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Inbox: Does Kopech's injury stall Sox rebuild?

Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers fans' questions
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- With the White Sox 2018 season in the rearview mirror, it's a good time to go through the latest batch of your Inbox questions on the future of the organization.

Does the Michael Kopech injury set back our time to compete by a full year at least?
-- Joe, Milwaukee, @jnez50

A healthy Kopech is an important component for a successful White Sox future, and his innings were being counted upon for 2019. But one player injury, albeit an injury to a crucial player, shouldn't set back an entire process.

CHICAGO -- With the White Sox 2018 season in the rearview mirror, it's a good time to go through the latest batch of your Inbox questions on the future of the organization.

Does the Michael Kopech injury set back our time to compete by a full year at least?
-- Joe, Milwaukee, @jnez50

A healthy Kopech is an important component for a successful White Sox future, and his innings were being counted upon for 2019. But one player injury, albeit an injury to a crucial player, shouldn't set back an entire process.

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Kopech will be back in 2020 and most believe he will be as strong as ever, but this injury really postpones a valuable first full season of Major League experience for the right-hander. The White Sox were going to be in the market for pitching, so Kopech's situation might change their focus on the sort of pitcher they pursue.

At the right price after the buyout, don't the Sox need to bring back James Shields?
-- Jim, Gilberts, @jimtrots

Shields knows the staff, already has positively influenced a number of the young pitchers and was one of 13 Major League hurlers to throw at least 200 innings in 2018. The White Sox certainly won't pick up his $16 million option for '19, but I wouldn't think he's completely out of the mix.

Video: CLE@CWS: Shields fans Lindor to escape jam in 6th

Do you see the White Sox making a run at one or more of the big-name free agents in the offseason?
-- Matt, Livingston, Scotland, @Glangon

The names Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were quite prevalent in this week's batch of questions, which makes sense considering the financially flexibility built up by the team for the next five years. The White Sox aren't at the finishing stage of their rebuild in which they would most likely have to go outside the organization, per general manager Rick Hahn. But Hahn added that they also will be opportunistic in this market, which could include even bigger ticket players.

Remember, even if all the stars align, a player still must want to come to the team in pursuit. So, it's always a complicated dance. The White Sox won't rush matters this offseason, but they will be smart and aggressive when the situation dictates.

What does the 2019 White Sox outfield/designated hitter spot look like? Will Daniel Palka or Matt Davidson DH? Avisail Garcia will play right field, but what about center field? Left field?
-- Joseph, @JJHantsch

Garcia is one of the more interesting questions entering the offseason. I don't expect him to get an extension coming off an injury-plagued season, but he could enter 2019 anywhere from the White Sox starting right fielder to playing for another team. The White Sox have another year of contractual control over Garcia, and as of now, I believe he should be back.

Video: CLE@CWS: Garcia clubs a 2-run homer in the 1st

Palka firmly put himself in the '19 picture, while Davidson also is in play. Adam Engel looks to be the team's center fielder, at this point, and let's not forget Eloy Jimenez, the No. 3 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, who will be with the team for the bulk of '19 and beyond. But it's too early at this point to make ironclad predictions.

If Yoan Moncada changes positions, where do you think he moves to and why?
-- Mike, Warrenville, Ill., @MikeSox56

My guess would be third base, although he has the athleticism to play center field. Moncada regularly took ground balls at shortstop and third base down the stretch during batting practice, but he had a strong finish defensively at second base. Look for him to be the team's second baseman moving into '19.

Video: CWS@MIN: Moncada fields ground ball with backhand

How do the Sox stop striking out so much?
-- Joel, Crown Point, Ind., @jvickers75

Feature more contact hitters would be my best guess. But let's use the example of Moncada, who struck out 217 times but clearly has a strong working knowledge of the strike zone. It was his first full season in the Majors, so there are bound to be growing pains. He also talked later in the season about needing to take steps this next season to cut down that total. It's all about making adjustments.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox, Michael Kopech