By: Chris Larson
The Chicago White Sox are a team that are on the periphery of potentially being competitive and could sneak into the postseason picture, next season, if everything goes according to plan and the proper additions are made to the big league club this winter. That's following a year, in which, the team finished with a 62-100 record, or a .383 winning percentage last season, good enough for fourth place in the American League Central, just 5 wins ahead of the division cellar, Kansas City Royals.
Ever since the GM meetings started on Monday, there have been multiple reports that have come out about the Chicago White Sox and their interest in a number of notable free agents this offseason. If you were to step back and look at the White Sox with an honest and unbiased view, as an evaluator of the entire baseball landscape, you could make the argument that now is the time for the White Sox to start spending again and divulging some money into their everyday 25-man roster.
After all, the White Sox have finished in 4th or 5th place in the American League Central, for six consecutive seasons and have continued to see their attendance dwindle year-by-year, starting at roughly 2 million fans in 2012 and dwindling down to about 1.6 million last season. As is the case with any rebuilding team, fans end up losing interest during the rebuild process because they are not able to watch a competitive team on a day in and day out basis, but if the White Sox want to be able to enter back into the Chicago sports scene, it's time for them to act with some bold moves sooner than later and sell to their fanbase that they want to be competitive again.
A significant step towards that occurred when White Sox General Manager, Rick Hahn, announced at yesterday's media press conference that the team signed skipper, Rick Renteria, to an extension, albeit, an extension that was quietly done behind the scenes, away from both the public and media's attention. Of course, since there was no formal announcement made until yesterday afternoon, the exact terms of the deal aren't known, but the White Sox have made it clear that they view Renteria as, their guy and the man, that can take the team to the next level and hopefully to a postseason berth sooner rather than later.
In terms of potential trade activity this winter, the Chicago White Sox have done most of their heavy lifting already in terms of making trades with other teams and trying to bulk up depth in the minor league system. The roster is beginning to take shape for the next great Chicago White Sox team and this helps lead to the significant opportunity that the White Sox will have, this winter, to make further additions to the team in an attempt to have their first winning season since 2012.
Given the fact that the White Sox likely will not turn to the trade market to make those additions is a big reason why many believe that the team will be aggressive in free agency and why reports have already linked the team to several notable free agents. Thus far since the GM meetings began on Monday, there have been reports linking the White Sox to the two big fish on the market, in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, as well as a number of significant names within the pitching market such as: Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, and Dallas Keuchel.
It should come as no surprise either that the White Sox are in the field for both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Heading into next season, the White Sox have the 2nd lowest committed payroll amount ($14.3 million dollars) of any team, with only C Welington Castillo, P Nate Jones, and SS Tim Anderson on the books. For comparisons sake, only the Tampa Bay Rays have a lower payroll committed amount for the 2019 season ($8.2 million dollars). That means that Chicago could have an exponentially high amount of money to spend and money to use to upgrade their lineups.
Assuming that Bryce Harper signs a 10-year, $300+ million dollar contact, which would leave him with an Average Annual Value (AAV) of $30 million dollars, that would still leave the White Sox with a payroll of $44.3 million dollars next year. That is a rough estimate and goes off of the offer that the Washington Nationals made to Harper and his camp prior to the conclusion of this past season. Harper will likely exceeded those numbers, but for the sake of this article, let's go with that dollar amount. If they were to go even further and sign Manny Machado, as well to solidify third base and assuming that Machado signs for an AAV of around $20-$25 million, it would still leave the White Sox with a committed payroll of $64.3-$69.3 million dollars, give or take. Even with those two significant signings, they could still go further and continue making additions to their team, notably in the starting rotation, for a payroll that would be comfortable for a team in the market the size of Chicago.
Switching to the pitching side of things, the biggest reason why the White Sox are attracted to signing pitcher or two potentially, is because Reynaldo Lopez was practically the workhorse within their rotation this past season. As Jon Morosi pointed out yesterday on Twitter, Lopez was the only guy on the White Sox, present day 25-man roster, to throw at least 50 innings and lock down an ERA below 4.00 in 2018. While Lopez is a talented arm with a tremendous amount of upside, he should not be the White Sox only guy or ace looking ahead to the 2019 regular season.
Rather, the White Sox should add from the free agent starting pitching market to bolster the rotation and give them a legitimate starting rotation to potentially carry them to a playoff berth. As all of us have seen the past few seasons, teams need to be 8-10 starting pitchers deep to be able to have a high level of success over an entire 162-game season and to have depth in the event of a significant injury or a severe underperformance from someone. Essentially, that is what the White Sox would be doing in this situation, as they would be adding Corbin, Happ, Keuchel, or potentially two of those names, to the top-to-middle spots of their rotation.
In the end, the Chicago White Sox are primed to have a big offseason this winter and it's time that the team shows it's fanbase that it is committed to bringing a winner back to the Southside of Chicago again and ready to take that next step as a team. Depending on how many additions the White Sox make, could drastically change how everyone views the team heading into the 2019 regular season and how well they might perform, in a very weak, American League Central division. Who knows, maybe the White Sox will be next year's version of the 2018 Oakland Athletics.