Well, if we haven’t seen/heard/talked about this enough, let’s do it again here. But let’s address everything.
February 20, 2019. The White Sox have missed out on Manny Machado by two years and $50 million. The “Jerry is cheap” cries ring about as loudly as the cries for Hahn’s resignation papers. And then Rick Hahn utters five words, among others, that remain at the forefront of Sox fans’ minds:
“The money will be spent. It might not be spent this offseason, but it will be spent at some point. This isn’t money sitting around waiting to just accumulate interest. It’s money trying to be deployed to put us in best position to win some championships.”– Rick Hahn
Flash forward to December 15, 2019. Madison Bumgarner signs with the Diamondbacks after Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg have signed elsewhere. The Zack Wheeler signing didn’t hurt any less for Sox fans. With Yasmani Grandal signed for four years and $73 million back in November, the Sox looked to be heading in the right direction. But with more names falling off the board and none of them being to the White Sox, the cries have been as loud as ever: “When the hell is this money going to be spent?!?”
It’s a valid question, and one that deserves an answer – even if we don’t get the answer as soon as we want to. I think we as Sox fans need to take a step back and not “lose the forest for the trees,” as Rick Hahn has said. So, let’s talk about how the White Sox should spend the money, and more importantly, what we as fans should be expecting for the 2020 White Sox.
One Year Deals
Let’s start with one-year deals. The White Sox have been linked to Edwin Encarnacion this offseason and have already seen guys like Didi Gregorious come off the board on a one year deal. Should the White Sox be spending money for these types of guys?
Personally, I don’t want the White Sox chasing guys on one year deals to improve the offense. So, Edwin Encarnacion is a no from me. He does nothing long-term for the White Sox except shut them out from getting a longer look at young talent – Zack Collins, Yermin Mercedes, even Nomar Mazara. The same goes for any non-starting pitcher. Unless the Sox are looking for starting rotation depth – which, of course, they are – they should not be looking at too many one-year deals, as it prevents them from fully evaluating the players within the system.
Long-term deals are the only ones that make a ton of sense for the White Sox. The rest are just filling a hole that’s going to open back up in 2021. One year deals are for teams ready to win now.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute Jordan, haven’t we been evaluating players for 3 years now? Isn’t it time to move past that part of the rebuild to winning?” In part, yes. But, in part, no. It all has to do with the next section here: we need to have an honest discussion about the 2020 White Sox and the expectations we have for the team.
The 2020 White Sox
The majority of this article is meant to be about keeping “The Money will be Spent,” in line with our expectations as fans for the 2020 season. #Hahnsight2020 is all fine and good, and 2020 is a nice, round year for us as fans to be banking on for the start of the White Sox’ window of contention. At the beginning of the rebuild, it might’ve even made sense. But does it now?
This question isn’t about squashing expectations or carrying water for the organization. It’s about taking a step back and trying to evaluate the White Sox as anyone else within the game would. Every team has questions that need to be answered both before their season begins and throughout a given season – from rebuilders all the way up to the contenders. The White Sox are no different. Here’s a list of questions I don’t think the Sox have answers to as of December 16, 2019:
- What can the White Sox expect from Michael Kopech after Tommy John Surgery?
- What type of year will Luis Robert have? What about Nick Madrigal?
- What are we to make of Reynaldo Lopez? Is 2018 or 2019 the true ReyLo?
- Will Dylan Cease reach his potential as a top of the rotation arm?
- Is Ricky Renteria the guy to lead this team when the games actually count?
- What additional depth can the White Sox expect from their farm system?
- What will Zack Collins bring to the table? Is he simply a trade piece?
That’s a lot of questions the White Sox won’t find answer to until 2020 has come and gone. Additionally, this likely isn’t the full list of questions for the White Sox to answer internally.
Like it or not, 2020 for the White Sox, ONLY if all goes well, will be a division-winning year. I mean, think about it. Madrigal and Robert would have to contribute immediately, and Kopech would have to have no rust on his arm and pitch 150 incredible innings. Additionally, Cease and Lopez would have to be much better right out of the gate – not a terrible ask, but still not a guarantee. All of those things don’t even factor in any of the more veteran guys and the consistent production they would have to bring.
