MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox

The White Sox were never truly tanking

The end of the season is right around the corner, and for a select few teams that means moving on to play more games in October. For another select group of teams, it marks a time to look forward on the calendar to June, when the first year player draft will occur. The White Sox and their fans have had their eye on that date since Chris Sale first put on a Red Sox uniform, and at times it’s led to outlandish predictions about 18-year-old players over a year from their big day. There has been some focus on who Chicago will pick, but the main question at hand was about where they will pick. Perhaps the aura of a rebuilding team naturally brings the word tank along with it, but these White Sox were never tanking.

It’s been a long season, but if we can think all the way back to April we find some good memories. The White Sox went 13-10 in April, certainly surpassing the expectations of a tanking team. They still had Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, and a shockingly good bullpen; they also got a strong, surprising contribution from Avisail Garcia. It made sense that a team with such solid lingering veteran talent would find itself a few wins above the norm for a team just entering a rebuilding state.

When that talent was all shipped away at the deadline, yes literally all of it, the team naturally recoiled and had a stretch of games that sent them into first pick territory. The White Sox had lost half their bullpen, their best starter, the starting left fielder, and their starting third baseman. With those players happily playing for contending teams, the team in Chicago was forced to lean on a pitching staff that was not only bad but also tired. Their starters didn’t go deep in games, and their bullpen was sad as well. That was the closest they came to tanking. They had dropped a good portion of their roster, and it was suddenly filled with misfits and guys that were being given a shot merely because they had the space to do so.

Not long after that brief period of tanking, however, reinforcements arrived. Carlos Rodon returned from his injury to sort of look like himself for about a month before being shut down for the season. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez both made their way from Charlotte with guns blazing, taking the White Sox rotation from abysmal to, at the very least, optimistic. Tim Anderson snapped out of his funk to put together a solid season, and his double play partner, Yoan Moncada, found himself in September after a power and walk happy August. Each of those contributions could have been predicted at the start of the season. We all were confident that Rodon would return and be good. While doubts about Anderson surfaced early in the season, there was a small part of every fan that assumed he would be just fine in the end. As for Giolito, Lopez, and Moncada, they were the prized prospects — anything less than the success they’ve seen would have been a disappointment.

The team also received positive contributions that could not have been predicted. The seasons from Leury Garcia, Avisail Garcia, Nicky Delmonico, and Yolmer Sanchez all came out of nowhere and were relatively productive. Avisail Garcia’s 136 wRC+ over a full season, and Delmonico’s 136 in a much smaller sample had profound impacts on the team. Even 97 and 92 from Leury Garcia and Sanchez respectively was far above preseason expectations. Contributions from the predictable young players, and surprisingly good seasons from others led the White Sox to a uniquely non-tanking season for a rebuilding team.

So here the White Sox sit with a record of 65-93, with the fourth pick in the draft likely, the third within reach, and the first requiring a miracle of sorts. In the eyes of some this marks the season as a failure, but that type of thinking requires assuming the White Sox were ever tanking to begin with. That’s simply not the case. They were too good in the early going while still possessing elite talent, and received too many encouraging performances from young players that could fit into a future White Sox roster.

Marking the 2017 season as a failure for the rebuilding White Sox would be foolish. Moncada, Giolito, and Garcia (x2) all took strong steps forward while Lopez, Rodon, Anderson, and Delmonico all showed that they could be part of the team’s optimistic future. Those strong steps forward by players already at the major league level put the team behind the eight ball regarding draft day, yes. But those strong steps are likely to have a more profound impact on the team’s future than whoever dons a White Sox cap next June.

Lead Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

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3 comments on “The White Sox were never truly tanking”


Yeah, they have been kind of a fun team to follow. When you expect the worst, the surprises are more likely to be pleasant ones.


I’m of the belief that the Sox cut deeper than they needed to and in so doing extended this rebuild period. With the return from the Sale and Eaton trades along with the players we had in place,and FINALLY a qualified manager the Sox would have had a competitive team now with a young core in place.
Now with this high draft choice, I believe they are going to draft a high schooler and say because of the players we acquired this year there is no rush to bring him up and we can develop him slowly. Thus we will forget about him as we talk about Hansen, or Robert or someone else. This year has been painful and I believe it didn’t have to be this painful.We tanked but Hahn is to smart to make it seem to obvious.


I applaud Rick Hahn for scorching the Earth. He now, for me, has another big decision coming this winter: Jose Abreu. Abreu’s value likely won’t be higher than it is now. He has two years left on his deal and is about to turn 31. There are “win now” teams that could use him. If they get some young ready now or ready very soon prospects in return, do they make a deal?

Same can be said for Avi Garcia. If anyone comes calling, Hahn may have to listen.

Abreu, Anderson, Moncada and Garcia were all doing well for the last two months. James Shields was suddenly getting people out. Lopez, Giolito and Fulmer did well. They didn’t quite tank like most thought they would and certainly didn’t tank like I’d hoped. Then the Tigers gave everyone a lesson on how to truly suck.

My hope is the draft the best bat available wherever they pick, which right now would be 4th or 5th. What they did was the right thing. It needed to be done years ago, so when it finally happened, I’m glad Rick Hahn went all in on a rebuild. Their precious “core” wasn’t even close to a division title let alone another World Series. They had to decide if they were closer to a WS with the core or needed to rebuild without them to eventually get to one. They made the right choice.

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