The Chicago White Sox were arguably the most active team in the 2019-20 offseason by signing important free agents and extending their young core of players. With all these transactions, the White Sox look like legitimate contenders and have a real chance to reign supreme over the American League Central division.
Since their 2005 World Series Championship season, the White Sox have only made the postseason once back in 2008, when they were swept in four games by the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division Series. But now, after some significant roster adjustments, the White Sox look ready to contend for a championship once again.
Notable Offseason Signings
The earliest move was re-signing first baseman José Abreu, who had spent the first six years of his career with the White Sox. The three-year, $50 million deal locked up Abreu through his age 35 season before he hits the open market again. Abreu has been nothing but stellar for the White Sox on offense. Since his rookie campaign in 2014, Abreu has had 100-plus RBI seasons five times. According to FanGraphs, over Abreu’s 901 career games, he has slugged 179 home runs, scored 483 runs, and knocked in 611 RBIs. He has a career .289/.349/.513 slash line over his six full seasons — a productive bat to say the least. Over his career, Abreu’s biggest knocks are his walk to strikeout percentages, which are 6.3% and 19.9%, respectively.
The next major transaction was made Nov. 21, 2019, when the White Sox signed the power switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal, according to FanGraphs. Since being called up in 2012 by the San Diego Padres, Grandal has appeared in a combined 879 games with the Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers. He has a career .241 batting average and .435 slugging percentage to accompany his 141 home runs and 416 RBIs. The addition of Grandal transitions catcher James McCann to a backup role and catcher and first baseman Zack Collins into the minor league system. The switch to the American League is great for Grandal, 31, who will benefit from the DH spot. When he isn’t behind the dish, he can platoon with Edwin Encarnación, another offseason free agent signee, at DH, which could ultimately improve Grandal’s hitting statistics.
After some work on the offensive end of the game, the White Sox made some moves to bolster their pitching. On Dec. 21, 2019, the White Sox signed left-handed starting pitcher and former CY Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, 32, to a three-year, $55.5 million deal. Since his CY Young season with the Houston Astros in 2015, Keuchel has tossed 631 innings with a 3.73 ERA. Keuchel’s career 58.8 ground ball percentage is going to factor into how well he pitches in his new, hitter friendly home ballpark at U.S. Cellular Field. With a rotation consisting of Keuchel, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, Michael Kopech, Gio Gonzalez, and/or Dylan Cease, the potential to have a top 10 starting rotation is well within reach.
To wrap up the free agent fiesta, the White Sox nabbed the power hitting first baseman and DH Encarnación. The deal with Encarnación was for one year and worth $12 million. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unclear if Encarnación will ever play a game with his newest team. However, the White Sox may decide to pick up his $12 million team option for the 2021 season. If they do not, he will become a free agent again.
Third baseman Yoán Moncada was acquired by the White Sox in 2016 in a blockbuster deal that sent starting pitcher Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for a package of players that included Moncada, Kopech, Luis Basabe and Victor Diaz. Moncada, a switch hitting third baseman, signed a five-year, $70 million contract extension with a club option for 2025. Moncada is coming off his best campaign of his career where he slashed .315/.367/.548 with career highs in home runs (25), RBI (79), and runs scored (83). He garnered this line over 132 games as compared to his 2018 season where he played 149 games but produced significantly less on offense.
Before he even made his MLB debut, outfielder Luis Robert signed a six-year, $50 million contract extension that included club options for 2026 and 2027. With zero MLB games under his belt, Roberts will be making $8.33 million per year over the next six years. However, that money may be well-earned. Over three minor league levels in 2019, Roberts played 122 games with 32 home runs, 98 runs scored, 62 RBI, and 36 stolen bases. He also had an unimaginable .355/.405/.691 slash line.
Over the course of the offseason, the White Sox only made two trades with the same team, the Texas Rangers. The first trade sent catcher Welington Castillo to Texas for infielder/ outfielder Jonah McReynolds.
The second and most significant trade was the one that landed the White Sox outfielder Nomar Mazara from the Rangers in exchange for outfielder Steele Walker. Mazara, a left-handed hitter, will be a free agent at the conclusion of the 2022 season. He is slated to make $5.56 million in 2020 and is arbitration eligible for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, according to FanGraphs. Mazara was a consistent source of power in Texas, blasting 20 home runs from his rookie campaign in 2016 through the 2018 season, and hitting 19 home runs in 2019. Mazara has not been able to replicate his breakout season in 2017 where he had 101 RBI, 64 runs scored, 20 home runs, and a .253/.323/.422 slash line, but his bat should still make a significant impact for the White Sox over the next three seasons.
The White Sox did everything correctly when it came to a full team rebuild. They acquired and locked up young talent through trades, international signing and fantastic extension opportunities. A trend emerged with the White Sox Early in 2019, a trend emerged when the White Sox extended outfielder Eloy Jiménez to a six-year, $43 million deal with club options for 2025 and 2026. The trend is to lock up young talent for cheap early in their careers and watch a team blossom into a powerhouse contender. With the biggest threats in the American League Central being the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins, it would not be shocking to see a competitive division race in which each team will try to land itself on the top of the heap.
Photo Credit to Quinn Harris/Getty Image (Jose Abreu delivers with an RBI double, Aug. 28, 2019).
My name is Sebastian and I am a senior at Northern Arizona University. I am a double major in journalism and communication, along with a minor in German. I have been in various editorial positions and have contributed articles to The Lumberjack, NAU's student-run newspaper.