Compared to most teams around the league, the White Sox have been busy this offseason. An early December trade for veteran Lance Lynn provided the rotation with a much-needed bulldog capable of consistently handing the bullpen a lead in the late innings every fifth day. Shortly after, Adam Eaton returned to the South Side on a somewhat reasonable deal. While the move was viewed as unpopular by many because of his past, Eaton is in a position to succeed. The White Sox already have a deep starting lineup, and Eaton brings valuable playoff experience after having success in the 2019 World Series to the tune of a .993 OPS and two home runs with the Nationals.
The big splash of the offseason, however, has been the recent addition of star closer Liam Hendriks to give the White Sox a pitching staff that now boasts four of the top ten 2020 AL Cy Young Award candidates.
All things considered, these are moves that should put the White Sox in a position to succeed. As the rest of the teams in the AL Central have either remained stagnant or even gotten worse, the Sox are the odds on favorite to win the division. Is this something to be proud of? Yes, but it isn’t enough.
It’s certainly important to be the top dog in your division since a hefty portion of the regular season features divisional matchups. However, to win a World Series it’s all about how you stack up with the rest of the league. Needless to say, there are plenty of juggernauts around the rest of baseball that are built for World Series runs.
The Dodgers won the World Series last year behind the league’s highest payroll. They're currently in a position to lead the league in payroll once again while having a serious chance to repeat as World Series champs. Why is that? Because they’ve invested in quality depth beyond what was seemingly “enough”. They didn’t compare themselves to the rest of the NL West, they compared themselves to the rest of the league as a whole.
The same is true with the prior two World Series winners, as the Red Sox led the league in payroll in 2018 and the Nationals had the seventh-highest payroll in 2019. Organizations that put themselves in a position to succeed oftentimes do.
Meanwhile, the White Sox are projected to have the 13th highest payroll in the MLB with plenty of question marks surrounding the Opening Day roster, namely starting pitching depth and a designated hitter. Regarding the latter need, many will point to Andrew Vaughn. While he carries the potential to be a lethal bat down the road, don’t try to tell me a prospect who has played 29 games at High-A with a .760 OPS should be the Opening Day DH for a team with World Series aspirations.
Even with the new additions, the White Sox have saved money by not bringing back Edwin Encarnacion, James McCann, Nomar Mazara, Steve Cishek, and Carlos Rodon. The chance to acquire proven talent without unloading the farm system in trades is there for the taking, but Jerry Reinsdorf appears to be content with “enough” as other teams begin to force their way into the playoff picture by spending.
This year’s team will be a contender regardless, but so was last year’s team. How did that end? By getting bounced from the playoffs due to their lack of quality depth being exposed. Aside from answering the question of who starts Game 3 of a playoff series, the roster is very similar to 2019 with the same question marks at DH, right field, and the back end of the rotation. Meanwhile, new problems arise with no proven backup catcher on the roster.
With quality talent still available on the free-agent market and the window of contention wide open, it’s sometimes hard to figure out why enough always has to be enough.