When the Chicago White Sox named Rick Hahn general manager, he gave no indication that they were going to rebuild. For some fans of the White Sox, however, rebuilding is the only acceptable proposition.
To them, the idea is simple enough. The Chicago White Sox need to face reality and rebuild.
This is a fairly widespread sentiment. Read the comment thread of almost any White Sox article and you will see what I mean.
Now, let me be clear, I do not subscribe to the belief that the White Sox should rebuild, but I get why others may.
It did not take very long to come up with 10 reasons that support the belief the White Sox may be fooling themselves and should begin the rebuilding process immediately.
Well, arguing that the Chicago White Sox should rebuild is not an objective process.
There is no concrete evidence that supports rebuilding, much like there is no real proof to support retooling.
Baseball is simply not held to the laws of nature and can have unexpected outcomes that defy conventional wisdom.
As an example, the White Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics exceeded preseason expectations in 2012. The White Sox and Athletics for part of the season—though the A’s played their best baseball at the right time— and the Orioles did it all year.
Shoot, the Orioles scored a mere seven more runs than they allowed all season and yet finished 24 games over .500.
As a result of the random nature of baseball, the reasons in favor of rebuilding presented here are grouped by theme.
The first group of reasons touches on the impact rebuilding could have on the minor league system. That will be followed by how current player contracts fit into the process, and finally, the reality of playing baseball in the American League will be examined.
It is no secret that the minor league system for the Chicago White Sox lacks depth at several positions.
In fact, the Sox rank at the bottom of almost every publications minor league reviews, including FanGraphs.com.
If the White Sox threw their arms up in the air and held a fire sale, the resulting influx of young talent—if focused on areas of weakness—should allow the White Sox to be flexible in the coming years.
Paddy was the first cog in a larger machine that the White Sox have been putting together.
Hahn took a major step in overhauling the player development department after his promotion to GM.
CSNChicago.com’s Dan Hayes wrote in November that “the White Sox will hire seven scouts this offseason as the franchise refines and reshuffles its international and amateur departments.”
Hayes also noted that the new hires will bring the total number of scouts internationally and domestically to 25.
With a new emphasis on—and facilities devoted to—developing talent, there is no better time than now to invest in growing the farm system from the ground up.
The model the Chicago White Sox use has not worked since 2005.
The model in question effectively forsakes the minor league system in favor of major league caliber talent. As the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers put it, “Williams mostly paid lip service to scouting and player development.”
Rogers continued by noting that minor league players only concerned the former general manager as long as they could be used as trade bait for established veterans
Home run heavy, station-to-station teams don’t seem to perform well in October. Starting pitching wins championships and the only real effective countermeasure to it is team speed, clutch hitting and fundamental baseball.
For the most part, the White Sox are lacking in each of those areas.
The Chicago White Sox have four big contracts—Alex Rios, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Jake Peavy—set to come off the books within the next two years.
If the White Sox do not get rid of them and get some talent in return, they would be doing themselves a disservice.
In essence, if the Sox cannot realistically compete with the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers, they are simply spinning their wheels. Dump players who have value for prospects and play for the future.
Why put off until 2015 what you can do today, when what you already have in place is not working?
For as much youth as the Chicago White Sox have, they have real value in some of their older players
Adam Dunn, for example, has a place on a contending team. Even with a low average (.204) and mammoth strike out numbers (222), his ability to go yard (41 dingers) demands attention. If the White Sox were able to swallow a majority of his contract, Dunn could be moved.
Rios is also under control for two more years at what is now a very reasonable sum of $12.5 million—$13 million if he is traded—so the Sox should get quite a bit for Rios if he is traded.
Alexei Ramirez has a lot to offer to another team—both offensively and defensively. Matt Thornton and beleaguered lefty John Danks can immediately improve another team’s pitching staff.
The point with all of this is that the White Sox have more value than some might think. It is not inconceivable that the team could dump every one of them and stockpile a group of youngsters to develop in the minor leagues.
The Chicago White Sox are fortunate to have some incredible talent that is under team control for some time.
Chris Sale, for example, is not eligible for free agency until 2017. The rest of the youngsters on the team are in much the same situation.
They represent a core that the White Sox can build around. It would be senseless to continue the trend of trading young players away for veterans when what the Sox already have in place has proven they can compete.
By keeping the young core in place and getting rid of veteran baggage, the White Sox can build a winner from the ground up.
For a majority of the 2012 season, the Chicago White Sox were able to hold on to a slim lead in the AL Central over the Detroit Tigers.
The last two weeks of the season, however, were a different story altogether.
During that span, the Tigers played like many thought they would all year and passed the White Sox in the standings. At the same time the Sox played like many thought they would all year and let the division slip away.
With the addition of Torii Hunter and the return of Victor Martinez, there is no reason to believe that the White Sox will be any more competitive against the Tigers in 2013. After all, they went a dismal 6-12 against them last year and the Tigers got better this offseason.
The Sox—using this logic—would be best served rebuilding, with the intention of trying to make a serious run in 2015 or ‘16.
And with the offseason acquisitions the Royals have made—Ervin Santana, James Shields and Wade Davis, among others—the Royals have effectively eliminated the separation between themselves and the Sox.
The offensive core for the Royals is under team control for the foreseeable future, therefore the White Sox would be wise to let that dynamic run its course. After all, the small-market Royals will not be able to afford all that talent on the 25-man roster in two years.
Factor in the fact that they gave up four of their top 20 prospects in the Shields/Meyers trade, and the stage is set for a short-term run in Kansas City.
If the Sox rebuild now, they may be ready to ascend to the top of the division in 2015.
Even if the Chicago White Sox can find a way to win the AL Central next season, they will be hard pressed to compete with whoever wins the AL East.
The Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox (who had a terrible season) both went 6-2 against the White Sox. The Sox played the Orioles fairly well but gave up 45 runs to the Red Sox.
After sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays in Florida at the beginning of the season, the White Sox lost three of four at U.S. Cellular Field during the final week of September. When that happened the Central was still within reach.
What is the sense in spending money and keeping veteran pieces on the roster if it will not matter at the end of the season?
Here is the scenario.
It is a week before the non-waiver trade deadline next year and the Chicago White Sox find themselves four games under .500 and in third place in the AL Central.
What does GM Rick Hahn do in that situation?
If he decides to unload large contracts to contending teams, he may find himself in the same position that the Boston Red Sox were in last year.
That basically gave Kevin Youkilis and cash (a lot of it) to the White Sox for next to nothing in order to get his salary off the books.
In essence, the Red Sox paid the White Sox to take Youkilis. If Hahn finds himself in the same position, the White Sox are in worse shape than they were going into the season.
Why tempt fate?