Grading the Moves of the White Sox Rebuild Era
The White Sox hope these transactions will truly “change the game” as their recent series of promotions boldly touts.
What we, as fans of the Chicago White Sox, currently have is truly special. The 2020 Major League Baseball season is just around the corner and White Sox Twitter is buzzing with optimism like never before, which is something a lot of us have lost by suffering the drought of Octobers without baseball since 2008. I am sure many, many more fans have lost faith in Jerry Reinsdorf, Kenny Williams, and Rick Hahn. They threw a curveball and sparked a rebuild. We were initially excited, the sun was shining brighter on 35th and Shields, but then they failed to sign Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado ahead of the 2019 season. It seemed to be the same old song and dance with the ol’ White Sox. However, they changed that tune by having one of the best offseasons in all of baseball in 2020, and they hope those transactions will truly “change the game” as their recent series of promotions boldly touts. Over the course of this article, I will be grading the major trades, acquisitions, and signings of the rebuild era.
December 6, 2016: White Sox Trade Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for Luis Basabe, Victor Diaz, Michael Kopech, and Yoan Moncada
It’s no surprise Chris Sale was a leader, an ace, and a guy you really do not want your club to lose. The Sox got quite the haul back with just Moncada and Kopech: guys with huge potential to be all-time greats. Kopech took part in only four games during the 2019 season before being sidelined due to Tommy John surgery. It was obviously an unfortunate circumstance, but he has not missed a beat since working back into action, as he is at full-go throwing sideline sessions at Spring Training. Moncada, on the other hand, is just beginning what will be a phenomenal career. From 2018 to 2019, he increased his batting average by 80 points, struck out 63 fewer times, hit eight more home runs, and drove in 18 more runs. Picking a definite winner for the trade is a daunting task. Sure, the White Sox have age and a future on their side with these guys taking the reins, but Sale played a big part in the Red Sox winning their World Series, notably recording the final out against Manny Machado.
December 7, 2016: White Sox Trade Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals for Dane Dunning, Reynaldo Lopez, and Lucas Giolito
Winner: White Sox
Trading Adam Eaton to the Nationals was a very important move because of what he could have done to the team long term. He would have demanded more money in free agency and the Sox would have just let him walk, getting nothing in return. There is also the fact that the White Sox have great locker room chemistry. These guys love each other. They hang out together, work out together, and go to dinner together — it’s not just practice or a game then heading home. Eaton was infamous for being a pain in the ass while in the locker room, clubhouse, and dugout. Dane Dunning still possesses a ton of upside, so it will be interesting to see how he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Lopez and Giolito have both shown excellence and defeat during their early careers. Giolito excelled last year as he was an early Cy Young hopeful by the All-Star break and finished the season with a 3.41 ERA and 14 wins.
July 13, 2017: White Sox Trade Jose Quintana to the Chicago Cubs for Bryant Flete, Matt Rose, Dylan Cease, and Eloy Jimenez
Winner: White Sox
Whether you’re in favor of the North Side or South Side, you do not like the opposite and do not want to trade with each other. The Cubs gave an absolute boatload for White Sox number one guy Jose Quintana and it resulted in no World Series ring. Cease faced command issues in his debut season, but he has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Eloy, on the other hand, mashed the ball in 2019, posting 125 hits, 31 HR, 79 RBI, and an OPS of .828. One of his home runs was a ninth-inning go-ahead shot against his former team, the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are going to be unhappily watching from a distance as Eloy makes them regret their decision via dingers and ribbies.
July 19, 2017: White Sox Trade Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson to the New York Yankees for Ian Clarkin, Tito Polo, Tyler Clippard, and Blake Rutherford
The jury is still out on Blake Rutherford. He has not been bad by any means, but also not breaking any necks during his time in the White Sox system. This exchange for the haul that went to the Yankees was in the money. Frazier, Kahnle, and Robertson are all fundamentally solid ballplayers that were set to demand money the Sox no longer had an interest in paying due to the state of the team. Kahnle is the only player from the trade to still wear Yankee pinstripes.
November 30, 2018: White Sox Trade Omar Narvaez to the Seattle Mariners for Alex Colome
Winner: White Sox
The winner can be argued depending on how you view this trade. Omar Narvaez did not have an awful year with Seattle, a team he is no longer with. He had respectable numbers at the plate, but his defensive ability behind the plate has always been a bit of a weakness. The White Sox needed more bullpen arms, hell, they still do. At this point in the rebuild, the White Sox had already acquired Welington Castillo with Zack Collins and Seby Zavala playing lower-level baseball in the minors. Colome had a solid 2019 season, posting a 2.80 ERA and 30 saves.
