As the 2022 MLB season kicked off this past weekend, the Chicago White Sox were already dealing with a plethora of injuries. Third baseman Yoan Moncada, starting pitcher Lance Lynn, and relievers Joe Kelly, Ryan Burr, and Garrett Crochet were all on the shelf before the South Siders took the field.
And that bad luck continued to trend in the wrong direction over the first two games of the campaign. Opening Day starter Lucas Giolito exited early from his Friday outing and will head to the injured list with left abdominal soreness. Then, newly acquired outfielder AJ Pollock tweaked his hamstring rounding first base on Saturday and will also miss time.
With all of these injuries, especially to the starting rotation, how can the White Sox overcome adversity and find themselves in the postseason for the third consecutive season? Patience.
The Rotation Situation
The White Sox didn’t address Carlos Rodon’s departure this offseason. In fact, they didn’t even extend him a qualifying offer to receive a second-round draft pick if he signed with another team. Who knows what the front office was thinking, but it’s fairly evident they mishandled the situation.
Regardless, Rodon’s departure left a void in the starting rotation that the front office should have filled right away. Even if the Sox wanted nothing to do with Rodon, their ideal replacement plan shouldn’t have consisted of Vince Velasquez and Johnny Cueto.
Elsewhere in the rotation, Michael Kopech should find his place as a top-of-the-rotation starter at some point. But this season will bring about innings limits as he eases back into a starter role for the first time since 2018.
An already questionable back end of the rotation has become a disaster with the early losses of Lynn and Giolito. Dylan Cease becomes the de facto ace of the staff until Giolito returns, and in his first outing of the year, he looked the part. But after Cease, the team will have to rely on Michael Kopech, Dallas Kuechel, Velasquez, and most likely Reynaldo Lopez along with some bullpen days.
The front office couldn’t have predicted two injuries to their top starters so early. But since they didn’t offer themselves insurance this winter, they will have to be patient to figure out a solution to their problem.
Can Offense Fuel The White Sox?
Last season, the starting pitching had to carry the Chicago White Sox when key offensive players suffered long-term injuries. But in 2022, the offense will need to return the favor.
The White Sox will have to roll with the starting options they have out of a necessity to fill innings. They must exercise patience with Michael Kopech as he ramps up to starter-level innings following a bullpen role last season. Dallas Kuechel’s contract is essentially immovable, meaning the White Sox are stuck with him despite his awful 2021 season. The South Siders will have to see what Velasquez and Lopez can offer as they wait for Cueto to be game-ready and Giolito and Lynn to return.
Overall, the White Sox and their fans must remain patient at this point in time. There will be ups and downs during the early part of the season when it comes to pitching, but the offense can certainly carry this team.
The Sox lineup is deep, allowing Tony La Russa to mix and match without losing too much thunder day in and day out as some players rest. Josh Harrison at second base and AJ Pollock in right field are two nice additions to fill evident holes from last season.
If the first series is a sign of things to come, the White Sox bats will be a potent bunch in 2022. The South Siders outscored the Tigers 19-8 without ever trotting out a fully intact lineup. If the mainstays remain mostly healthy, they will do their part in helping the White Sox overcome their pitching woes.
Additions to Come?
Despite an offseason that left starting pitching depth thin, some patience could see the front office still address this need.
Right field concerns persisted well into Spring Training, but Rick Hahn eventually pulled the trigger on a trade for AJ Pollock. Hahn and co. surely couldn’t have been satisfied with the starting pitching depth even before the injuries to Lynn and Giolito. Now, the circumstances require them to strategize even further to find a solution to their biggest problem. The front office brass addressed second base and right field, so it’s not inconceivable that they would acquire another starter.
Once again, patience will be a key factor in their approach. It will not only allow them to seek out the best deal, but it will also give them time to evaluate their in-house options. Fans should remain patient as well, even if the offseason still leaves a lingering bitter taste.
The White Sox went all-in to address a big need last year by trading for Craig Kimbrel. Even though it didn’t work out, the approach of acquiring the best player available at their position of need inspires confidence that the Sox are operating under a win-now approach.
Good Things Come To Those Who Wait
Even though there were much easier solutions this winter, the Chicago White Sox can still address their starting rotation issues. I won’t judge this season based on what should have been done in the offseason.
Right now, the White Sox will have to ride with what they have. And what they have is one of the best lineups plus one of the most talented bullpens in baseball, even with Garrett Crochet sidelined for the year.
By mid-summer, the rotation could return to being a top-five group if injury issues subside. Additionally, a new face (or faces) could join the mix throughout the first half of the season. If the White Sox — and their fans — can remain patient, I think the South Side will be rewarded with one of the best teams in baseball by year’s end.
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