This article is part one of a two part series examining the extrema of the White Sox rebuild.
When the news of a Chris Sale trade broke in December, there were mixed feelings among fans. There was naturally some excitement about the talent the White Sox got in return. In Yoan Moncada, Chicago got one of the highest nationally regarded prospects to ever reside in their farm. Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe, and even Victor Diaz were nothing to scoff at either. On the other hand, White Sox fans saw one of the best pitchers to ever wear the black and white leave at the ripe age of 26. What the Sale trade signified more than anything was a transition into full rebuild mode. Sale’s trade was followed quickly by what some have considered a heist from the Washington Nationals. The White Sox received Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning from Washington in exchange for Adam Eaton.
Thus began the White Sox rebuild. Those two trades alone allowed the White Sox to shoot up organizational prospect rankings from the bottom third to near the top. With such an influx of talent, the Sox also saw their previous top prospects pushed down to a much more comfortable place in the middle to end of their top 10. All systems were a go in the rebuild.
However, one defining characteristic of the White Sox talent is risk. This risk could easily see the White Sox rebuild reach a dichotomy between utter failure and utter success. Here, we examine what the possible outcome would look like.
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What stands out most about the White Sox rebuild to this point is the wealth of arms they have. In even an ideal situation, not all of these pitchers will be able to remain in the rotation. However, the sheer number of hurlers in the system is highly favorable for future success. In an ideal situation, Carlos Rodon becomes the above average No. 2 that we’ve been expecting for a couple years now. Even in a real life, non-ideal world, this is a legitimate possibility for Rodon within the next couple seasons. That in itself is quite encouraging. With regards to Jose Quintana, the White Sox have a few options. They could either keep him on the team for the remainder of his contract, which could very well overlap with a couple years of the glut of the talent joining the major league squad. The other option, of course, is to trade Quintana sometime this season for a large bounty, which would ideally include young outfield talent.
The rest of the rotation would be filled out by pitchers who have yet to see sustained time in the big leagues. Ideally, that means Lucas Giolito becomes a very good middle of the rotation pitcher, while Reynaldo Lopez’s stuff remains impressive enough to make him an above average 4 or 5. The remaining spot would then be given to whomever among Carson Fulmer, Michael Kopech, and Alec Hansen provided the most convincing argument to continue as a starter.
In Wednesday’s article I noted that even in the worst possible scenario, the White Sox would have an incredible bullpen. In the best possible scenario, the White Sox still have an incredible bullpen. That speaks volumes about the quantity of arms residing in this farm system. The two pitchers who don’t remain in the rotation among Fulmer, Kopech, and Hansen would do well to see their stuff play up in the bullpen. Each of the three would be good enough to earn a relief ace or closer role. Zack Burdi would easily fall into that same category. Jordan Stephens, Dane Dunning, and Tyler Danish, along with a free agent or two, would round out the bullpen.
The position player pool looks vastly better when we look on the bright side of things. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada could team up to be one of the best middle infields in all of baseball. Anderson showed some surprising pop in his bat last season. In an ideal scenario, he continues to develop that power as he spends more time in the big leagues. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if he were able to increase his walks and lower his strikeouts by at least a small amount. Moncada becomes a legitimate star in the best-case scenario, resulting in All-Star selections year after year because of his ability to make contact and hit the ball hard from both sides of the plate.
Tyler Saladino could handle his own at third base, but his optimal role is as a utility player. Between now and the time the White Sox are truly competitive, there will be plenty of great third baseman to reach the open market. If Chicago could get even one of them, it would be a monumental success. Jose Abreu and Zack Collins would split time at first base and DH, both providing enough power to near the 30 home run mark annually.
In the outfield, Luis Alexander Basabe could develop into an above average centerfielder that can both handle himself in the field and provide pop at the plate. One of Jacob May, Jake Peter, and Adam Engel would become an adequate fourth outfielder. The remainder of the outfield would require free agents to fill it. Or, perhaps, the White Sox are able to get at least one future everyday player in a corner as part of a Quintana trade. Bryce Harper is the dream, but there are plenty of other outfielders available in the coming free agent classes. Charlie Blackmon, Adam Jones, and Lorenzo Cain all reach free agency in the next two years, to name a few.
The final position is catcher, which every single team in the league struggles to fill with players that can both receive the ball well and handle themselves at the plate. Omar Narvaez showed some promise during his short major league stint in 2016, but there’s still plenty of reason to believe that he’s not an everyday catcher. If he can provide adequacy at the plate and competence behind it, the White Sox will only need to add a single catcher through free agency. As the catcher market has the potential to get pricey, this is good news for Chicago.
Even in the best case scenario, the White Sox will be required to spend some money. The core has the potential to be very, very good, but we’ve already seen Jerry Reinsdorf, Kenny Williams, and Rick Hahn screw up an excellent core of young talent. Perhaps they have learned their lesson, and this time around they will be able to properly make the final steps toward contention. The thing to note is that if things break right, they will be in perhaps even better shape than they have been in the past few seasons. Another point of optimism is that this rebuild is only just beginning. There’s no reason to believe that the White Sox can’t fill at least one more hole through either drafting or another trade or two. The failures of the past few seasons will become a distant memory if this group of young talent is able to achieve the best possible scenario and bring the postseason back to the South Side of Chicago.
Lead Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports