The White Sox have turned the page this offseason and have changed their expectations from a developing young team to a team that is ready to contend for a playoff spot. This will be the most talent that Rick Renteria has had in a dugout in his entire career. Rick Hahn has constructed the team with the blueprints that the Cubs and Astros have left. So let’s take a look at how these rebuilds compare.
The Houston Astros started rebuilding once Jeff Luhnow took over as General Manager in 2011. Over the course of the next 3 seasons, they lost well over 300 games. 2014 wasn’t much prettier either, as they went 70-92. From 2011-2014 they had the worst winning percentage in baseball at .358. Then, in ‘15 they broke out and went 86-76, grabbed the second wild card spot, and defeated the Yankees in the concrete jungle known as Yankee Stadium. If it wasn’t for a breakdown in the 8th inning of Game 4 of the ALDS they would have advanced to the ALCS. In 2016, they took a step back by losing two more games than the year before. But in 2017, they went 101-61, good for the division title. They went on to win the World Series, although now we know that it was tainted. Do you hear that banging sound? Each and every year Houston won more games than the year before, not including 2016. So how did they form a powerhouse ball club?
Mainly, the Astros developed their core through the MLB Draft. Yes, they did have some doozies, drafting Mark Appel (2013) and Brady Aiken (2014) with the first overall pick in back-to-back years. Neither have made the major leagues. Before their draft classes there have only been two first overall picks to retire without stepping foot on a major league field. Prior to Luhnow assuming GM duties, the Astros had already had two of the core pieces in Altuve and Keuchel. Under Luhnow, the team drafted first-round picks George Springer (2011), Carlos Correa (2012), Lance McCullers Jr. (2012), and Alex Bregman (2015). The young team was complemented with some key free agent signings in 2016 with Yuli Gurriel, Charlie Morton, Josh Reddick, and Carlos Beltran. And of course, the important trade that sent Justin Verlander to Minute Maid Park.
The Chicago Cubs, like the Houston Astros, formed their team through multiple avenues. However, they suffered just like White Sox fans have. The Cubs were 61-101 in 2012, 66-96 in 2013, and 73-89 in 2014 under now White Sox manager Rick Renteria. While the Cubs faithful continued to show up to Wrigley Field, Theo Epstein and company made some stellar draft choices. They drafted Kris Bryant with the 2nd selection in 2013 and Kyle Schwarber 4th overall the following year. When Theo took the helm at the conclusion of the 2011 season, the Cubs already had Javier Baez and Willson Contreras in the system.
Arguably the most important part of the Cubs rebuild was one of the first moves Epstein made. He traded young flame throwing pitcher Andrew Cashner to the San Diego Padres for prospect Anthony Rizzo. Later that year, the Cubs made a move that turned out to work wonders. Aging righty Ryan Dempster was traded to Texas for a young pitcher named Kyle Hendriks. The biggest steal of them all was trading Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to Baltimore for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award in 2015, posting the best 2nd half ERA in major league history.
What kick started the turnaround for the Cubs was the big offseason of 2014-2015. The Cubs hired Joe Maddon to manage the club beginning in 2015. Oh, and they brought in a southpaw with a postseason pedigree named Jon Lester. The bleacher creatures also got their first taste of Dexter Fowler in 2015. Complementing their young core with these pieces helped the Cubs jump a massive 24 games and grab a wild card. The team ended up defeating both division rivals in the Pirates and Cardinals, only to be knocked down by another Murphy; this time a person, not a goat. Daniel Murphy essentially single handedly swung the Mets to the World Series.
The next year the team filled in the remaining holes on the club. They signed John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward. To say that the Cubs were hot right out of the gates would be an understatement as everything seemed to click all year long. The team made a trade that is debated in terms of who won. The Cubs received the Cuban Missile, Aroldis Chapman, for stud prospect turned star, Gleyber Torres. That trade helped the Cubs go 103-58 good for the division title. In 2016 everything fell the Cubs way and with a little help from Mother Nature in the 10th inning of Game 7, the Cubs finally won a World Series. The team hasn’t looked the same since that 2016 team, but still have been very good, averaging 90 wins a season.
The White Sox front office decided that they had had enough of mediocre ball clubs and decided to rebuild after 2016. In back-to-back days at the 2016 Winter Meetings they completely changed the outlook of the franchise. Chris Sale was traded to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. Then, Adam Eaton was traded to the Nationals for Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning. The South Side rebuild had begun.
They promoted bench coach Rick Renteria to manager for the start of the 2017 season. The next three seasons for the White Sox were hard to watch at times but showed many glimpses of what could be a winning team. In 2017, the team lost 95 games and drafted Nick Madrigal because of it. Then the following year they were a 100 lost team and consequently got Andrew Vaughn. Additionally, White Sox fan’s favorite trade probably of all-time that sent Jose Quintana to the north side of town for Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease.
