Seemingly all White Sox fans’ eyes are on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado right now, as the two stars, both pursued by the South Siders, are preparing to sign mammoth contracts with new teams. In that free agent frenzy, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.
A few days ago, I was thinking what it would be like if the Sox inked one of the two and made it to the postseason in 2019. This scenario isn’t completely unreasonable given Cleveland’s partial teardown. Picturing “The Rate” rocking, Eloy Jimenez stepping up to the plate and launching one into orbit, etc. I thought to myself, “man that would be amazing.”
Then I stepped back. A 2019 playoff appearance is not the goal of this rebuild, and nor should it be. With the amount of talented prospects Chicago has and the second-lowest payroll in the league, Rick Hahn and co. have all they need to create a World Series team in a few years. As fans, hoping for anything less would be an error and quite frankly a travesty.
Sure, a 2019 playoff berth would be awesome, and a good indicator for the future. But that can’t become the focus for both management and fans. The White Sox’s contention period should ideally start in 2020 and last through the decade. In that time span, not only should the South Side see its first World Series since 2005, but the team should enjoy sustained success.
Clearly, I’m thinking optimistically. It’s not that I am certain that the Sox will reach a World Series, merely that if the South Siders play their cards right, they have the ability to. Let’s look at the facts. Currently, Chicago boasts three prospects in MLB Pipeline’s Top 25, five in the Top 50, and seven in the Top 100. After graduating Moncada, Lopez, and Giolito, they still have one of baseball’s elite farm systems.
If you look at statistics and history, it’s highly probable that at least a couple of these talented youngsters will play to their potential and become All-Star-caliber players. A couple will become decent players, performing well enough to be valid starters. A few will likely be busts, but that’s acceptable when you have several other prospects who don’t disappoint.
Next, the White Sox seem destined to have a solid rotation. Carlos Rodon and Reynaldo Lopez fit the bill of quality middle of the rotation pitchers. One of Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech is likely to blossom into the ace of the group. From there, it should be pretty easy to find quality fourth and fifth starters from the wealth of good arms in the system or in free agency.
Lastly, as we’ve seen with this year’s offseason, the White Sox have tons of money to spend and finally seem willing to spend it. Even if they strike out on Harper and Machado, that amount of money should be sufficient in filling nearly all the holes of the roster come 2020/2021 when almost all of the current top prospects have reached the majors.
Right now, the American League is stacked with excellent teams. The White Sox won’t be beating Houston, Boston, or New York in the playoffs in 2019, and probably not in 2020 either. But things change, and Chicago is set up well to become the top dog in the AL as the years go by, beyond 2020. Baseball has a fair amount of parity, and it’s unlikely the Sox will be going up against three amazing teams who are in their championship window now.
Regardless of the White Sox’s talent and the circumstances, it’s just plain wrong to hope for anything less than a championship appearance from your team. What are you even doing as a fan if that’s not on your mind?
I’m sure the majority of Sox fans have this mindset, and good for them. But a few are bound to get caught up in the allure of an upcoming playoff appearance. To them I say, keep your eyes on the prize. Jerry Reinsdorf and co. need to know that their fans have sky-high expectations, and hopefully that will act as a motivator to live up to them.
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