Chicago White Sox Rebuild has Team on Verge of Competing Again
The Chicago White Sox can’t be too surprised to find themselves just a half game behind the Cleveland Indians for first place in the American League Central.
After all, their master plan of rebuilding and rebooting for the future is finally coming to fruition. Out of the starting nine players in Sunday’s lineup against the Detroit Tigers, seven came to Chicago via trade or free agency within the last few seasons.
Four Years of Sloppy Baseball
It’s been a rough few summers to watch if you’re a fan of the boys from the South Side. Dating back to the 1990’s, the Sox were almost guaranteed to finish atop their division. But for the last four years, they’ve become the basement dwellers of the Central. Their last winning season came in 2012, when they compiled an 85-77 record that was good for second place. It was painfully obvious that some sort of change was needed.
Since taking over general manager duties in 2013, Rick Hahn has made it his mission to bring his team back to that competitive state they so frequently found themselves in just years ago.
Rick Hahn’s Influence
Hahn’s efforts of acquiring talent is a huge reason as to why Chicago is 13-10 to begin the 2017 campaign. It has been new faces like Matt Davidson and Leury Garcia who have been influential on the strong start for the Sox. Davidson, the rookie first baseman, is hitting .286 with 14 RBI in 16 games this year. Garcia’s slashing .310/.328/.500 as the everyday center fielder. Davidson and Garcia were both acquired by Hahn through trade in 2013.
Avisail Garcia has emerged as Chicago’s top hitter since arriving in the summer of 2013. It was Hahn, again, who received his everyday right fielder in the process of pulling off another trade that would pay dividends seasons later. The 6’4″, 240 lb tank that now patrols right field everyday leads the White Sox all across the board in the offensive department. He leads the team in nearly all categories, including batting average (.368), home runs (five), RBI (20), on-base percentage (.409), and hits (32).
Of course, along with the supporting cast the Sox currently boast, opposing pitchers have to deal with Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, and Jose Abreu. These sluggers that reside in the middle of the order for Chicago have been able to form one of the sneakiest, yet most dangerous lineups in the American League.
The White Sox have been in that lowkey-rebuild mode for the last few seasons under Hahn. They were in no position to seriously compete unless some major construction took place within the roster. That happened this winter.
Hahn blew it all up, seemingly to start from scratch, by trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. Both were believed to be centerpieces of the organization during a possible playoff run. But it never happened, and the general manager elected to start over.
He shipped Sale up to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for prized prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, as well as Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz. Moncada is the second-best prospect, according to Baseball America. He hits for power, runs like the wind, and has an arm that is rumored to reach the moon. Kopech’s the starting pitcher who’s touched 110 miles per hour on the radar gun, dates a reality TV star, and finds himself as the third-best prospect in the Sox system.
Days later, the general manager robbed the Washington Nationals for a handful of their top prospects, in exchange for Eaton. Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning were the other pieces of the puzzle now headed to Chicago.
The fanbase practically received a new minor league organization for Christmas. After the trades, Chicago delightedly owns the third-best system in baseball, according to mlb.com.
A Plan Coming Together
The Sale has expired in the North Side of Chicago, but they feel pitching can still be a force. Jose Quintana has taken over as the ace, Derek Holland had a nice first month, and Miguel Gonzalez is 3-1 with a 3.27 ERA. All of this is going on while Giolito, Lopez, and Carson Fulmer lurk in Triple-A Charlotte. Kopech has been dominant through four starts with the Birmingham Barons in Double-A, and should be making an impact on the big league rotation within the next few seasons.
Sure, the White Sox have compiled an unimpressive 290-358 record without reaching the postseason under the guidance of Hahn. Nobody would even bat an eye, nor should they, over what they have been able to do in recent seasons.
But successfully rebuilding doesn’t happen overnight, or over one or two seasons for that matter. It takes years and years until results finally show, and the 2017 White Sox perfectly exemplify this.
Chicago will certainly show flashes of potential this season, as they’ve done so far after the first month of play. But this is still a young Sox team, with a plethora of talent waiting in the minor leagues. Courtesy of the countless trades and free agent signings of Hahn, they’re really only a year or two away from being a threat out of the AL Central.
Watch out, baseball world. The Chicago White Sox are back in business.