The Chicago White Sox are on the bottom of oddsmakers’ Team Win Total lists and rightfully so as they will likely approach the 2017 MLB Regular Season as a rebuilding team by moves like letting ace southpaw Chris Sale go to the Red Sox and the letting go of manager Robin Ventura. Let’s look at where the Chisox are now and offer up a future MLB pick.
Despite perceptions they’ve become one of MLB’s worst teams, the Chicago White Sox (78-84, 4th in AL Central in 2016) finished just 6 games below .500 last season and had a -29 run differential (686 RF-715 RA), 8 runs better than their division’s third-place finishers, the Royals (81-81). Eleven teams had equal or worse RD’s than the White Sox and 11 had worse records, so before we suddenly embrace this “Chicago sucks” narrative and are instant-fade material, let’s look at the particulars.
Offseason Moves, Why the Big Odds Drop?
Three of the big things which drive this idea the White Sox “could be terrible” narrative are the trading of LHP Chris Sale, the stepping down of manager Robin Ventura and the continued evolution of the AL Central champion Indians. Chicago opened up 28/1 (to win the World Series) in October but are now 250/1 after the Sale and Adam Eaton (Washington) deals and rumors talented LHP José Quintana and others may also be dealt abound. So new manager Rick Renteria is part of a long-term renovation project on the South Side.
The outfield is a weakness with Melky Cabrera able to deliver some power but below average defensively in LF, Charlie Tilson, and Leury García unproven commodities in CF and Willy García, Adam Engel, Rymer Liriano and Avisail García able to play RF, with the latter more likely to get time at DH. At least the White Sox —who went 23-10 to begin the 2016 season—could start an all-García Outfield if they want?
The Infield is a perceived strength, at least offensively, with Todd Frazier at 3B, Tim Anderson or Tyler Saladino at SS, Brett Lawrie at 2B and José Abreu at 1B. So the Pale Hose (.257 Batting Average, 13th) will look to Abreu, Frazier, Cabrera and Lawrie for power and hope they stay injury-free with Lawrie one projected DH, maybe giving stud prospect Yoan Moncada—acquired in the Sale trade—some playing time.
In dealing ace Sale and showing a willingness to trade Quintana, the Chisox are conceding The Now for The Future, and it’s hard to blame GM Rick Hahn for doing so. For now, Quintana will be staff ace with Carlos Rodon, James Shields, Miguel González and Derek Holland the other projected starters with Geovany Soto and Omar Narváez as Catchers.
David Robertson is the Closer with Nate Jones, Dan Jennings, Zach Putnam, Michael Ynoa and Jake Petricka making up the Relief staff while prospecting Michael Kopech—also acquired in the Sale deal—will be a big part of Chicago’s future plans.
Conclusions - The Future is Obviously Not Now
The White Sox (69½ Regular Season Wins, at BetMania) may have to try to outscore opponents to make up for the starting Pitching weakness after dealing Sale (17-10). This roster is young and weak and the team’s defense is suspect, so the MLB odds drop is justified as management’s desire to rebuild is obvious, making 2017 a throwaway year for Chicago. And with Sale unhappy in the Windy City—he was cutting up fellow players’ uniforms—sending him packing for solid prospects was all the franchise could do. Maybe the only question now is are the Sox still better than the Minnesota Twins (74½u -120, at BetMania), and much of that may be determined if big-name players like Quintana, Robertson, Frazier, Cabrera and Abreu continue to be dealt.
Chicago White Sox Predicted Record: 70-92Free MLB Future Pick: White Sox Team Total Under 73½ Wins