The White Sox offseason to date has consisted of Waiting, Suspense, Excitement…. rinse and repeat. How have the White Sox fared overall in their tear-down and rebuild efforts, and was this the plan all along?
The Chicago White Sox have been the most talked about team in baseball during the offseason thus far, amazing considering they posted a losing season and parted ways with their Manager Robin Ventura at the end of September.
With pitchers and catchers reporting to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona for Spring Training in a little over a month from now, we take an in-depth look at the White Sox offseason thus far.
General Manager Rick Hahn, after finally receiving the go-ahead from Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf, has worked feverishly to pull off one of the most drastic farm system revitalization’s that we may ever see in baseball. To date this winter, Hahn has moved Chris Sale and Adam Eaton to the Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals respectively, netting the top prospect in baseball in Yoan Moncada and the top pitching prospect in baseball, Lucas Giolito, as well as a hand-full of other Top-100 prospects.
Hahn has taken a lower third farm system in baseball, and elevated it all the way to the second rated system in baseball according to Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline, in a matter of a few weeks, and still has plenty of pieces to cash in on before all of the dust settles.
The most valuable of all of those pieces is 28-year-old southpaw Jose Quintana, arguably the most valuable available pitcher in baseball with Sale being dealt already this winter. We’ve heard many things over the last couple weeks, we’ve heard that up to 20 teams have called the White Sox to inquire on Quintana’s asking price, which justly so, is sky-high from all reports thus far.
We’ve heard a slew of rumors and rumblings on the Jose Quintana trade market since the White Sox made waves earlier this month at the MLB Winter Meetings with their two blockbuster trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, but none of those rumblings have come to fruition to this point, and may very well not do so before the White Sox report to Spring Training in February.
The White Sox have made it very clear that they have “no inclination to trade Quintana” and expect a similar or even greater return than they received for Sale after pillaging the Nationals farm system in the Adam Eaton deal.
As it stands right now the White Sox have by all means “won” the 2016 offseason with the moves that they have made, both in regards to roster construction as well as with the player development and coaching staff.
As far as Robin Ventura goes, I think that everyone can agree on two things, the first being that Robin Ventura was a tremendous player and a fan favorite for many years. At the same time, Ventura was not a great manager, and while he was never given a roster with any depth to compliment the core talent, he certainly never helped his case with his tactical skills and decisions, mainly his atrocious bullpen management.
Moving on from Ventura was the right thing to do, no matter the direction the front office decided to chose this winter. Things just didn’t work out for the Ventura/White Sox marriage, and it was time to part ways, which to many of our disbelief’s, the front office accomplished on the final day of the 2016 regular season. In retrospect, the move was a one of a few precursors to the impending tear-down that we are now witnessing. Jerry Reinsdorf is largely regarded for his loyalty to “his guys”, as is one of his main guys, President of Baseball Operations Kenny Williams. So the decision to part with another one of “their guys” was move in a direction that we have never seen on the south side of Chicago. Even when the team parted with World Series winning Manager Ozzie Guillen, it was largely due to a disconnect between Guillen and the front office at the time, rather than results.
The next precursor to the rebuild was the corresponding move to promote new Manager Rick Renteria to the manager position, without even interviewing a single outside candidate for the job. In fact you can speculate that when they brought Renteria on board last winter, they were preparing for the Rick Hahn vision, if the Kenny Williams vision imploded again, which of course it did.
Rick Renteria is widely regarded as a manager with an excellent ability to work with, and develop younger ballplayers. We know that he was hired by the Cubs to do the same thing a few years back when they were actively rebuilding their roster, and likely would still be the Cubs manager today if Joe Maddon, a manager with the same or better qualities, never became available. So regardless of your feelings on the White Sox front office, make no mistake that Renteria being brought in as the heir apparent to Ventura last winter, was almost certainly the first signal that a rebuild was coming if the White Sox imploded in 2016.
The foresight, the calculated moves, all seemed so far outside of the realm of what White Sox fans have been conditioned to expect by Reinsdorf and Williams, that we didn’t even see it coming.
The White Sox also revamped the majority of their player development and farm system staff, starting with the hire of former player Chris Getz as the Director of Player Development. Getz spent the last two years in the Royals player development department, and left with rave reviews from his colleagues. The move also allowed the White Sox to elevate former Director of Player Development Nick Capra to the major-league club, assuming the role of third-base coach in 2017. Bringing in Getz to head the player development department was a strong move, as is bringing Capra on the major-league staff, to work with the youngsters as they make their way to Chicago.
The White Sox also named another former player, who essentially made a career out of being a smart, hard working player rather than one of immense natural ability, Mark Grudzielanek as the new manager of the White Sox Triple-A affiliate, the Charlotte Knights. That move allowed the White Sox to move Julio Vinas (another highly respected player development oriented coach) back to Birmingham, to head the Double-A affiliate Birmingham Barons.
The only thing that the White Sox didn’t get right with their new player development and coaching structure, was the retention of major-league hitting coach, Todd Steverson. Sorry White Sox, I’m not buying that one, no matter how many excellent moves you made around him. The White Sox restructured organizational assignments were all made to reflect the current rebuild, and will payoff in the not-so-distant future.
As far as the roster side of the offseason report card is concerned, I don’t think anyone (well maybe a few people still hell bent on believing that the White Sox will ever spend the amount of money needed to contend solely via free-agency, will disagree) would disagree with me when I say that Rick Hahn has absolutely knocked the early stages of the tear-down/rebuild out of the park thus far.
After only two major roster moves into this endeavor, Rick Hahn has turned a once depleted and neglected farm system into a hands-down top-five farm system, with some experts going as far as saying that the White Sox are second to only the New York Yankees for the top rated system in baseball. Hahn strategically forced the Red Sox into giving up the once perceived untouchable Yoan Moncada, as well as three other solid prospects, by leveraging the ultra aggressive Dave Dombrowski with the leaked Washington Nationals news, by none other than Bob Nightengale of course (starting to see the calculated moves here?).
The very next day, he enticed the scorned and ultra aggressive Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo into forking over a head-turning haul in return for Adam Eaton, that included the top pitching prospect in all of baseball, another Top-100 pitching prospect, and the Nats’ 2016 first round draft pick.
The immediate reaction was a swarm of baseball analysts, mostly of the unanimous consensus, that Rick Hahn took Mike Rizzo to the cleaners on the Eaton deal. Let me add that Adam Eaton is a phenomenal player statistically, and has a very team-friendly deal in place, but none the less Hahn most certainly got the best of Rizzo in that deal.
Looking back at the unfolding of Rick Hahn’s plan and vision for the White Sox, dating all the way back to last winter, when Jerry and Kenny wanted to give it one more crack with the existing core of talent, Rick Hahn had the foresight to begin to lay the groundwork for his plan.
With the coaching and player development moves, the pair of blockbuster trades that helped perform a 180 degree turn-around of the White Sox farm system, and all of the cards left in Hahn’s hand moving forward, I’m easily giving Rick Hahn the highest mark possible on his early offseason report card, an A.
I would have given him an A+ if he would have replaced Todd Steverson, but hey, it’s a process right? A process that we should embrace, because we finally have the right front-man pulling the strings behind the curtains.