If one wanted to, one could use Juan Minaya as a microcosm of the White Sox Rebuild and 2018 as a whole. Acquired off waivers from Houston in late June 2016, Minaya arrived right around the death of the last White Sox contention cycle. Like many players on the 2018 roster, he was not one of the premier talents acquired in high profile trades or with a first round pick. Like much of the 2018 roster, he was largely a placeholder with some flicker of a chance of hitting his 90th percentile outcome and turning into a meaningful contributor, although as a reliever there is a cap on that ceiling. And, like much of the 2018 roster, the triumphs were few and far between, the signs of progress were real but insignificant, and we’re still primarily left waiting for one of the post-hype prospects to break out (take your pick of Yoan Moncada or Lucas Giolito) or the rest of the impact prospects to arrive (Eloy Jimenez et al).
Minaya still throws hard and strikes out a good amount of batters. Compared to 2017, he cut his home runs and his already too high walk rate climbed even higher to 14 percent, which is almost 3 points higher than the qualified leader in the majors on that statistic. With the bat missing and velocity there is always the temptation to keep trying in the hopes he figures things out, but improving his 5.71 DRA to 5.05 from 2017 to 2018 may tell more of the story here. The odds are Minaya is simply a mediocrity who has shown us about the best that he can do, and it’s not like the White Sox haven’t given him opportunities, appropriate to a team in the situation the White Sox are in.
You can never have too many relievers, and I’d be surprised if he weren’t pitching for the major league team at some point next year. That said, the relievers part of the rebuild are likely the first to arrive. Nate Jones, Jace Fy, Ian Hamilton, and Ryan Burr are all ahead of him in the pecking order and one has to imagine some combination of Aaron Bummer, Caleb Frare, and maybe even Jose Ruiz would be ahead of him as well. Throw in Zack Burdi, Carson Fulmer, and whoever the annual relief pickups are, and Minaya is going to have a lot more competition for a bullpen he washed out of early in 2018 as it is.
Pitchers get hurt. Minaya has been durable. Modern bullpens are huge. And Minaya could pop up throwing 99 for Oakland in three years, too. But hopefully phasing out Minaya for younger, better options could similarly be representative of the White Sox actually moving meaningfully toward the next phase, wherein they are actually trying to win at the major league level and succeeding at it.