The Chicago White Sox, more than a year removed from a start of a complete tear down, enter 2018 in a unique situation. They aren’t in a position to sell off assets, mostly because they don’t really have any more assets to sell. Joakim Soria, acquired earlier this winter? Miguel Gonzalez again? James Shields? Yes, Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu have garnered some trade interest, but neither appeared to be anywhere close to being dealt at any point in the offseason due to the White Sox’ presumably astronomical asking price.
The White Sox are not in a position to contend, either. While many fans, myself included, have spent many hours in the past year-plus daydreaming about Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert, and Eloy Jimenez hoisting the commissioner’s trophy, it’s relatively safe to assume that isn’t happening this year. They’re just too deficient in veteran talent. This is why it concerned me when I saw FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman’s report that the White Sox are in the market for a veteran designated hitter.
See, the White Sox shouldn’t be buying or selling anything this year, and they have done a good job of staying mostly quiet this offseason, save for some Manny Machado chatter, and when a player like that becomes available it would be a fool’s errand not to test the waters. What the White Sox should be doing is giving some of their MLB-ready young talent, some of whom have already had a taste of the major league level, a shot at starting for a full season.
I’m talking about the likes of Yolmer Sanchez, Nicky Delmonico, Matt Davidson, and if he ever gets healthy, Charlie Tilson (fantastic high school he went to, by the way). In a year with no veteran trade bait to be showcased and no goal of playoff contention, why not give each of them a chance to prove that they can be everyday ballplayers at the Major League level?
All besides Tilson, who has been sidelined for over a year with injuries but was a relatively highly thought of minor leaguer, have showed something to work with. Sanchez has shown excellent defensive ability and hit the ball well last year. Delmonico, an excellent career rejuvenation story by the way, slugged nine home runs and hit .262 in 43 games in a stint with the big league club. And Davidson, though he put up a poor average and even poorer WAR (-1) in a part time showing, still flashed excellent power potential with 26 bombs in 2017.
Now, do all these players have flaws? Of course. Is there an above average chance any of them turns into a starting-caliber player on a championship team? Probably not. But it’s ridiculous to be searching for a veteran designated hitter, someone who the Sox know for a fact will not fit into the long term plans, to fill a spot in the lineup when they can take a look at a young guy who might. The one scenario where I would be OK with doing so would be gaining a prospect or two to take on Matt Kemp‘s albatross of a contract, and Heyman reported that the White Sox don’t have interest in that.
The White Sox will also use this season to give former No. 1 prospect Yoan Moncada a full year of big league experience, and give him and Tim Anderson a chance to build on strong finishes from September of last year. The same goes for young pitchers Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer (although I tend to believe that he will end up as a very good relief pitcher rather than in the starting rotation). They also await the arrival of fire-baller Michael Kopech and self-proclaimed “Da Bess” Eloy Jimenez.
The bottom line is this: the 2018 season will be all about discovering who is and is not a long term piece of the roster and developing the high-end talent. Signing a veteran to take meaningless at-bats does neither, and if Heyman’s report is accurate, it’s something General Manager Rick Hahn should reconsider.