CHICAGO – For the rebuilding White Sox, there is optimism to be found in a season that ended with 95 losses.
They saw signs that a strong foundation is taking hold in a year when the Sox finished fourth in the American League Central with 67 wins. Only three teams had a worse record. And yet?
“I cannot tell you how many various fans have stopped me or emailed me or mentioned to me that they’ve never been this excited over a 60-win team,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Or they’ve never been excited about a team that isn’t going to the playoffs.”
The Sox committed to rebuilding last winter, loading up on young prospects they hoped would spark a franchise with only one playoff appearance since the 2005 championship season. They traded former ace Chris Sale to Boston and outfielder Adam Eaton to Washington at the winter meetings and added to the pipeline in one flurry.
More big deals could be coming, too, with Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia potential candidates to be moved.
What the Sox have done so far at least looks promising.
They acquired second baseman Yoan Moncada along with hard-throwing pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Michael Kopech in the Sale and Eaton trades. The only one who didn’t play in the majors was Kopech, and he had a 2.88 ERA over 25 starts at Double-A and Triple-A.
Giolito had a 2.38 ERA in seven starts for the Sox, and Moncada hit .276 with five homers over his final 24 games.
Here are some things to know as the Sox enter the second year of their rebuild:
The Sox could be in position to land another big haul of young players should they trade Abreu or Garcia. Abreu has been a huge force for the Sox since his 2014 rookie season, hitting the 30-homer mark three times and driving in at least 100 runs all four years. He batted .304 with 33 homers and 102 RBIs this year. Abreu’s $68 million, six-year contract does not expire until 2019. But he turns 31 in January and could be entering the twilight of his career by the time the Sox are ready to contend. The 26-year-old Garcia hit .330 – third in the majors – with 18 homers and 80 RBIs after five mostly disappointing seasons with Detroit and the Sox. The question is whether he turned the corner or if this was a one-year exception.
Shortstop Tim Anderson’s first full season in the majors was a trying one. His close friend, Branden Moss, was shot to death while assisting an assault victim in Alabama in May. A grieving Anderson struggled for much of the year but came on strong down the stretch to finish with a .257 average.
Pitcher Carlos Rodon is out six to eight months after arthroscopic surgery last week that revealed significant bursitis in his pitching shoulder. That means the 24-year-old left-hander could miss the start of the season, although the Sox expect a full recovery. He also sat out almost the first three months of the season because of shoulder and biceps problems. In between, he went 2-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 12 starts before returning to the disabled list Sept. 8. The No. 3 overall pick in 2014, Rodon is 20-21 with a 3.95 ERA in three seasons.
Manager Rick Renteria got a strong endorsement from management. And this time, his job appears safe. Hahn said he sees “no reason he’s not” the long-term solution to lead the Sox once they are ready to contend. That echoed comments the GM made when the Sox promoted Renteria from bench coach to replace Robin Ventura last October.
Whether he reaches the majors next season, Luis Robert figures to attract plenty of attention. Hahn said the 19-year-old outfielder from Cuba will be at the major league camp in spring training and probably start next season at Class A.