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Should White Sox counter Twins' big splash?

@scottmerkin
January 15, 2020

CHICAGO -- The White Sox did not pursue Josh Donaldson, so the Twins agreeing to a reported four-year, $92 million deal with the free-agent third baseman was not a true letdown akin to Manny Machado picking the Padres last Spring Training. But for the first time in the last month,

CHICAGO -- The White Sox did not pursue Josh Donaldson, so the Twins agreeing to a reported four-year, $92 million deal with the free-agent third baseman was not a true letdown akin to Manny Machado picking the Padres last Spring Training.

But for the first time in the last month, the highly positive buzz around the South Siders’ aggressive move from rebuilding to a contention phase took a bit of a hit. White Sox fans and most likely front-office members were hoping for Donaldson to take his 37 home runs, .900 OPS and plus-8 Outs Above Average, per Statcast, for Atlanta in 2019 back to the Braves or to the Nationals or maybe even the Rangers if he was destined to return to the American League.

Instead, the White Sox now will face Donaldson 19 times as part of a battle for the top of the AL Central. Make that 19 times for at least each of the next four years, adding a big bat to a power-packed Twins lineup with a Major League-record 307 home runs in 2019. So, how should the White Sox respond to such a move?

Do they dig into their meticulously laid out rebuild plan and try to acquire a superstar such as Nolan Arenado via trade with Colorado? Arenado would have to waive his no-trade clause and could opt out of his eight-year, $260 million deal after the 2021 season.

Should they take a closer look at free-agent outfielders Marcell Ozuna or Nicholas Castellanos and try to add more punch to their lineup?

Or maybe the best course is to continue on with their offseason work and not spend much time worrying about what other teams are doing. This rebuild has been about sustained success and having a chance to win multiple World Series titles, as general manager Rick Hahn has repeatedly mentioned. While the White Sox have every intention of contending in 2020, and they've made moves to support that claim, they won’t do anything to jeopardize their chances in exchange for a one-year push.

Through the additions of Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez and the healthy return of Michael Kopech from Tommy John surgery, the White Sox have upgraded their starting pitching. By bringing in free-agent designated hitter Edwin Encarnación and trading for right fielder Nomar Mazara, the team addressed two spots of dreadfully low production in 2019, while the latest free-agent addition of Steve Cishek improves the bullpen.

A six-year, $50 million deal with Luis Robert almost certainly puts the electric talent possessed by MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 overall prospect on display starting Opening Day at home against the Royals. And the four-year, $73 million contract for free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal ultimately might become the seminal move of the rebuild transition much like Jon Lester signified for the Cubs.

José Abreu’s return for three years and James McCann’s one-year deal, along with players such as Grandal, Encarnación, Keuchel and Gonzalez, bring together important on-field contributors who also can help this talented young crew learn how to win. It was the same sort of approach taken by the Twins last offseason by adding playoff-tested veterans such as Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Schoop.

Castellanos, at 27, makes the most sense of the potential targets mentioned above, but the White Sox might be done with multiyear additions presently, keeping an eye to the Trade Deadline and next offseason. This team won 72 games in 2019, marking a 10-game increase from ’18, but still 29 wins behind the Twins and 21 behind the second-place Indians.

Making up that difference would require a great deal of things going right even before Donaldson picked Minnesota. Ultimately, the continued development of Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease will dictate how high this team climbs now and in the future.

Their focus should fall upon appreciating what Hahn and his staff have done since November and let the young players continue to grow.

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