As I mentioned on the podcast, I find it difficult to get excited about rebuilding trades, because each one is its own admission of failure.
Jose Quintana’s first few days with the Cubs kind of hammered this point home, and even before he struck out 12 Orioles over seven scoreless innings for an easy victory in his debut with the crosstown team. You can decide for yourself which quote from his initial post-trade interview reflects most poorly on what the White Sox couldn’t accomplish with him.
"I wanted to come to play for the Cubs," Quintana said Friday while wearing his new team's colors for the first time. "I'm so happy to move to the other side of the city and stay in Chicago. I think it was the best trade for me."
"It's over," Quintana said, smiling. "That's good. It's a fresh start and like I say every time, I want to do my job and make the playoffs. I've never been to the playoffs, and I have a good chance here."
"I know the Cubs have a lot of fans," Quintana said. "That's special when you play every single day with a lot of people pushing you. That's fun."
The third and first one strike more direct blows for Chicago tribalism, but the second one is the key to the others. The Sox haven’t made the postseason in 2008, and they’ve had more 90-loss seasons than 90-win seasons after winning the World Series. That’s what drives or suppresses attendance, and the package deal is why Quintana and Chris Sale express joy and relief after moving despite saying time and time again that they wanted to remain with the White Sox. The alternative is an Alexei Ramirez-like timeline:
In 2008 Alexei Ramirez joined the White Sox, made the playoffs, and probably thought he would be there a whole bunch.— Matt Adams (@JustDontKnowBro) August 16, 2015
Sale is the Cy Young favorite for first-place Boston and Quintana is making meaningful starts for a defending champion while the White Sox are getting swept by Seattle at home. That’s how it should play out based on their talent and merit. As much as it might be satisfying to hand an unlikable team a time bomb, the White Sox don’t deserve to be that lucky. The front office made a lot of mistakes that didn’t require second-guessing to identify, and the same people are still in charge. I don’t see a reason to blame Kenny Williams for everything that went wrong while crediting Rick Hahn for everything that looks smart. They’re all in it together, and as long as they are, the reality should be harsh and unsparing until the first lines of new talent take root.
The good news is that they’re taking the task of stockpiling the farm system seriously. Perhaps too seriously. There’s no real good reason why Reynaldo Lopez is still making starts in Charlotte, because he’s been throwing gems for a month and can go 4 1⁄3 innings just as well as Mike Pelfrey and David Holmberg at this point. That delay is causing a pile-up of starters who could use time in Charlotte, and there’s a similar situation on the position-player side, with Yoan Moncada being the chief domino.
This is when raves can start to get stale. For instance, when Jeff Passan says ...
The White Sox now have the best farm system in baseball. This is inarguable.
... that’s partially because they won’t allow players to shed prospect status (Lopez only needs one good start to lose eligibility). In college football parlance, the White Sox farm system ain’t played nobody. Time should relieve some of this pressure shortly, although I thought a Quintana trade was going to be Lopez’s ticket to the big leagues, so I’m not going to assume what might result from a Todd Frazier trade.
Then again, it’s kinda nice to wonder if the White Sox are being too patient, because at least it means they’re resisting the same mistakes. The first rebuild didn’t work because the White Sox lacked the farm system to provide depth, the pro-scouting chops to find shortcuts, the budget to spend past their mistakes and the fortitude to change leadership. Depth needs to be front of mind and the White Sox are treating it as such, even if more of it can be tested in Chicago without further delay.