The 2022 Chicago White Sox had an opportunity to be the class of the American League. Yes, they are still going to be a good baseball team in 2022. However, they could've cemented themselves as the cream of the crop in the American League by shoring up holes on the current roster. But in typical White Sox fashion, they didn't finish the job. In fact, you can argue they have actually added to their roster shortcomings by their decision processes this winter.
Rick Hahn's disastrous resource allocation has left most of us within the fan base scratching our heads this winter. The team clearly identified three areas of need heading into the winter. In the final days of Spring Training, they addressed one area while leaving voids remaining at the others.
Back in November, Rick Hahn addressed several topics regarding the White Sox's offseason needs. Let's begin with second base.
"We have potential internal options in Danny Mendick and Romy Gonzalez. That said, we're going to survey that market, trade or free-agent, and see if there is a way to get better," the Sox GM said. "We haven't closed the door on perhaps bringing back Cesar at some point. Leury (Garcia) got some starts down the stretch. He's a free agent and we continue to have contact with (him), and we’ll see what the next couple weeks or months hold.
"There is an argument it's an area we can get better with an everyday option, but we can put players like Gonzalez and Mendick in roles where we can move them around and have greater value."
That certainly sounds to me like a polite way of saying we know that we must address the second base position. So, the team decided to bring back Leury Garcia on a three-year extension and sign 34-year-old Josh Harrison to fill the spot. Not exactly what you would expect to see a team in the heart of their contention window do to address a clear area of need. Well done, Rick.
If the team ultimately didn't prioritize second base over other areas on the roster, that would be okay if they decided to appropriately address those other areas. Once again, they did no such thing.
Right This Way?
It took some time, but the Chicago White Sox finally got their right fielder on April Fool's Day, no joke, when they acquired AJ Pollock from their Camelback Ranch roommates, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pollock provides competency at a position that has been lacking for years. He is a capable outfielder, despite being short on experience in right field. The 34-year-old has been a consistently solid bat throughout the course of his career and is coming off a career year in 2021.
Injuries have been an issue for Pollock going back to his days with the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, his presence allows the Sox to utilize pieces such as Andrew Vaughn, Gavin Sheets, and Adam Engeli in reserve outfield roles, which will make this team better long term.
Filling The Rotation
The White Sox's decision to not extend a qualifying offer to free-agent pitcher Carlos Rodon may go down as their most glaring misstep this winter.
Rodon, as we know, is now a San Francisco Giant and the Sox are left with a major hole in their rotation. Michael Kopech will be on an innings limit in 2022, not at all dissimilar to what we saw from Rodon in 2021. That means there is a significant volume shortage in the starting rotation as currently constructed.
And no, Vince Velazquez is not the answer to this problem. A team with serious World Series aspirations shouldn't be hoping and praying to strike gold with a reclamation project. That was a move for 2018 or even 2019, not 2022 coming off consecutive first-round playoff exits.
The issues were compounded Saturday night when Lance Lynn suffered a slight tendon tear in his right knee during his final Cactus League start. Lynn being out until mid-May -- and that's an optimistic return timeline -- makes the South Siders' rotation shortfall that much more glaring.
The Sox are now in a position that requires them to rely heavily on the trio of Dallas Keuchel, Reynaldo Lopez, and Vince Velasquez to fill innings. I don't know about you, but those names don't inspire tremendous confidence. One has to hope that the bats are ready to go come Friday in Detroit.
Could the team still seek help externally? Recent rumors indicated the White Sox were sniffing around Oakland A's starters Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas. But the San Diego Padres swooped in and acquired Manaea on Sunday, taking a potential option away from the Sox. Based on the current state of the farm system, I don't see the team having enough bullets in the chamber to acquire Montas.
Rick Hahn's inability to address the starting rotation this winter cannot be described as anything other than an abject failure. It's entirely likely the Sox will rely heavily on their bullpen during the season's first six weeks, and as we've seen in the past, that can have adverse ramifications come October.
Where Do The White Sox Go From Here?
As previously mentioned, the 2022 Chicago White Sox are still a good baseball team. They are good enough to potentially win 90-plus games and win a mediocre AL Central for the second consecutive year.
However, the measuring stick around here has changed. The goal now, as clearly stated by the organization, is to hang another banner at the corner of 35th/Shields. The White Sox did not do nearly enough this offseason to instill confidence that they are in a better position than when they were eliminated by the Houston Astros last October.
It's not all doom and gloom, though. The roster still contains a significant amount of talent. However, it doesn't contain any margin for error with additional injuries or poor performance from its current mainstays. The Sox had clear needs heading into the winter -- they even spelled them out for us -- and they didn't do enough to address them.
Teams that are in the heart of their championship windows shouldn't be relying on hitting their 70th or 80th percentile projections from most of their roster in order to maximize their chances of success. Just look around the league. Teams such as the Dodgers, Mets, and Blue Jays did no such things this winter. They added to their rosters significantly and worked to address areas of need in meaningful ways. Will all their moves work out? No, but they have done their best to insulate their rosters to the best of their abilities. One cannot say the same for the Rick Hahn and co. this winter.
The White Sox had an opportunity to put a stranglehold on the American League, yet they failed to do so. They watched the Blue Jays, a team with a similar cost-controlled core, continue their 15-month quest to add meaningful roster pieces in hopes of winning a pennant for the first time in close to three decades. Toronto brought in Kevin Gausman and Matt Chapman, two meaningful pieces to an already solid roster.
Will those additions push them over the top in the American League? We won't know for several months, but that is what "going for it" really looks like. Those newcomers join last offseason's haul of George Springer, Jose Berrios, and Hyun Jin Ryu. That continued sense of urgency is what Rick Hahn should've acted with this winter.
Again, I think the Chicago White Sox can win 90-plus games in 2022 and reach the postseason for a third consecutive year. But not doing everything in their power to provide as much roster certainty as possible in the heart of this window cannot be seen as anything less than demoralizing. They could've been the clear-cut favorites to win the pennant, yet they are relying on uncertainty when this wasn't the winter for it.