Following a 72-win season in 2019, the Chicago White Sox had an extremely active off-season. A rebuild that started following a 76-win season in 2016 is just now coming to completion. Rick Hahn flashed his brilliance after a few years of spending, trading, and losing.
After declaring a rebuild with the trade of Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2017 season, Hahn made several more moves to build for the future, similar to what the Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, and Chicago Cubs did in their respective rebuilds. 2020 is the beginning of the future that all White Sox fans have been waiting for.
Chicago White Sox 2020 Season Preview
Off-season in Retrospect
Rick Hahn showed what a little cash and a few moves could do to a ball club this off-season. The first splash was improving an unreliable lineup spot by signing catcher Yasmani Grandal, arguably the best catcher in the game, to a four-year, $73 million deal. James McCann, a cheap signing last off-season, was excellent in the first half of the season and earned an All-Star nod but fell off hard in the second half (.226 BA over last 55 games).
Re-signing first baseman Jose Abreu to a three-year deal was an excellent decision, as the longtime, trustful White Sox big man is a super-consistent power presence in the middle of the order. The deal does congest a roster spot for top catching/first base prospect Zack Collins, who’s hoping to make the team after a small sample size last season.
Extending Luis Robert proved to be another possibly great move by Hahn. Hahn has seen success with these types of deals before, signing Tim Anderson to an extension after only 99 games in the majors and Eloy Jimenez before he even played an MLB game.
The White Sox also added some power depth by signing DH and first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. Hahn made a low-risk, high-reward trade by acquiring Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers and also shored up the bullpen by signing consistent reliever Steve Cishek. He also added one of the biggest starters on the market in Dallas Keuchel and added innings-eater Gio Gonzalez to vastly improve the starting rotation.
The lineup is without a doubt the strongest part of the 2020 team. Adding Grandal, Mazara, and Encarnacion to a team already riddled with young talent in Yoan Moncada, Anderson, and Jimenez makes this lineup very deep. Robert figures to already have a lineup spot secured with his off-season extension, and top prospect Nick Madrigal is waiting in the minors for his chance.
The opening day lineup appears to look similar to this:
- SS Tim Anderson
- 3B Yoan Moncada
- 1B Jose Abreu
- LF Eloy Jimenez
- C Yasmani Grandal
- DH Edwin Encarnacion
- RF Nomar Mazara
- CF Luis Robert
- 2B Danny Mendick/Leury Garcia
The Second Base Fiasco
With Yolmer Sanchez being waived, the Sox found themselves in a flexible position at second base. One possible solution is Danny Mendick, a 26-year-old who flashed good potential with 12 hits in 16 games (.308 BA) at the tail end of 2019. Super-utility man Leury Garcia provides a reliable option, but his .688 OPS in 2019 is not exactly desirable and doesn’t offer much defensively, considering his dWAR fell under 0.
Madrigal is the most interesting and exciting option. The 23-year-old lit up three levels of minor leagues last year, hitting .311 with four home runs, 35 stolen bases, and only 16 (!) strikeouts in 532 plate appearances. He may get more time in the minors just to prevent rushing him against major league pitching and to sharpen his skills.
The rotation isn’t the same beast as the lineup but could be dangerous in the lowly AL Central. Adding Keuchel and Gonzalez to a young staff is a big plus, especially since top prospect Michael Kopech opted out of playing in 2020 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and personal issues.
The rotation is slated to be similar to this:
Cease hopes to take a big step forward in 2020 after a few good appearances in 14 starts in 2019. Lopez, still only 26, needs to prove himself in 2020 after an inconsistent first four years in the league if he wants to be a part of the team’s future.
The White Sox 2019 bullpen provided a few players opportunities to prove themselves. Aaron Bummer earned a contract extension after posting a 2.13 ERA in 67 2/3 innings. Alex Colome racked up 30 saves and a 2.80 ERA as the full time closer, and Evan Marshall may have found a home after a big comeback year. All of these players are returning in 2020, adding to surprise 2019 pickup Jimmy Cordero and the newly signed Cishek.
Playoffs or Bust?
With the 2019 AL Central champion Minnesota Twins keeping key pieces from their 101-win campaign and adding Josh Donaldson, they seem to be the favorites to repeat. The Cleveland Indians have opened a door by letting go of many major pieces to their squad. The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals are favorites to finish last in the AL, so the White Sox are in a prime situation to compete in the Central. However, they will have to develop chemistry with the new players and fix holes when they occur. Rick Renteria has never managed a truly competitive club and will hope to find success. GM Rick Hahn is nearly done with this rebuild and hopes 2020 will prove that.
The White Sox may change the way they view the 2020 season if they get off to a bad start. This season then maybe a great opportunity to test out their prospects and other big-league hopefuls. 2021 appears to have the better chance of being a full-blown playoff competitive White Sox team, and hopefully it will last beyond that.
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