White Sox didn’t make many moves this offseason but were able to add key veterans to the current team for the upcoming season.
With Spring Training just around the corner, it is the perfect time to wrap up the offseason while previewing camp. Given the White Sox still have a long way to go until they are competing for division and world championships, every move they make can accelerate or delay the process. Here are some of the headlines they’ve made so far this offseason:
Castillo will provide the Sox with a proven backstop, and one that can hit as well. He reached the 20 home run plateau last season for the first time in his career, not to mention the fact that he drove in 53 runs. The latter was not a professional best for Castillo, who knocked home 68 back in 2016.
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This trade was especially critical for the Sox, who had virtually no experience in their bullpen at the time it was made. The only exception to that rule was Nate Jones, who is coming off elbow surgery. Soria has closed in the past, and Avilan can give manager Rick Renteria a left-hander who is capable of getting lefties out on a consistent basis.
Another reason why this is so important is the value of relief pitchers in July. General Manager Rick Hahn even went out and signed Jeanmar Gomez and Xavier Cedeno to minor league deals, who have both had success at the big league level. As many of you remember, Anthony Swarzak was not brought to camp with any guarantees last year, and he turned into a solid prospect at the deadline.
The Sox also signed Bruce Rondon to a minor league contract on Friday. Rondon was a member of the Detroit Tigers last season but was non-tendered by them on Dec. 1. The 27-year-old has an invitation to Spring Training and could be an interesting relief pitcher if he can find some consistency on the mound.
Now, here are some key storylines to watch for in camp. First and foremost would be the progression of Carlos Rodon. This is the second straight year he will not start the season healthy, and one has to start wondering if his career could end up in disappointment. A second and potentially more important story down the road is the development of young players such as Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez.
Without proper development from youngsters and the Sox rebuilding efforts will go for naught. Building up a farm system is terrific, however, if the elite prospects all fail to produce in the big leagues you are doing something wrong. The saying “prospects are suspects” is true, however, a system must be put in place in order for them to succeed. If that is not there, expect the failure rate to be higher.
Before wrapping things up, it must be stated that position battles are the final area to watch during Spring Training. While center field comes to mind, left field and countless bullpen spots should be interesting to keep an eye on. Some of the winners will fail to hold off competition throughout the season, but it is good for development to take a look at as many players as possible.
All in all, it is going to be fun to discuss actual baseball news outside of transactions. Given the Sox minor leaguers could be the talk of camp, Yoan Moncada will still attract plenty of attention from the media. We are all looking forward to seeing some of the Sox top prospects even if it is in an exhibition play, so things could get interesting over these next several weeks. So book your reservation to Glendale, Ariz., Sox fans.