I’ve had occasion to see some Chicago White Sox games, as they hosted Pittsburgh last week and then went across town to play the Cubs over the weekend and I was interested in seeing some NL Central contenders play. Instead, my main impression was just how awful this White Sox team really is. It doesn’t come as a surprise—the White Sox weren’t anywhere close to contenders. But it doesn’t seem like that long ago they were knocking on the door.
And it wasn’t. In 2015-16, there was real hope of contention. Those teams ended up as disappointments, finishing with 76 & 78 wins respectively and it cost manager Robin Ventura his job. It turns out, those were the glory days, because Chicago went into full-scale fire-sale mode. And in an American League whose defining feature this year is the number of flat-out hideous teams, the White Sox are the early frontrunner to be the worst of the worst.
Here’s a quick summation of what Chicago did to tear their own house down…
*They traded Chris Sale to the Red Sox and Carlos Quintana to the Cubs, effectively decimating what had been a decent rotation.
*The White Sox traded Adam Eaton to the Nationals and Todd Frazier to the Yankees for more packages of minor league prospects.
*Melky Cabrera was shipped out, as was Anthony Swarzak, taking a decent bat out of the outfield and a respectable arm away from the bullpen.
*The club moved on from Austin Jackson, continuing to remove functional major league players from the roster and replacing them with players unable to compete.
The results have been predictable. Chicago is sitting on a record of 10-27. They have the worst offense in the American League and the worst starting pitching and are a fundamentally unwatchable baseball team.
But it wasn’t that long ago, the same could be said of the Houston Astros. Fans on the South Side are banking on their being better days ahead. Here’s a look at some of the early returns on the players the club received back in the above trades…
*Yoan Mocada was the key piece of the Sale trade. The 23-year-old second baseman is swinging a good bat, with a .359 on-base percentage/.509 slugging percentage. He’s been Chicago’s best everyday player thus far in 2018.
*Reynaldo Lopez came in the Eaton deal and the 24-year-old starting pitcher has been the bright spot of the rotation, with a 2.44 ERA in seven starts. He’ll be the guy visiting contenders hope to avoid this summer.
*A less positive return has come from Lucas Giolito, also a part of the Eaton package. After a promising start last season, with a 2.38 ERA in seven starts, he’s sitting on an ugly 7.25 ERA in his seven trips to the post in 2018. And after watching him bounce balls in the Wrigley dirt this weekend, I was unsurprised to find out he led the American League in walks issued.
Overall though, that’s not a bad success rate in the unpredictable market of young baseball talent. The vast majority of the players acquired in these trades are still in the minors, so any positive signs might have bigger long-term implications.
The immediate consequence of all this though, is that the 2018 version of the White Sox are atrocious and combined with more awful baseball coming out of places like Baltimore, Texas and Kansas City, means that there’s going to be a lot of record-fattening by the American League elite.