Let’s face it, the Chicago White Sox will need the planets to align in order to make the playoffs this year. Their only chance would be if they were to win every game left in their season while every other team in the wildcard race were to lose all of their remaining games, and I hate to burst many Sox fans’ bubbles, but it just won’t happen. That’s why it’s best for us to look towards the offseason to see what type of trades, call-ups, or acquisitions are necessary to make in order to contend for the 2017 season, and the best way to do that is by finding out which positions need to be addressed.
Before this season, everyone believed that the White Sox 2nd baseman, Brett Lawrie, would be able to lock down that position for most of the 162 games. It seemed that way for about half of the season when he was playing stellar defense and always got on base when it mattered. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a whole season of Brett Lawrie when he injured his hamstring in mid-July and was set back even further due to re-injuring the same hamstring in a rehab stint with Double-A Birmingham. Ever since that injury, Tyler Saladino has been their primary starter and he too, has shown that he is a great defensive 2nd baseman and delivers when it matters. I’m not saying that we need a new 2nd baseman, but with the talent that we have at that position in both Lawrie and Saladino, it will be tough to decide on who should be the everyday starter.
The White Sox have no doubt been trying to address this position in the past couple of years, trying to see what Geovany Soto and Tyler Flowers could do for the club, and signing 1-year deals with Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila. At the time, acquiring Navarro and Avila seemed like steals for the Sox- Navarro being a productive hitter based on his time with the Toronto Blue Jays and Avila being a one time silver slugger recipient -but even talented catchers like those two weren’t nearly as productive as they once were. The White Sox even released Navarro as they called up Omar Narvaez, another catcher who has actually showed some flare in his play. Even with Narvaez and Avila switching off almost every night, it seems almost impossible to decide on who should be their everyday catcher. I think the Sox solution to the catching problem was by drafting Zack Collins, a catcher from Miami University who has proved that he has some serious power in the minor leagues that he can hopefully convert to the majors and establish him as their first star catcher since 2012 when A.J Pierzynski was still with the organization.
I think everybody knows why the bullpen has to be the most dire part of the team to fix. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t think that blown saves is a stat you want your team to lead the league in. Somehow, the White Sox bullpen has managed to blow a whopping 28 saves! You do have to acknowledge that just because a pitcher blew a save, it doesn’t mean that the team would’ve even gotten the win at the end. However, if the White Sox have had converted those save opportunities, they’d be in a much better place, being 23 games above .500 and having record very similar to the AL Central leading Indians. I can already see that the Sox front office is trying to address their bullpen by drafting some top-notch relief pitchers like Zack Burdi from Louisville, who is definitely trying to leave his mark in Triple-A Charlotte with an ERA of 2.25 and 22 K’s in 16 innings pitched. Besides their draft picks, I believe the only way the Sox can bring their bullpen back to its former glory of April and early May is by developing their pitchers in both their farm system and the pitchers on the actual team. After all, the White Sox do have one of the better pitching coaches in the league in Don Cooper, who developed the pitching from the early 2000’s into what would turn out to be a rotation and bullpen that would win a World Series.
I know this isn’t an actual position on the field, but I feel like it’s something that the front office doesn’t want to acknowledge even though it’s something that needs to be addressed. According to Fangraphs.com, the White Sox front office is rated among the bottom 10 out of all MLB teams. This wasn’t chosen through any special method with complicated numbers, but it was chosen directly by the community which shows the resentment and distrust that average fans have in the Sox front office. Probably the biggest issue that exists in their front office is the man behind the wheel, Robin Ventura. Ever since he became the team’s manager, things have gone downhill. Their last winning season came in 2012 , the year that Robin Ventura became manager. The year after, the White Sox finished the regular season with the 3rd worst record in baseball. What I think Ventura is missing is the winning spirit that Ozzie Guillen had when he brought the Sox to the 2005 and 2008 playoffs. Ozzie Guillen was the type of manager to say that every win matters, even if you’ve clinched a spot in the playoffs, while Ventura is the type that would say “Eh, you win some, you lose some.” Thank goodness Robin’s contract expires after this season. A secondary issue that I believe exists within the front office is the chemistry between two of the leaders, Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn. This goes back to Spring Training when there were mixed feelings about the whole Adam LaRoche incident. Kenny believed that Adam’s son Drake had no business in the players clubhouse while Hahn was on the player’s side for keeping Drake in the clubhouse. That’s only one example of tensions between the two heads of the front office, and I don’t even need to begin talking about their entirely different visions of the Sox team where they can’t decide on whether to go into a full rebuild (which Rick Hahn and many Sox fans believe is the right choice), or to trade away their farm for star players that may or may not help their playoff chances (which Kenny Williams believes).