The questions left on this team leave it much farther from a team completely ready to compete than most fans want/think. And, honestly, that’s just how it’s going to be. It isn’t great, it isn’t ideal, but that’s the reality of the situation.
So, what is 2020? It is is a transition year for the White Sox. It’s not necessarily a rebuilding year, because this team should be good enough to win 80-85 games, given some SP additions. But I don’t believe the current timeline for winning and fans’ expectations currently align. Much like the 2019 team was better than the 2018 team, the 2020 team will be better than the 2019 team. But the team the White Sox start with in 2020 will be far from a complete product, with or without free agent/trade additions.
I have said this a lot, but to me, there is a difference between competing and winning. Putting a competitive team on the field means we as fans don’t expect to show up to the ballpark and watch a 10-0 loss. Win or lose, we can expect a pretty good ballgame to be played out in front of us. Winning is showing up to the ballpark expecting the Sox to win the game, not just compete in it.
So, by this theory, the 2020 White Sox will be competitive. But, they should not be expected to be a winning ball club.
2021 Offseason and Beyond
So, does all the money have to be spent this offseason? No, I really don’t think it does – and I don’t think the front office does either. The lack of urgency the front office is showing, I believe, is a reflection of, in their opinion, a subpar market.
With the questions above still looming for the White Sox, the 2020 season will give the front office the clearest picture of the team of the future, simply because everyone will be in the picture. The White Sox don’t have to go out and get “their guy” this offseason if he isn’t there anymore. That guy was likely Zack Wheeler, whose decision ended up being out of the Sox’ hands. The White Sox, much like you and I, probably aren’t all that enamored with the rest of the free agent class this year. So, the White Sox haven’t felt the pressure to go out and overpay to get a guy like Madison Bumgarner because this team isn’t a signing of Madison Bumgarner away from winning the division and making a run at the playoffs.
You can agree or disagree with the logic of this, but we can all agree the White Sox need to make some sort of upgrade to their pitching staff this offseason that is worth the amount they are going to spend relative to how much he moves the needle towards contention. As a result, a lot of fans might consider this to be the most important offseason for the White Sox. However, each offseason gets increasingly more important than the last, as the White Sox get more and more answers about where the holes on their team truly lie. That’s where the 2021 offseason comes into play.
Trevor Bauer, Robbie Ray, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Marcus Stroman, and Jose Quintana are all names that could be – and should be – linked to the White Sox next offseason. If there is a time where you should be angry as a Sox fan if they don’t add, it’s after the 2021 offseason. In my mind, that is the first step into winning baseball. If the Sox head into the 2021 season with still more questions than answers and miss out on a bunch of free agents again, that’s the first time I would really be incredibly upset with the team. Obviously, this team and front office have made mistakes before that have bothered me – no one is saying they haven’t, because realistically, every team has. But 2021 is the very last offseason the White Sox have before winning should be expected.
The 2021 White Sox are the first team I would expect would win the division, and I think that’s about as fair as the expectations can get for this team and how they handle their spending. There’s still one last shot at things in free agency, but 2021 really becomes the end of the line. Every offseason afterwards should be spent filling a hole here or there, not trying to patch up the whole ship. This is where one-year deals and signings like Bumgarner would make a lot more sense.
So, sure, you can be an angry fan. You can complain about everything the Sox do – and don’t do. Besides earning yourself a few mutes on Twitter, nothing’s going to happen, because that is completely your right to be upset. My goal in all of this isn’t to call anyone a “bad fan” or to try and tell anyone how to be a fan. Rather, it’s to help align our views with the reality of the situation.
We are all fans at heart who just want to see the team win. But, with the age of social media and the availability of data, we can become far more educated fans. As a result, we should hold the front office accountable, but we also need to remember we don’t have all the answers and can’t see what is happening in the front office. I know “trusting the process” isn’t easy, but I still consider it to be a lot less stressful than getting angry over everything that happens.
Keep hanging in there, White Sox fans. But hey, let’s all try to be nicer to one another, huh? 😉
Thoughts? Comments? Let me know below or on Twitter! @jlazowski14
Featured Photo: White Sox/Twitter (@whitesox)