After trading away many players of value this past season, the White Sox finished the second year of the rebuild with the MLB’s second-lowest payroll. Now, the team is in a position where they are finally ready to spend big on premium talent.
Before the rebuild, the White Sox were exclusively only going after free agents during the offseason. They were operating under a different method than today’s team, and it did not really bring about the results the front office was hoping for. Now that these painful years are past, the Sox find themselves in a very interesting place. They have talent and potential in their prospects, but they also have enough money to sign perhaps one of the best players in the league.
There are plenty of rumors already circulating around the White Sox this offseason and they have been unlike anything the organization and fan base have experienced before. Showing interest in not one, but two of the offseason’s biggest free agents, and it’s not even December.
Earlier this week, rumors came first came out about both Machado and Harper, linking them to the South Side. Then rumors surrounding guys like Nelson Cruz, Patrick Corbin, J.A Happ, or another top starting pitcher began to swirl. Who knows what the White Sox roster will look like after the Winter Meetings. One thing is likely though…the team has a chance at going out signing one of the biggest free agents in franchise history. The money is there and so are the All-Star and MVP-caliber free agents. But the question should not be who will they sign, but what happens when they sign them?
The White Sox will not go straight from worst to first, but it’s going to make a considerable change to the entire team, whether they add Machado, Harper, or another few free agents.
Reminder: No one player can make any team a contender.
The White Sox can make a considerable splash this offseason but there’s no question that the progression of this team will still depend on some of the young talent within the organization. Players like Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, and a dozen others all remain key factors when it comes to not just future success, but sustained success.
During this offseason and next, Rick Hahn and co. have the chance to sign players who teams build their organizations around. The White Sox are in the unique position to take some pressure off those organizational centerpieces, and surround them with prospects and future superstars to accomplish the ultimate goal of winning it all. And it’s actually a great way to balance out individual expectations on both the big free agent signings and the prospects. Instead of having everyone expect the world from a Bryce Harper carrying the team or Eloy Jiménez elevating the club to the next level, the burden and expectations gets spread over more evenly and the individual’s performance becomes a little more minimized, should they struggle.
Therefore, on the good news side of things, expectations can be lowered for players who need to continue developing and building their confidence in 2019. However, the objective still remains the same for the White Sox next season. Develop, develop, develop.
For the team to actually be in contention again, the plan was to have major young talent develop, while later acquiring major free agents. The free agents are coming, but the young talent needs to keep developing this upcoming year and even the year after. If struggles continue and development takes longer for some prospects after a couple of seasons in the Majors, then one could argue that they have reached their ceiling or have at least come close to it. While it’s obviously not a good sign, the team will still likely have the resources to either call-up another prospect or replace them via a trade or signing. As seen in prior rebuild success stories with the Cubs and Astros, a nice blend of both young guys and talented veterans are needed to become a dangerous team in the playoffs.
With all of that being said, if a majority of the young talent on the White Sox does pan out and improve next season, the acquiring of major free agents will not automatically mean contention in 2019. Though, it could be the difference between the Sox winning 75 games or 85 games, and even more by the time 2020 comes around.
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