The reasons why the White Sox found themselves in a position where contention no longer seemed palpable are aplenty. In order for a team to get to a point where selling off their two best players for prospects and pushing their competitive window back several years seems like the best course of action, plenty of poor decisions need to be made.
The White Sox did plenty to put themselves in this position, things that have been reiterated in this space on several occasions. Among those mistakes — and I won’t say whether it’s the most important mistake or second most important mistake or 11th most important mistake, you can decide that for yourself — was their lack of depth.
You see, when a team’s chosen course of action is to plug holes with highly volatile veterans — the Austin Jackson or Justin Morneau types, or the Dioner Navarro types or even the Brett Lawrie types — having players who can fill in when, inevitably, they’re needed because of injury or ineffectiveness, is pretty danged important.
Failing to employ above-average starters was obviously a big factor in the White Sox downfall, but failing to build up their roster and minor league system with players capable of stepping into a big league role and providing even replacement-level production has also an obvious hinderance.
Fast forward to present day and a White Sox team that is expected to be bad, instead of being unexpectedly bad like we’re used to, and depth is still important, just for different reasons.
The 2017 season isn’t important for the White Sox in terms of wins and losses, but it’s still important in terms of development. Sticking to the development timeline for the plethora of prospects is key, and having warm bodies who can serve as placeholders able to hold down a major league job is integral in not forcing the White Sox hand into an early promotion.
Of course, that would prove moot if Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Yoan Moncada or others do prove to be major league ready relatively soon. All three have already seen action in the majors. But until they are ready, whether it’s June or September or 2018 or beyond, the White Sox need guys who can fill those holes.
They don’t need to fill them well, mind you, since, ya, know, winning doesn’t matter. But if James Shields is struggling to get through three innings without giving up five dingers, or Derek Holland breaks again, or Jose Quintana is traded, guys need to step in and provide any number of the 1,458-plus innings the White Sox will play this season.
That’s where the likes of Chris Beck, Dylan Covey, Giovanni Soto and others will come in, and why Yolmer Sanchez, Leury Garcia, Alfredo Gonzalez, Peter Bourjos, and Rymer Liriano actually, in some small way, matter.
It’s highly unlikely any of those guys will be meaningful contributors on the next White Sox contender, but they’re “bridge the gap” guys between now and then. And whether or not they’re able to do just that will likely impact, however minute, the White Sox ability to stick to their timeline and rebuild in a meaningful way.
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