December 19, 2018: White Sox Sign James McCann
McCann batted .273 with 18 HR and 60 RBIs in 2019. Though his performance dipped in the second half of the season, his strong start was good enough to earn him a trip to the All-Star game. Detroit non-tendered McCann, which allowed the White Sox to sign him for only $2.5 million. He had his breakout year after leaving Detroit, so you have to enjoy the little victories as well. He will rejoin the team in 2020 for $5.4 million.
November 14, 2019: White Sox Sign Jose Abreu
Abreu was a huge piece of the team’s development for a plethora of reasons. He’s a clubhouse leader, an on-field tank, and he plays a big brother role to most international signings. He is a former Rookie of the Year who has spent his entire career on the South Side. Over his career, Abreu has accumulated 179 HR, 611 RBIs, and a .293 batting average. Besides squeezing room for Andrew Vaughn or defensive liability Eloy Jimenez at first base, this is an undeniably smart signing.
November 21, 2019: White Sox Sign Yasmani Grandal
Grandal was the signing that really pumped most of the fanbase for this upcoming season, and it was just the beginning. He was named MLB Network’s number one catcher after being possibly the best defensively at his position. He racked up 28 HR, 77 RBIs, and a .246 average last season. Having McCann backing him up might give the White Sox the strongest catching unit in the league.
December 10, 2019: White Sox Trade Steele Walker to the Texas Rangers for Nomar Mazara
Steele Walker showed promise in the minors when he was bouncing around the A-ball level. Only 22 years old, Walker has plenty of time to get his shot in the show. The White Sox took the route of acquiring a bit of a project to address their right-field and left-handed-hitting needs. Mazara, also young at just 24 years old, has put together a decent but not outstanding four-year career. He posted 19 HR, 66 RBIs, and a .268 batting average over 116 games in 2019. At the plate, Mazara hits righties well but struggles against southpaws. On the defensive front, he doesn’t bring much to the tables. The White Sox not electing to add a platoon option to spell him in right field is an interesting choice, so they seem to have faith in his “untapped potential” that optimists have been buzzing about since the trade. Though trading away a prospect like Steele Walker isn’t giving up major capital, Mazara’s 2020 performance will dictate the outcome of this deal.
December 30, 2019: White Sox Sign Dallas Keuchel
This may be an unpopular opinion to some, but I am not crazy about this signing. Yes, Keuchel is an absolute blessing in the locker room. Players and fans both love him. Fairweather fans will come out to games and buy jerseys for guys like him, which is great, but I think $55.5 million over three years was a bit excessive. I am excited to watch him compete and help develop young pitchers along the way. Hopefully he can sustain the 3.75 ERA he has carried over the last two years.
January 2, 2020: White Sox Extend Luis Robert
At the beginning of the new calendar year, the White Sox and Luis Robert agreed to a six-year, $50 million contract extension. Was anyone not excited about this move? I understand I have been talking about unproven talent before, but in my eyes, this is the ticket. La Pantera has all the tools to excel in every facet of the game for a long time on the South Side.
January 9, 2020: White Sox Sign Edwin Encarnacion
Another player ever White Sox fan should be excited about is Encarnacion. The guy smacks the ball nonstop; who doesn’t love a good slugfest? He has hit at least 30 home runs in every season since 2012 and has reached at least 40 twice over that span. He has also had six seasons during that span of 100-plus RBIs. The downfall to signing him is age (37) and defensive limitations. With his past power numbers, I feel more than okay with giving him the $12 million, one-year deal.
January 14, 2020: White Sox Sign Steve Cishek
Cishek is another fine addition to the White Sox bullpen. The White Sox were able to lock him down for a mere $6 million. At 33 years old, he still throws the ball well with a 2.95 ERA over 64 innings in 2019. Cishek may lack control at times, as 57 strikeouts to 29 walks may not be the most ideal ratio for a reliever, but he touts remarkably better numbers than Dylan Covey, who was designated for assignment in order to make room for him.
January 2, 2020: White Sox Extend Aaron Bummer
Aaron Bummer showed major improvement in 2019. He dropped his ERA from 4.26 in 2018 to 2.13. He fanned 60 batters and walked 24 in 67.2 innings last year. For a big, in stature, 25-year-old lefty with so much potential, it was easy to make the extension worth $50 million over six years. Bummer has plenty of upside and could become the number one guy in any club’s bullpen.
Rebuild Era Grade: A-
And there you have it, my grades for the major moves of the White Sox rebuild era. Going into the 2020 season with a much more complete roster is a breath of fresh air for the South Side faithful. Hopefully this long and painstaking process eventually results in a World Series title. If you have any thoughts or comments, I would be more than happy to engage in a discussion. Follow and interact with me on Twitter @DaGerbs.