“How many fights you think you got in you anyway? Hm? Two? Boxers don’t have an old-timers’ day. You came close, but you never made it. And if you were gonna make it, you would have made it before now.”
-Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction
As this 2023 White Sox season has unfolded, I imagine Jerry Reinsdorf having a similar conversation with Rick Hahn. Despite a $180 million payroll, the team’s contention window has slammed shut, and the roster as constructed is aging more like vinegar than wine. The sooner this team admits it and cuts its losses, the sooner it can move forward more competitively (not to mention more cheaply).
Does that mean a total rebuild? Not at all. With a legitimate core of players in their late 20s, this team needs to free up some payroll and approach the roster with a different philosophy. That is, in part, why it wouldn’t surprise me to see someone else internally (like Ken Williams, again) get the reins temporarily to retool this team on the fly instead of embarking on yet another full-fledged rebuild.
If it seems premature to blow things up, consider that the White Sox are now five years in with their current core and still have nothing to show for it but hopes and dreams. Unfortunately Rick Hahn, the architect behind this rebuild, has turned this project into a baseball equivalent of La Sagrada Familia, finding something new to add but never finishing the deal.
It’s a stark contrast to the White Sox approach was previously, constantly going for it — with reservations as they never signed huge-dollar contracts — and trying to find lightning in a bottle with any veteran acquisition possible, usually to the detriment of internal player development.
With the current team skewing older and the few prospects at least a few years away from being ready, the franchise has found itself in a strange purgatory. The only way to avoid being “mired in mediocrity” is to attempt a quick reset. Other than Yoán Moncada and Eloy Jiménez (who likely cannot be moved until they come close to living up to the back end of their contracts), trade all expiring contracts immediately to reset the rest of this season, gelling in 2024 and genuinely contending in 2025.
Realistically, the White Sox will not get a haul for any player they trade, with Tim Anderson being the one possible exception. Still, part of the problem with the Sox in their recent history is that they have, by necessity, overvalued their in-house talent anyway. Someone like Lucas Giolito, the pseudo-ace of the Pale Hose, will always be far more valuable here than elsewhere as a fringe third starter. Still, if the lessons of Carlos Rodón have taught us anything, it’s better to get something rather than nothing in an absurd attempt to save face.
Instead of bringing in a buffet of average to above-average prospects in the hope that one or two may break out, the focus should be on older or second-tier prospects that bring specific expertise to the roster. With the current team’s makeup of so many samey first-base/corner outfielder types, the White Sox desperately could use athleticism, speed, and less three-true-outcome reliant hitting.
There are no guarantees that an emergency reset will fix what ails this ballclub. However, after wasting precious years from the current core, sometimes the only way to move forward is to take a step back.