Unlike the Astros and Cubs, the White Sox acquired most of their young talent through trading away players in the prime of their careers. Let’s not forget that every team makes a move or so that stings later on. The Cubs trade of Gleyber Torres and the Astros trade of Josh Hader as well as the release of J.D. Martinez are moves to be forgotten by those franchises. James Shields was acquired for Erik Johnson and an unranked minor league prospect named Fernando Tatis Jr. Shields, by the way, gave up 10 runs in his last start with the Padres.
An interesting note is that the 2014 Astros and the 2014 Cubs both had many players that had some significant playing time because the teams were in a rebuild. Just like the White Sox in the past years, both the Astros and Cubs have had many players that have made fans want to throw the remote at the tv.
The 2014 Houston Astros had Matt Dominguez, Jesus Guzman, L.J. Hoes, Marc Krauss, Alex Pressly, Jon Singelton, and Jonathan Villar combine to bat .203/.268/.326 with a 25% strikeout rate and an 8% walk rate in 2057 plate appearances. In 2015 these guys had just 215 plate appearances with the Astros. Instead Carlos Correa debuted and they added Evan Gattis, Colby Rasmus and Luis Valbuena. Big upgrades.
Likewise, the 2014 Chicago Cubs featured many stop-gap players such as Arismendy Alcantara, John Baker, Darwin Barney, Ryan Kalish, Junior Lake, Mike Olt, Nate Schierholtz, Ryan Sweeney, and Pat Valaika. They all combined for about the exact same production as the Astros players above batting .209/.262/.330 with a 26% strikeout rate and a 6% walk rate in 2137 plate appearances. The following season only 3 played with the Cubs and only combined for 110 plate appearances. They were replaced by the debuts of Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber along with the additions of Dexter Fowler and Miguel Montero. Even bigger upgrades.
In 2020 the White Sox are essentially replacing the offensive production of Yonder Alonso, Ryan Cordell, Jon Jay, Daniel Palka, Jose Rondon, Yolmer Sanchez, and Charlie Tilson with the offensive stature of Edwin Encarnacion, Yasmani Grandal, Nick Madrigal, Nomar Mazara and Luis Robert. Those 7 White Sox combined to bat about the exact same OPS as the groups above, batting .222/.292/.307 with a 23% strikeout rate and an 8% walk rate in 1641 plate appearances. You can argue that the White Sox have more of their core in place than either the Cubs or Astros had coming off of their 70 win seasons. With continued development from Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, and Yoan Moncada as well as veteran Jose Abreu, I think it’s safe to say the White Sox lineup will be better than both the 2015 Astros and the 2015 Cubs.
Rick Hahn has done the best job at setting his team up for an extended period of success. Neither the Cubs or Astros acquired the amount of young talent that Hahn acquired in the trades he made. Furthermore, he locked up Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, and Luis Robert to extensions before they had significant major league playing time. The Cubs failed to talk extension with their players until after the 2016 World Series.
The White Sox control players through the following years:
Luis Robert: 2027
Eloy Jimenez: 2026
Dylan Cease: 2025
Tim Anderson: 2024
Michael Kopech: 2024
Lucas Giolito: 2023
Yoan Moncada: 2023
Yasmani Grandal: 2023
Dallas Keuchel: 2023
Madrigal, Vaughn, Dunning: at least 2026.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 2, 2020
This is a common lineup used in the 2015 Postseason by the Cubs:
- Dexter Fowler
- Jorge Soler
- Kris Bryant
- Anthony Rizzo
- Starlin Castro
- Kyle Schwarber
- Addison Russell
- Miguel Montero
This is a common lineup used in the 2015 Postseason by the Astros:
- Jose Altuve
- George Springer
- Carlos Correa
- Colby Rasmus
- Evan Gattis
- Carlos Gomez
- Luis Valbuena
- Chris Carter
- Jason Castro
What the White Sox lineup might look like at the end of the 2020 season:
- Luis Robert
- Yasmani Grandal
- Yoan Moncada
- Eloy Jimenez
- Jose Abreu
- Edwin Encarnacion
- Tim Anderson
- Nomar Mazara
- Nick Madrigal
Of these three lineups, the White Sox lineup is the deepest on paper. But, they will have to go out there and prove it. This White Sox team is poised and ready to win. There will be no more stop-gap players in significant roles anymore for the White Sox. Rick Hahn has done a great job at adding pieces to this already talented core. Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez will be great mentors and will provide quality innings for the rotation. There is no reason that this White Sox team can’t improve their win total by a lot. It is about to be a fun time on 35th and Shields in 2020 and beyond.
Featured Photo: @ChuckGarfien twitter