters as full-time catchers are very much known at this point. And a pair of guys who conquered Triple-A only to have their plate approaches break down at the sight of big league pitching is an odd pairing with even hoping for a moment that Rule 5 draft pick Adrien Nieto will stick around after punishing High-A as a 24 year-old.
And by retaining Konerko, the Sox have created their own leverage-hampering logjam in left field with Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo. It might make for a productive pairing overall, but is not much use of Viciedo if there is indeed any hope remaining of using Viciedo to do anything.
But if a season where management is openly slashing payroll by as much as $30 million to focus on its amateur talent budget is good for anything, it’s freeing from deadlines. Four months of catcher putridity has little effect on a 2015 season that will see Adam Dunn cleared off the books, Alexei Ramirez possibly more appealing as a short-term rental, and a bullpen that, if they so chose, would only have Addison Reed making above pre-arbitration levels.
Non-stars like De Aza or Gordon Beckham, potentially look more appealing to teams that realize mid-season that they have gaping holes in the outfield or infield where even a capable major leaguer of any kind would make a substantial difference. In the mean time, the opportunity cost for the Sox to act as a holding cell for these assets while games go on is minimal.
It’s a dreary way of looking at the 2014 season, but take heart, you only have to think about it when neither Garcia, Abreu nor Eaton are batting.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan