With this year’s edition of SoxFest in the books, it’s time to set our sights on Spring Training. But before we do, I want to share with you some of my key thoughts and takeaways from this weekend’s events.
The Window is Open
In a one-minute and twenty-three-second response to a SoxFest attendee regarding the message for the players in 2020, Chicago White Sox skipper Rick Renteria summed up what we all want to be true — the time is now.
“We will tell these guys to get their head out of their ass, and let’s start playing the game,” Renteria said. “It’s no longer time to say, ‘hey it’s alright’, let’s go. The players are telling me that.”
After an offseason of excitement and endless hypothetical possibilities, the message throughout SoxFest 2020 was loud and clear from everyone you asked, the window of contention is open and the White Sox plan on taking full advantage of it.
“They’re not afraid to fail, we push these guys extremely hard,” Renteria said. “We have a group of young players that are starting to learn and are feeling very confident about their skill sets. You still have to perform, but now we’ve got some guys that have been in that fire, that have been in that battle that are now combined with our young guys. And our guys are telling our young players, hey it’s time to go, we don’t have time to mess around, we have a window of opportunity, let’s take it.”
With the 2019 breakout campaigns of Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jimenez and more coupled with the additions of talented major-league caliber ballplayers with long lists of playoff experience on their resumes, the White Sox are in a position to be competitive for the first time in many years.
Only time will tell. Members of the club from the front office down have been sure to temper expectations and put emphasis on just simply competing in 2020, but one thing is for sure, and that is that the window is open for the White Sox.
The Yasmani Grandal Effect
When the White Sox acquired free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal back in November, it laid that foundation for the offseason that was and gave the 2020 ballclub a top-tier offensive and defensive backstop.
Aside from what we can discern in the box score, this weekend made it quite clear that Grandal’s impact off the field is going to be felt in the same manner as his on-field presence with the White Sox.
Fans who haven’t seen or heard much of Grandal in person or even on television or radio with him being in other markets formerly in his career were treated to a savvy veteran who has conversational skills like few others in baseball. He also quite obviously has a knack for teaching.
The son of a teacher (his mother), Grandal noted that his decision to come to Chicago had a large part to do with the current state of the young core and his desire to not only win but to be a key part of that winning. Grandal made it clear that he loved school, loves learning, and likes teaching just as much.
Talking it is one thing, but doing it is another, right?
Well, he walks the walk Sox fans.
It was abundantly clear in the way that he interacted with young players and the way that they interacted and spoke about him, that with minimal time spent bonding, Grandal has the ear of these youngsters.
Grandal’s leadership qualities were on full display, and it seems to me that the guys around him have embraced their presence before the team has even opened camp.
We’ve laid it out before, and we’ll do it again here — the White Sox have acquired a stable of major-league quality starting pitchers, that at least on paper, gives them a degree of depth in that area.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn joked about that being a good problem to have and went on to say that the current situation gives the team the ability to ease guys like Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon back into the fold and provide them with ample rest in-season with the experimentation of a six-man rotation or occasional skips in the rotation.
This glut of starting pitchers also gives the White Sox the ability to provide depth to the front end of the bullpen and potentially gives them valuable trade assets when the time comes to make a big move.
Of course, there’s still a fair amount of uncertainty with this group.
- What will Dylan Cease‘s development look like in 2020?
- Can Reynaldo Lopez bounce back from a subpar 2019?
- Will Michael Kopech/Carlos Rodon reach their pre-injury potential?
- How much do Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez have left in the tank?
- Will Lucas Giolito continue to improve, or will he regress slightly?
All are fair questions, and we’ll need to play out the 162 ahead of us to really know, but if the undesirable outcome of any of those questions comes to fruition, it’s a nice change knowing that there’s depth at the position.
Aside from Yasmani Grandal, no one impressed me this weekend as much as Michael Kopech did.
Kopech is extremely well-spoken and has been very candid about his injury, his recovery, and his struggles with mental health, even saying at one point that his injury that led to Tommy John surgery was “a blessing in disguise.”
In Kopech’s words, the injury — for as unfortunate as the timing seemed then — gave him time to step away from baseball and reevaluate things at a time when he needed it most in retrospect.
Kopech seems healthier than ever, both mentally and physically heading into 2020.
From the things that were said throughout the weekend, I’m almost certain that regardless of the spring campaign Kopech puts together, he’ll be staying in Arizona for an extended Spring Training and then making a stop in Charlotte before heading to Chicago sometime in May.
The offseason is over, SoxFest is over, and now we have two weeks and some change until the team heads to Camelback Ranch to kick off another season of White Sox baseball. If the vibe from this weekend’s festivities were any indication of what’s to come, you’d better be ready for a fun one, White Sox fans.