Would White Sox be able to field a competitive team for upcoming season if they didn’t start rebuild during Winter Meetings?
The rebuilding process the Chicago White Sox began this offseason has been received with open arms by many fans of the team. White Sox fans were getting tired of seeing the similar results every season with little to no improvements on any level.
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The White Sox have not made the playoffs since 2008 and have only won one playoff game since 2005. The White Sox have also not had an 80-win season since 2012. They’ve finished fourth or last in the division since that season.
Tearing down the roster was long overdue, but rebuilding it with a young foundation also brings along a few concerns.
How long is it going to take for these prospects to make an impact on the field? How good are these prospects even going to be? Are these prospects going to be enough to win a championship? Those troubling questions will be answered with time, but the good news for the Sox organization is that the fans are finally behind them.
Contrary to the winters in recent memory, the White Sox have approached this offseason with a different mentality. Rather than acquiring free agent veterans and MLB journeymen, the White Sox targeted young talent for the future.
The different approach the White Sox had going into the Winter Meetings is incredibly exciting for fans because it’s something they have not seen in many years. However, it’s interesting to imagine what would happen if the White Sox went into the Winter Meetings with the same mindset of previous years, and they held on to Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. The White Sox would have needed to add a few more pieces to have a playoff team, but how far away would the White Sox have been from having a contending and winning team?
The White Sox were the best team in the American League to start the season and even kept pace with the then World Series-favorite Chicago Cubs. After the surreal start in April, it all fell apart in May. Every part of the team simply lost its edge.
What was the best and the most dominant bullpen to begin the season, became mild and wildly inconsistent. They finished the season with the third most blown saves and third-lowest save percentage, despite allowing the second-least earned runs and runs scored in the American League.
After the dreamlike April where runs were produced almost on demand, the bats cooled off to a freeze. The magic ran out and the White Sox run production disappeared for a majority of the year. They finished 20th or worse in runs, home runs, RBI and OBP in MLB.
Despite allowing the second-most earned runs and runs scored, having the seventh-highest ERA and the fourth-most losses among AL starting pitching, the White Sox starters were still the strongest part of the team. They were ranked in the AL’s top five in complete games, shutouts, innings pitched and strikeouts.
The 2017 White Sox would have needed to improve all those areas. It would not be a matter of just acquiring overall better ballplayers, but also adding depth to improve the consistency. The White Sox would have needed to acquire a few middle relievers to keep the starters from pitching an inning or two more than they should have. That would have kept the right balance in between the starters and the setup and closing pitchers. The White Sox could have also benefited from the addition of a solid setup man.
Even though the White Sox extended Dan Jennings and Jake Petricka’s contracts on one-year deals, the go-to man this past season for Robin Ventura was Nate Jones. Jones had 28 holds, which was fourth-best in the MLB but also had 9 blown saves, which was tied for the most in MLB. It’s safe to say Jones is much better in a setup role, but it would not have hurt to grab another reliever who could give Jones or Robertson a day off.
In addition to the pitching woes, the White Sox had a wicked one-two punch in Sale and Quintana but they failed to establish consistent ‘end of the rotation’ starting pitchers. The White Sox had a total of 11 starting pitchers during the 2016 season.
The 3-4-5 pitchers, Carlos Rodon, Miguel Gonzalez and James Shields, each had a nice stretch of quality starts but usually at contrasting times. Rodon and Gonzalez, hidden in between no decisions and a few bad outings, had quality starts in more than half of their outings and held a decent ERA and WHIP in over 20 starts for the White Sox.
James Shields had an abysmal 2016. Shields easily had the worst season of his career. He recorded the most losses, highest ERA and WHIP, allowed the most home runs, earned runs and walks. He also threw the least strikeouts, innings pitched and earned the least number of wins in a season since his rookie year. However, he had a strong stretch from June 29th to July 26th, where he had six straight starts of at least six innings pitched and only allowed two earned runs or less.
If the White Sox chose to hold on to Sale and perhaps Quintana, depending on whether or not he will be dealt in these upcoming weeks, the White Sox still would have had a solid rotation moving forward. Rodon, 24, is young and a very good pitcher and he figures to play a major part in the future of the White Sox, even with the acquisitions of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Michael Kopech.
Gonzalez, because he is a little older at 32, probably won’t have a major role in the rotation moving forward. However, he would have been a nice option at the end of the rotation in 2017, if the White Sox had chosen not to rebuild. The same argument can be made for Shields if he can somehow find the form that gave him the nickname “Big Game James.”
The White Sox still have the same big bats they had last season, with the exception of Eaton, which is not entirely awful but still would have needed some work. The White Sox were hitting but not scoring runs. They were ranked in the AL’s top eight in hits, doubles, triples and batting average.
If the White Sox had chosen to stick it out with the same group, they would have needed to bring in a few new bats at catcher and center field. The catcher and centerf ield positions batted eighth or ninth in the lineup for the majority of the season. Not to say having a catcher or an outfielder in those spots in the lineup is unheard of, but it’s no secret those players were slotted at the end of the lineup because of their poor performances at the plate.
The same can also be said for the designated hitter spot in the lineup. The two players who logged at least 200 at-bats and more than 100 games combined at DH were Justin Morneau and Avisail Garcia. Morneau hit .260 with a .299 OBP at the DH position, while Garcia had a batting average of .230 and had an on-base percentage of .305. Those numbers are less than ideal for a position that’s exclusive to players who rake.
The rest of the hitters like Eaton, Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and Tim Anderson would make up the rest of the offense, like they presumably will this upcoming season. In retrospect, the White Sox were still a long way from forming a winning roster if they had not chosen to rebuild.
All of the key additions of relievers, position players and designed hitters probably would not have happened in the foreseeable future. If they did happen in the foreseeable future, there would have been a high chance of not receiving every player the team needs or simply overpaying more free agents. Fans will not know if the rebuild is a success until after a few years, but it’s almost certain that the White Sox team prior to the rebuild was on course for another year of mediocrity, at best.