There seems to be little doubt at this time that general manager Rick Hahn has finally wrested organizational control away from team president Kenny Williams. The proof is the direction that the team is now heading after two really good moves this week. The hiring of Rick Renteria should be a step in the right direction. The team played without life or intelligence under Robin Ventura.
On Wednesday, the long-rumored trade of left-handed ace Chris Sale materialized with a change of Sox for him, from White to Red. In return, the White Sox received top prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, as well as outfielder Luis Basabe and relief pitcher Victor Diaz.
On Thursday, the White Sox received highly-regarded pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning from the suddenly embattled Washington Nationals in exchange for outfielder Adam Eaton. It seems likely that they acquired Eaton to play center field, even though he is Gold Glove caliber in right field. The biggest problem there is that Bryce Harper plays right field currently. Could the Nationals shift Harper to left field? It’s possible, but they may not have a legitimate option in center field as they hope to contend for the World Series in 2017.
In two days, the White Sox have rewritten their storyline. No longer looking to be “mired in mediocrity,” as Hahn stated midseason, they have acquired seven prospects that will help them rebuild the franchise into the future. Moncada profiles as a second baseman, drawing comparisons to Robinson Cano. Lofty praise, but he should pair with shortstop Tim Anderson to form a potentially dynamic keystone combination in the middle infield by mid-2017. Kopech has a blazing fastball while working on his secondary offerings and draws physical comparisons to Noah Syndergaard. He is a front-of-the-rotation candidate, with an attitude to match. Kopech was suspended last year for attacking a teammate and broke his hand punching the dugout. The White Sox not only need talent, but also attitude. It’s been sorely lacking since the miracle of 2005. Basabe and Diaz will have the chance to mature in the minor leagues but have potential.
The haul from the Nationals was amazing. While I like Eaton and what he brought to the team, moving him for this package was a no-brainer. I feel the Nationals grossly overpaid for him, especially if they play him in center.
Speculating further, I think that Hahn and company would love to move closer David Robertson, third baseman Todd Frazier, left fielder Melky Cabrera, and perhaps even slugging first baseman Jose Abreu. No one should expect that the Sox should get the kinds of prospects they received from the Red Sox and the Nationals, but these are strong pieces that can net value in return. I could see a scenario where Frazier is moved back to the National League, perhaps the Dodgers (Alex Verdugo…please?) if they don’t resign Justin Turner, or the St. Louis Cardinals if they seek an upgrade over Jhonny Peralta. Frazier hit 40 home runs last year but that was likely his peak. Hahn should move him if he doesn’t want to sign him to a long-term contract. There is no need to keep Cabrera and Robertson. As outfields and bullpens shake out in the coming weeks, the losers of the free agent sweepstakes may desire worthwhile consolation prizes like the Sox have aplenty. Rumors that they will move anyone should have White Sox fans excited and hopeful for the future. I expect that they will hold on to Jose Quintana unless someone makes an absurd offer, and if a team like the Astros does, you make the deal. I think Abreu could stick with the team as well, especially if management wants the fans to recognize anyone on the team. He could also serve as a mentor to fellow Cuban Yoan Moncada.
The White Sox farm system has ranked near the bottom of MLB for years. These moves should bump their status back up. They have proven adept at developing pitching talent, but have not developed a starting position player in years. Strip it down and rebuild. Fans should embrace a difficult year or two as they seek to reconstruct the team following the brilliant architecture of their northerly neighbors, Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs. The White Sox now boast top prospects like Moncada, Giolito, Lopez and Kopech to go along with hard-throwing pitchers Carson Fulmer and Zach Burdi, catcher Zach Collins and outfielder Adam Engel. Maybe the White Sox brass will be able to develop smart, savvy players that will put them into contention by 2018.
At least a guy can dream as the snow falls softly all around us here in Chicago this weekend. Only 102 days left until Opening Day. Let’s see how the rest of the Hot Stove shakes out!