Recapping the Offseason that was for the Chicago White Sox
The White Sox, who won just 72 games in 2019, have seemingly opened their window of contention by outspending the majority of Major League Baseball this winter.
With pitchers and catchers reporting to Camelback Ranch next week and position players to follow, another season of Chicago White Sox baseball is right around the corner. Before the White Sox open camp, we’re going to take some time to recap the winter that was.
The Chicago White Sox, your 2019-20 “Offseason Champs”
The Chicago White Sox — barring another internal contract extension — have likely made their final “big splash” of the offseason when they extended Luis Robert early last month.
The six-year, $50 million extension for MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 prospect, Luis Robert, is likely the final headline-grabbing move for Rick Hahn and company of the winter. It was certainly a winter of turning the page on “Phase One” of the White Sox rebuild.
During an episode of “White Sox Unfiltered” last month, David Wildman anointed the White Sox the winners of the offseason. While I can’t say that I disagree, I’ll caution everyone that offseason awards don’t always translate to regular-season wins, so let’s not count any chickens before they’re hatched.
That being said, I think this time feels a little bit different. Let’s take stock of the current acquisitions.
The White Sox struck early this winter, landing the best catcher on the market before the Thanksgiving turkeys were even in the oven by inking Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal.
The signing of Grandal accomplished a few things for the White Sox right out of the gates.
It gave the White Sox a perennial All-Star backstop, one who immediately began to help solve the Sox’s on-base problem from 2019 while providing a young pitching staff with an elite defensive catcher and game-caller.
You can read more about what Grandal brings to the White Sox on the field in David Wildman’s story on him.
At the time of the signing, I thought that it established the Sox as serious players this winter and brought them a degree of legitimacy that they could use to court other free agent targets this winter. I opined that it signaled that the White Sox were determined not to lose the offseason again in this column from November, and boy was I right.
As you’ll see moving forward, the Grandal signing was just the beginning of what has become an offseason that might go down in the books as the one that opened the championship window on the South Side.
Less than 24 hours after the blockbuster Yasmani Grandal signing, the White Sox took care of their largest looming housekeeping item by extending Jose Abreu.
The veteran first-baseman got paid, and he will likely be here for the rest of his career. To those that think the White Sox overpaid Abreu, I offer this:
Abreu has been here through the entirety of this sometimes painstaking rebuilding process, providing valuable production and leadership on the field, in the clubhouse, and in the community. Jose Abreu got what he deserved from the White Sox.
During the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego, the White Sox acquired outfielder Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers in exchange for prospect Steele Walker.
While the move didn’t exactly move the needle for the fanbase at the time, it has plenty of potential to be a low-risk, high-upside trade that only cost a prospect who likely wasn’t going to see his way into the current contention window.
You can read more about Mazara’s potential fit in my column from December 11.
For now, the jury is still out on the trade, but with the pieces the White Sox added after the move, it’s not a high-impact miss if it turns out to be such.
December 19, 2019 — White Sox sign free-agent pitcher, Gio Gonzalez to a one-year, $5 million contract.
After missing out on a couple of pitching targets — most notably Zack Wheeler, who decided to stay local and take a lesser offer from Philadelphia — old friend (twice over) Gio Gonzalez became the first addition to the starting rotation in 2020.
Gonzalez immediately added a veteran left-hander to the White Sox young, right-hand heavy rotation.
We knew that Gio wasn’t the end-all when it came to the White Sox adding to their starting rotation, and on the Saturday evening before the Christmas holiday, the White Sox struck a deal with Dallas Keuchel.
Keuchel, a former Cy Young Award winner in 2015 and World Series champion with the Houston Astros in 2017, gave the White Sox a middle-to-top of the rotation arm for the next three to four years. Keuchel isn’t what he was during his 2015 Cy Young campaign, but he’s a southpaw with the highest ground ball rate in baseball who will bring invaluable experience to this core of young White Sox hurlers.
As Steve Paradzinski so eloquently articulated in his December 23rd column, “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,” Paradzinski said. “This is something that the White Sox desperately needed heading into 2020 and beyond.”
Merry Christmas, White Sox fans!
Santa [Rick] Hahn delivered Sox fans a stocking stuffer in the form of slugging designated hitter, Edwin Encarnacion, on Christmas night. Encarnacion immediately solved the designated hitter dilemma that has plagued the White Sox for years, providing 30-100 potential to the middle of the lineup in 2020. Time to walk the parrot on the South Side in 2020.
In the final major headline-grabber of the winter, Rick Hahn and company locked up “LaPantera” long-term.
The six-year extension is the latest in a long line of deals like this that Hahn has used to secure the core of this team through the better part of the next decade. It gives the White Sox their Opening Day centerfielder in 2020 free of agonizing service time debates.
The White Sox rounded out their historic offseason by adding Steve Cishek to the mix of the 2020 bullpen on January 7th. The move was made official on the 14th when they added Cishek to the 40-man roster and designated Dylan Covey for assignment.
Cishek spent the past two seasons on the North Side of town, where he posted ERAs of 2.18 and 2.95. The sidearm-throwing righty has spent time with the Marlins, Cardinals, Mariners, and Rays in addition to the Cubs over his career.
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said it best on a mid-January episode of NBC Sports Chicago’s White Sox Talk Podcast when he declared that the tryout phase of the White Sox rebuild is over and it’s time for the White Sox to win baseball games.
The White Sox, who won just 72 games in 2019, have seemingly opened their window of contention by outspending the majority of Major League Baseball this winter. Gone are the days of watching the likes of Dylan Covey, Ervin Santana, and Odrisamer Despaigne struggle to eat innings, or watching the Ryan Cordell’s and Adam Engel’s of the world struggle to provide any sort of offensive consistency to the mix.
On paper, all seems well for the White Sox in 2020, but they still have to play 162 games this season to prove that they’re a real contender moving forward.
Overall Offseason Grade
As much as I’d like to give the White Sox a shining A+, the miss on Zack Wheeler and the failure to ink a second-baseman that can keep Nick Madrigal’s place warm — and then serve as a major-league utility player — has me sitting at a strong B+ for the 2019-20 offseason.
Be on the lookout for my 2020 Spring Training preview that will be dropping soon, and stay tuned to On Tap Sports Network all season long for our extensive Chicago White Sox coverage.