The Chicago White Sox are one of the most intriguing teams in Major League Baseball. With that said, if they don’t bring in severe pitching reinforcements, they’ll never contend with their young core.
While he has been shaky in the field, Anderson is one of the best hitting middle infielders in the sport. Anderson is a contact hitter. The shortstop puts the ball in play often, has blazing speed, and is hitting .317.
Abreu is franchise royalty and putting together another highly productive season — one that falls under the radar. Totaling 20 home runs and 65 RBIs, he continues to be one of the best power hitters and first basemen in the sport.
After a disastrous rookie season, highlighted by leading MLB in strikeouts (217), Moncada has shown off his potential in 2019. Hitting .308 while totaling 16 home runs and 48 RBIs, the second baseman has been making better contact and been Chicago’s most well-rounded source of offense.
Giolito has been Chicago’s ace. He has been getting hitters to bite on his curveball, owns a 3.15 ERA, totaled 120 strikeouts, and is going to the MLB All-Star Game next week; he has taken a 180 from a nightmare 2018 season, low-lighted by a 6.13 ERA.
Those four players are some of the best at their respective niche. Anderson and Moncada are a killer offensive middle infield duo, Abreu is a potent force, and Giolito is a towering right-hander. And the first three aforementioned players don’t even end the positives in manager Rick Renteria‘s lineup,
Catcher James McCann has been a force at the plate, hitting .317 while driving in 30 runs, Eloy Jimenez has blasted 15 home runs, and Leury Garcia is hitting .296. When this lineup is firing on all cylinders, they’re explosive. There are few young lineups you’d take over theirs moving forward.
Then there’s Chicago’s pitching staff, which makes baseball fans change the channel.
Giolito has been the only reliable pitcher in Renteria’s starting rotation. That’s not an exaggeration, it’s a grim reality.
Reynaldo Lopez, who recorded a 3.91 ERA in 2018 and appeared to be coming into his own as a steady right-hander, has been one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball this season. He owns a 6.34 ERA and 1.58 WHIP while surrendering 23 home runs. In eight of his 18 starts, Lopez has surrendered five, or more earned runs.
Carlos Rodon was coming along as a steady left-hander in years past, but struggled mightily this season. Before suffering a season-ending elbow injury in May, Rodon recorded a 5.19 ERA and was struggling to give the White Sox length.
Ivan Nova, a reliable right-hander in recent memory and acquired in the offseason to provide stability, is having the worst season of his career. He owns a career-worse 5.92 ERA and 1.56 WHIP while surrendering 19 home runs.
In the 13 appearances he has made, eight of which have been starts, left-hander Manny Banuelos has recorded a 6.90 ERA and 1.84 WHIP while surrendering 12 home runs. In the nine appearances he has made, seven of which have been starts, Dylan Covey has recorded a 4.58 ERA.
The White Sox have a starting rotation with a rising ace, underachieving veterans, and youngsters who are struggling mightily; they’ll never win with that combination. Outside of Alex Colome, Aaron Bummer, and Evan Marshall, Chicago’s bullpen has been a shaky bunch — which rounds out a troublesome pitching staff.
So where do the White Sox go from here? Do they make a trade? They have a deep farm system and, if need be, could surrender a major-leaguer to get a deal done. The issue is who are they trading for? Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, and Trevor Bauer are three hot names on the trade block, but two of them are under team control through 2020 (Stroman, Bauer), and the other is a free agent after this season (Bumgarner).
If the White Sox are going to swing a blockbuster trade, it has to be for a player under team control for at least two full years — after 2019. Perhaps they could entice the New York Mets to part with the oft-injured Noah Syndergaard? The right-hander is a hard-thrower and, when heathy, has the makeup of an ace.
Another route the White Sox could take is drowning a top-tier pitcher such as Bumgarner or Gerrit Cole with a hefty contract in free agency. It may cost an unfavorable amount on their end, but the White Sox have to make some big-boy moves if they aspire to even compete in their own division, that being the American League Central.
The Minnesota Twins have one of, if not the most dangerous offense in baseball, a starting rotation that has come into its own, and are a threat to win the AL pennant. Even after a bizarre offseason and slow start to the regular season, the Cleveland Indians are in the thick of the Wild Card race and seven games ahead of the White Sox (41-44) for second place in the division.
To be clear: While they have several productive bats, the White Sox don’t have a formidable lineup. They’re inconsistent, record a lot of strikeouts, and draw few walks. At the same time, they’re only going to improve in the coming years given their youth and raw talent; General Manager Rick Hahn has to prioritize bolstering their pitching staff.
In all likelihood, if the White Sox want to surpass the Twins and Indians, they need to make two massive moves for their starting rotation and establish a reliable bullpen.
There’s zero guarantee that Giolito is invincible the next five years, and the White Sox can’t wait for Lopez and Rodon to turn a corner. They have to operate with the mindset that their youngsters aren’t going to improve much more in the foreseeable future, as most of them had a decent sample size prior to 2019.
There’s also the Michael Kopech factor. Kopech, the organization’s former top pitching prospect, underwent Tommy John surgery in September. If he gets healthy and pitches to his potential, that will advance their starting rotation. But like Lopez and Rodon, the White Sox can’t expect such success. If they get it, it’s a bonus.
Potential oozes around the diamond for the White Sox, and it’s something for them to boast over. But if Chicago doesn’t make significant moves to address their pitching staff, they’ll never capitalize on the talent they have around the diamond — which would be a shame.