The White Sox rebuild is often compared to that of the Cubs, and for obvious reasons. Not only do the teams play in the same city, but the results of the Cubs rebuild have made themselves clear, and there may be more to come. Their first playoff season was in 2015, during which they won 97 games.
Why should any of this matter to White Sox fans? Well, the 2018 White Sox may be in a similar spot as the 2014 Cubs, a team that was never really in the playoff race, had a decent second half of the season, made a major free agent signing, and then made the playoffs the next year. Those Cubs were a much better first half team than these White Sox- the Cubs went 40-54 while the Sox went 33-62. However, a major selling point for the Cubs in free agency that winter was their much better second half, during which they went 33-35 and saw key developments from some of their young talent. As of now, the White Sox are 19-18 in the second half, and they have gone 10-4 in their last 14 games.
Another conspicuous connection between these two teams is their elite hitting prospects. In April of 2015, the Cubs called up eventual MVP Kris Bryant, who was instrumental in their playoff push. In April of 2019, Eloy Jimenez, hitting .378/.419/.628 at AAA Charlotte, figures to (if healthy) make his debut, assuming he is not called up sooner.
The Cubs’ signing of Jon Lester stabilized their rotation, which, in 2015, also featured a Cy Young award winner in Jake Arrieta. However, when comparing the 2014 and 2018 rotations as a whole, the White Sox may be ahead of the Cubs. While the Sox lack a true Cy Young contender like Arrieta, they feature two guys who could easily get there in Carlos Rodon and Michael Kopech. Recent strides from Lucas Giolito, who is looking more like the prospect he was supposed to be when drafted by Washington, plus the potential of Reynaldo Lopez, gives the White Sox a potentially formidable rotation for 2019. What is missing is the big free agent- for the Cubs, it was Lester. If the White Sox can use their recent team success (and money, lots of it) as a selling point for Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, or Patrick Corbin this winter, they could position themselves for a playoff run. While the idea may seem far-fetched, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has assured fans that he will be operating with no financial restrictions this offseason, and he has hinted that he will be aggressive with available stars given that there is no guarantee that future options such as Nolan Arenado even reach free agency due to the possibility of team extensions.
While the odds of the White Sox making the 2019 playoffs are still relatively slim, fans have to be encouraged by the recent progress of future pieces such as Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, and the aforementioned Rodon, Kopech, and Giolito. These developments are worth far more to the team long-term than losing games and gaining draft position, and this belief would be bolstered if Hahn can end up reeling in one of the “big fish” in free agency. Nevertheless, relative to how the team was performing just over a month ago, fans should be excited about the development and competitive play of the team. After all, it could be a sign that a playoff run can come sooner than expected, especially in an AL Central division that figures to be much weaker in 2019.