Way, way back pre-coronavirus, the honchos of the SB Nation AL Central blogs got together for a roundtable to discuss the season. As we never published any of them at South Side Sox before the season was shut down, this week we’ll roll them out, so you can get reacquainted with the teams that you will be so tired of seeing by season’s end. (Forty of 60 games, yikes!) Keep in mind, of course, that these were written before the season was delayed, and some team (and life) details have changed in the intervening months.
OK, well, here’s the White Sox Q&A that I sent to our AL Central compadres.
Again, a reminder this was written in the spring and anticipating a full season.
What changed for your team over the offseason?
Well, where to begin? The ballclub acted like a big-boy team in a major market and Spent Some Money. Whoa. From the payroll cellar to … 18th. It’s a start. After a 2018-19 offseason marked by signing a bunch of clods to attract Manny Machado who ultimately advised it was better for Manny to take San Diego’s millions, things went a little better in 2019-20.
Any noteworthy free agents or trades, new coaches or front-office people? How will these changes impact your team in 2020?
There were a buncha signings, and one noteworthy trade. You guys really wanna read all these free agents? OK. Yasmani Grandal, four years. Dallas Keuchel, three-four years. Gio González, 1-2 years. Edwin Encarnación, 1-2 years. Steve Cishek, 1-2 years. Grandal instantly became the most important person on the team. Keuchel, a dude whose stuff should play at Sox Park and an instant No. 2. González, a necessary second lefty in the rotation, slotting at No. 5. Encarnación is where the White Sox entered the why-they-hell-not stage, dropping $12m on a DH. Cishek, provided they don’t work him to death as was done on the north side, should slot in as righty setup.
Trades, not much, but the White Sox flipped future Name Hall-of-Famer Steele Walker to Texas for Nomar Mazara. Mazara was gifted the right field job, which would be more offensive if the 2019 RFs on the South Side hadn’t put up a collective -27.8 WAR, give or take.
Extensions! Holy man, a biggie: Luis Robert got the Eloy Jiménez treatment, signing a LONG deal that buys out arbitration, free agency, road trip minibar charges, an assortment of colorful vehicle rims, and more. Like Eloy, he’ll be roaming the outfield on the South Side until at least 30 years of age.
Coaching? The White Sox, tired of their roughly four strikeouts per walk, parted ways with hitting coach Todd Severson and hired ex-Marlins coach Frank Menechino.
The changes will impact the White Sox into not sucking in 2020.
What guys got traded away, walked as free agents, or retired who will impact your team in 2020, and what will that impact be?
See “bunch of clods” above. You can probably measure the losses of Jon Jay, Yonder Alonzo, Dylan Covey, Welington Castillo, Odrisamer Despaigne, Hector Santiago, Manny Bañelos, Charlie Tilson and others. There probably exists a device that records such small measurements. An electron microscope, maybe?
Yolmer Sánchez did take the rather odd route this offseason: 1. being a clubhouse and fan favorite 2. winning a Gold Glove after a piteous defensive open to 2019 3. non-tendered. There is some loss there, not just to Gatorade jugs and rain delay theaters; Yolmer could have been re-upped as a defensive swiss army knife player, but his bat had gone increasingly limp through the seasons. Methinks Sánchez was sort of sacrificed at the altar of SEE WE’RE CHANGING AND CHASING THE POSTSEASON NOW.
What players that we haven’t heard of will we want to know about going into 2020? Guys with bigger roles, prospects who might be called up, or breakout candidates?
A lot of guys fall into the bigger-roles category, top prospects who will get time to shine. Luis Robert probably won’t hit a ball to the moon or catch one heading to the moon, but he’ll come close. Nick Madrigal seems destined to start the season in Charlotte in this year’s edition of the Service Time Game, but should see Chicago sometime in the first half.
It’s being talked up a lot as a make-or-break year for Reynaldo López, who came over from Washington with Lucas Giolito in the Adam Eaton deal a few years back. The White Sox hope for a Giolito-esque resurgence, because by some measures he was as bad in 2019 as Giolito was in 2018. López has a very live arm and very infectious spirit, so it’s a safe bet him impact the lower end of the rotation, or at worst a late-inning role in the second half of the season.
What are the general feelings of your fan base going into 2020?
VERY upbeat. I mean, the 2010s were pretty much one long kick in the crotch for White Sox fans, so there could be some Stockholm Syndrome going on — but folks outside of the South Side have issued plaudits for the team, so the optimism may be true. There’s still a lot of abused-puppy flinching going on; when certain fans heard Giolito had the flu and had to miss SoxFest, he went right to coronavirus watch. But all in all, boy howdy, we’re pissing rainbows in on the South Side these days.
Who is your pick to win the AL Central?
Pfft, these answers have been boring so far, and in the case of Matt’s just sad. So hell, I’ll say the White Sox. NOT because the White Sox are so great — they’re like upper-80s wins if we want to spit on a cupcake and call it frosting. But more because, hey, perhaps those big bad bouncy meaty Minnies ain’t so bad after all. I don’t see upper-90s wins for the Twins, and yes I do remember they are playing in a division with both the Royals and Tigers. And a few bad breaks … some bats go nerf, a shaky rotation gets the shimmies, it turns into a Tripod of Terror death match reminiscent of 2008. And we remember how that all shook out, right, Twins? Cleveland, I just don’t get: Paltry O, somewhat fragile P. I’m not sold. So, White Sox 2020? Why not us?
What else should readers know about your team?
Last year at this time, the most exciting news about the White Sox was the fact that the team moated off a couple of sections in right field and erected a massive GOOSE HEAD. It’s pretty cool that a bunch of great stuff has happened since then. The team of the 2020s is ready to get rolling.