And like that, the 2018 White Sox season draws to a close.
Well, folks, we’ve made it through the 2018 season. Despite two historic game 163s, there is no more baseball for the White Sox this year, and the playoffs are still a distant dream. While free agency and the craziness of the offseason won’t begin for a little over a month, the Southsider’s offseason has essentially begun. Rick Hahn discussed the team’s offseason plans last week, somewhat putting the next twelve months into perspective. However, simply listening to Hahn isn’t all that fun. Instead, I’d like to take his comments into account and do a little GM role-play myself. Here’s where I think the White Sox will be in one year.
By this time next season, talk in Chicago will focus on the merits of Eloy Jimenez and his Rookie of the Year-caliber season. After debuting in late-April, Jimenez will push the White Sox closer to contention throughout the course of the season. I say his defense improves as he gets more comfortable in the majors, but the bat is his calling card. I bet Jimenez hits 30+ home runs as a rookie, thrusting his name into AL ROTY consideration. The good news for White Sox fans is this is just the beginning of his time on the Southside, and the very start of a brilliant career.
Jose Abreu still doing big things.
The most consistent member of the team since 2014, the White Sox will again have stellar production from Jose Abreu. I imagine Abreu will take the offseason to get completely healthy and arrive at Spring Training well rested. This will lead to a return to the 30 HR/100 RBI form he displayed earlier in his tenure. I don’t think he wants to leave this team, despite the rebuilding status. I also don’t think the White Sox have a clear replacement anywhere near ready to consistently play anywhere near his level of production, so he stays entrenched at first base (you know, where he belongs).
Trades, trades, trades!
As each one of this year’s teams is brutally aware, especially playoff teams, depth is of the utmost importance. Depth is good. Creating crowded positional pictures and “logjams,” not so much. The White Sox are currently hoarding too many potentially non-essential position players. It’s good to have pitchers to eat innings. It’s good to have position players as stopgaps when necessary. But, at some point, there is a disservice to prospects and others who deserve a longer look. The time has come for the White Sox to trade away some stopgaps and long shots.
My crush on Daniel Palka is pretty well documented, and he finished tied for the rookie home run lead with Miguel Andujar. However, he should be traded this offseason. He’s at peak value right now, at least in my estimation, and he’s only crowding the corner outfield/DH picture. I used to trade for Matt Davidson on MLB: The Show long before he came to the White Sox, but it’s time for him to move on as well. The starting rotation is almost set, but next season is the season for new faces to get the call-up. Look for the White Sox end of season roster next year to have more new faces than the bullpen had in September of this year.
Short-term for the long-term.
The White Sox still have needs. They still need veteran pitchers to eat innings, and veteran depth pieces to fill gaps and provide some leadership for the youngsters. Look for the team to sign reasonable veterans to one-year deals, hoping to flip them at the deadline for young, controllable players. This is simply a continuation of the rebuilding process. It has to happen. Considering how close top prospects are to cracking the majors, there will likely be fewer signed this year than last, but a few will play important roles. These players won’t be around at the end of the season, but their trade returns will.
A free agent signing pays off.
The White Sox need to copy a move from the Padres‘ playbook and make a “wait, is this too early?” free agent signing like San Diego did with Eric Hosmer. I think Manny Machado is on everyone’s radar, but I think he fits with the White Sox better than just about anywhere else. The White Sox need a third baseman, and even though Machado wants to play shortstop, his third base defense is otherworldly. Oddly enough, his limited action at short prior to 2018 was even better than his career at third, but clearly, he belongs at the hot corner. Maybe the “splashy” free agent signing isn’t the magnitude of Machado, but I think it will be. I also think that by the end of the 2018 season, White Sox fans will all feel the signing (whoever it is) was well worth it, and brought the team that much closer to contention.
A better place.
Overall, the White Sox will be in a better place a year from now than they are today. Playoff contention will appear to be in sight, the rebuild will feel more worthwhile, and though the season will be somewhat disappointing, brighter skies lie ahead.
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