Last season, the Chicago White Sox came to the realization they were not the competitor they fancied themselves as seasons prior. That realization resulted in the trade of Chris Sale and then again moving Adam Eaton this winter. In the end, what’s left is a team that (still) has some really intriguing pieces and needs to put their young players in position to set them up for playoffs runs in the future.
Chicago White Sox 2017 Season Preview
The big question going into this season revolves around how much patience the club is willing to show. And further, what moves they ultimately decide to make in order to continue their rebuilding effort. While the franchise took a step back in relation to the upper tier of American League clubs, it was a much-needed step towards a successful future. What the White Sox might lack in wins this season, they’ll make up for with a stable of young prospects that will shape their future. Here is your Chicago White Sox 2017 season preview.
The Right Timing
Chicago chose a good time to zig while the rest of their division zags. Cleveland is the reigning AL Champion, Kansas City is tending downward since their World Series appearances and Detroit could go either way (the Tigers could surprise this season, or completely tank). And Minnesota is coming off a hugely disappointing season but is coming out of a rebuilding process of their own. The Twins, like the Tigers, are tough to peg because just about every outcome is on the table. By acting the way they did, the White Sox set themselves up to capitalize on a future when the rest of the division might collapse. Or at least that would be the best-case scenario for the South Siders.
That bright future needs to show itself this season, though. At least in flashes. Or in the form of successful seasons for the team’s farm clubs. For White Sox fans, this season might be the season it’s better to look at the wins/losses of the minor league clubs than the big league one.
Success for the White Sox in 2017 won’t necessarily directly correlate with win total. But rather in the development of a particular group of players. After moving franchise stalwart Alexei Ramirez, the Chicago set their sights on shortstop Tim Anderson (with Jimmy Rollins acting as the stopgap during the interim). Last season, Anderson appeared in 99 games and hit .306 with a .432 OBP. Anderson’s continued progress is imperative to the development of the White Sox as a whole.
Setting a New Tone, Finding a New Identity
What makes rebuilding such a fragile practice is the roster turnover. But not just because of the loss of on-field production. Changing voices in the locker room can have a dramatic affect on a team as well. It would seem the White Sox traded away their two most vocal locker room presences in Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. In at least one of those cases, that presence may have been a net negative. Despite the on-field success of the player in question. (Need a hint?)
It could end up a stroke of genius that Chicago chose to rebuild in parts. They still have plenty of veteran players in SP James Shields, OF Melky Cabrera, 3B Todd Frazier, 1B Jose Abreu, and RP David Robertson, among others. Most, if not all, of those players should become available via trade at some point this season. But if nothing else, they provide the younger players examples of professionalism and how to handle big league life. When the youth are left to their own devices, taking an all-in approach with young guys overnight can fail spectacularly. The White Sox obviously decided to keep the elders around, at least in the short term, to help create a better clubhouse environment going forward.
Continuing the Movement
The team the White Sox currently have is probably far from the team they end the season with. The aforementioned veterans (particularly Frazier, Abreu, and Robertson) could bring back considerable hauls if traded. That would only help augment the White Sox youth movement. GM Rick Hahn has demonstrated a willingness to wait for the right trade, and pounce when said trade presents itself.
To further the incentive for Hahn and Chicago’s upper-management continued involvement in MLB’s trade market is that several of the White Sox’s prospects are MLB-ready, or nearly there. The big names acquired in dealing Sale and Eaton were Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito, respectively. If those two don’t break camp with the big league club (which they probably won’t), they shouldn’t have to wait for their call-up long. But in order to do that, the White Sox must open up MLB roster spots.
Although the progression of players who will make up Chicago’s future is imperative, it’s also important those older players produce early in order to uphold the trade value they have. Every save Robertson gets, every home run Abreu and Frazier hit won’t just help in the moment. But must also get put through the lens of what it means in any prospective trade.
The Chicago White Sox could end up pretty competitive this season. Although the rest their division might have more to say in that regard than the White Sox do themselves. While expectations aren’t that big, opportunity is most certainly high this season for the Chicago White Sox.