For all the consternation that was on White Sox Twitter and other places across the interwebs, the team has had a productive offseason as we celebrate Festivus today. I’ve taken many opportunities to air my grievances regarding this organization, but I have to say I have been pleased with what has been accomplished to this point. They have addressed multiple areas of significant need (catcher, starting rotation, left-handed hitting power, on-base skills) and still have their sights set on getting better.
The recent acquisitions of “Diamond” Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez (assuming Kenny doesn’t trade him between now and March 26th) will help provide stability and reliability to a rotation that has been filled with high levels of upside and uncertainty. Keuchel’s acquisition, in particular, is significant because from an optics standpoint it demonstrates that this team is serious about wanting to win ballgames. Yes, I’m aware they could’ve signed Cole, Strasburg, or Rendon; we’ve been over this multiple times so let’s just put it to bed. Keuchel has been a solid but not spectacular pitcher over the course of his Major League career. He had his Cy Young Award-winning season in 2015 that was his apex, but since then he has proven to be a quality, above-average pitcher. This is something that the White Sox desperately needed heading into 2020 and beyond. Keuchel is a relatively limited upside play for the team, but his ability to take the ball and provide innings will be immensely valuable with a rotation that has to juggle innings limits on Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodon, and Dylan Cease.
Keuchel’s signing is also significant because it will, to some extent, put an end to the “White Sox will never sign a Scott Boras client” talk that has surrounded this team for almost two decades. I’d like to take this moment to say that I think my column a few weeks ago directly played a role in this happening. Now, it’s true that Keuchel is not an upper-echelon client in the Boras stratosphere, so the Sox still have to climb that mountain, but the very fact that they can now cross this off the list of things this organization hasn’t been willing to do is meaningful.
So as it stands right now, I think the Sox are closer to getting themselves within the margin for error to be a serious contender in the AL Central. At this point, it is imperative that this team continues the full-court press to add as much talent to the 26-man roster as possible (galaxy brain level idea there, I know). If this team is successful in bringing in another quality power bat, this lineup with have length and be a chore for opposing pitchers, which is something we haven’t been able to say in a really long time. Bringing in a veteran the likes of 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, or even revisiting the Marcell Ozuna concept from earlier this winter, will make this team a viable threat offensively.
Aside from another power bat, I think a utility infielder that can start the season at second base and fill in across the diamond would be a wise decision. We’ve seen the team linked to non-tendered Cesar Hernandez (who has now reportedly agreed to terms with the Indians), Jason Kipnis, and a few others. I would also like to see this team insulate its bullpen against what I feel is Alex Colome‘s eventual regression by acquiring another high-leverage reliever. This team still has some intriguing young arms in the bullpen and in the upper minors that dealt with either under-performance or injury in 2019, so adding a little more certainty would be welcomed. I know I’m alone in my thinking that if I were running the team I would still look at Alex Wood or Collin McHugh. Given where this team is, the added depth of an additional pitcher that can either start or relieve would be a useful allocation of a roster spot in my view. I’m also of the mindset that bringing in another pitcher to push Reynaldo Lopez and not guarantee him a spot in the rotation would be wise. I know this is highly unlikely, however.
As it stands today, the White Sox are a much better baseball team than they were on September 30th of this year. They correctly identified areas of need, and have done a solid job of addressing those needs. Even the ill-fated pursuit of Zack Wheeler showed the team had the correct thought process when attempting to reshape this roster. I know since the news of Keuchel’s signing broke Saturday night, there is an elevated level of optimism within the fanbase. A couple more quality moves like Encarnacion and a viable big league utility player will help to round out this roster. On paper, they won’t be a favorite to win the AL Central, but given the upside that many of the young players on the 26-man roster possess, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to see this team take a major jump a year early. It’s happened before and it can happen again. One thing I know is, this team is a lot more compelling than it was six weeks ago. Let’s just hope they keep it going and who knows in the end, the AL Central may feel…the…bang!
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