I wanted to believe. I really, really tried to enjoy this White Sox season, and when they started off 23-10, I was full of optimism. And I thought I had reason to be too! Teams that start off as good as the White Sox did tend to do well; a fact that, in retrospect, makes the Sox’ current situation seem all the more bleak.
Even after a thrilling win last night against one of the AL’s best teams, a weekend three-game sweep at the hands of the Indians has the Sox sitting 5.5 out of first place, and the early season optimism has been replaced with a dulled pessimism that White Sox fans have grown all too accustomed to over the last half-decade. This isn’t to say the Sox are assuredly out of it–their PECOTA playoff odds sit at around 14.1 percent–but contending would certainly take a major turnaround. Even if we assume that the Sox are closer to a .500 team going forward rather than the miserable one they’ve been since mid-May, contention would necessitate a good deal of luck.
If that luck doesn’t come, the White Sox will have to face some tough questions, most of which boil down to “what do we do now?”
A failure to make the playoffs would be the eighth consecutive for the South Siders (the second longest active streak in the AL), and a whiff on yet another chance with the current core of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, and Adam Eaton. While Carlos Rodon and Tim Anderson could conceivably supplement that core, the farm system lacks much more impact talent that will contribute before the core reaches its decline phase (or free agency). The possibility of never capitalizing on that talent with a playoff appearance looms large.
Naturally, there will be calls for the Sox to trade their core players. Before getting into the logistics of such a sell off, I think it is prudent to at least question who is in charge of such moves. Despite their playoff drought, the Sox front office has seen almost no turnover in the last decade plus, and it’s at least worth considering the fact that that needs to change. While Rick Hahn didn’t exactly inherit the easiest task when he took over the Sox after the 2012 season, it can’t be ignored that a decent percentage of his moves- including the Adam LaRoche signing and Matt Davidson trade- have completely flopped. Hahn may be a good GM yet, but if the Sox end up truly rebuilding, it may be best for both the org and him for a parting of ways.
But no matter who is in charge, a path to such a rebuild isn’t particularly obvious. While the first reaction may be to sell off a core they can’t win with, the logistics of baseball trades make that route quite unappealing. Even if the Sox are unlikely to contend for the years where their current core is in its prime, it’d be nearly impossible to get fair return for players as ridiculously valuable as Sale and Quintana. Contending teams simply cannot afford to give up the present Major League talent they would have to for such a deal to be even. The Sox could trade players like Eaton or Todd Frazier and get some return, but that still probably doesn’t bring enough talent back to put a playoff appearance on the horizon.
With all this said, the answer to “what now?” may be more of the status quo, something that will not be easy to stomach for a fanbase that has endured as much as the Sox have for almost a decade. Unfortunately, this is the position the Sox have put themselves in with years of half measures, and for now they will have to reap what they sowed.
Lead Photo Credit: David Banks – USA Today Sports Images