While it is way too early to truly know how the upcoming season will turn out for Chicago White Sox, there is one day on the calendar that could determine how the team finishes out the season or where it will be headed in the future.
Even though spring training hasn't started, it's not too early to circle the period between July 28th and August 3rd on the docket. It is during that time period that a date will be selected to be the trading deadline.
Last season, the trade deadline date was August 2nd, which was later than the usual July 31st date. Under the new collective bargaining agreement Major League Baseball and the Players' Association signed to end the lockout last year, the commissioner has the ability each year to choose a day during that period for when trades need to be completed.
It has not been announced what day that will be for the upcoming season but it will be one that the White Sox will want to circle.
The Chicago White Sox will make some big decisions during this season.
Despite struggling through most of the season last year, the White Sox still found themselves within striking range of the American League Central Division title as the trade deadline loomed over them.
The Cleveland Guardians were not running away with the division at the time and the hope was for injured players to return and struggling players to find their grooves to help get the White Sox over the hump.
White Sox fans hoped the team would pull the trigger on deals that would help them make a strong push for the playoffs.
Unfortunately, general manager Rick Hahn sat on his hands and made only one move, which was to bring in relief pitcher Jake Diekman from the Boston Red Sox for backup catcher Reese McGuire.
The move did nothing to really help the club as it limped to the finish line at 81-81.
The pressure to win is squarely on the team right now as it needs to get players such as Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, Michael Kopech, and others to not only stay healthy but play to their potential and regain the magic the team had when it won the division in 2021.
That may be asking a lot as the rebuild the team has been on since 2019 is seeing its window of opportunity close quickly with nothing more than one division title and two first-round playoff exits.
The decision by the organization to basically run it back with mostly the same players as last season says it believes the talent when healthy, can stack up with any team in the league.
The addition of left fielder Andrew Benintendi was a move that should provide an upgrade at the position but the team needs to produce at levels that match the potential experts thought they were capable of.
This brings us to this year's trade deadline and how important it will be for the White Sox. If the team finds itself heavily in the playoff race, will Hahn do what will be necessary to help the ball club by making moves to put them over the top?
Conversely, if the team flounders, will it be time to pull the plug on some key players to build up the farm system and start planning for the future?
That period of time will be critical for the team because if it does turn things around and finds itself in the playoff hunt, the team can ill afford to rest on its laurels and think they will be strong enough to win by standing pat.
Hahn will have to make a move or two to bolster the team's chances to finally break through and play meaningful baseball late into October.
Should things not go well, Hahn may have to look at the roster and realize it's time to move on from some players, including those viewed as being core pieces of what should have been a championship-contending team.
For the past several years, Hahn has not fully addressed obvious holes in the lineup and went into this off-season saying upgrades would most likely come from trades instead of free agency.
He has done just the opposite by signing Benintendi and pitcher Mike Clevinger, and in the case of Clevinger, he may not be available for a portion or possibly all of the season as MLB investigates the domestic violence and child abuse charges he is facing.
One of the reasons for the inability to make big trades is the lack of talent in the farm system. The White Sox are viewed as owning one of the weakest farm systems in the game right now and since they don't possess attractive pieces to trade, no deals have been made.
Which leads back to the trade deadline when it comes up. Teams may like players they see on the field and may try to land Jimenez or Moncada or Giolito. If that's the case, Hahn could be in a position to revamp the farm system.
Certainly, fans hope the team is in the thick of things come late July. However, in case the White Sox find themselves on the outside looking in, it may be time to try rebuilding again.