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Renteria's success might depend on team's plan

October 3, 2016

CHICAGO -- Rick Renteria follows the distant footsteps left by Johnny Evers.That he will become only the second man to manage on both sides of Chicago will either grow into a major storyline over the years or be reduced to a footnote, and like all managers, Renteria can only do

CHICAGO -- Rick Renteria follows the distant footsteps left by Johnny Evers.
That he will become only the second man to manage on both sides of Chicago will either grow into a major storyline over the years or be reduced to a footnote, and like all managers, Renteria can only do his part. His success or failure will largely depend on if he's given a deeper roster than Robin Ventura had in his five seasons on the job.
Renteria was praised for his work with Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro when he managed the Cubs in 2014. He joined Ventura's coaching staff last season and was an easy choice for the White Sox when Ventura walked away after his fourth consecutive losing season.
But an easy choice for what, exactly?
That's the question, and Rick Hahn is doing his best not to give away the answer.
"Ricky's the right guy regardless of which way we go,'' said Hahn, the White Sox's senior vice president/general manager, sounding as cryptic as possible.
He's been tap-dancing about the White Sox's direction since opening the door to a tear-down/rebuild effort in a group interview before the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline, when he lamented the Sox being "mired in mediocrity."
When the upcoming postseason has run its course, it will be time for the Sox to get down to business. That means talking to 29 teams about possible trades for the twin aces, Chris Sale and José Quintana.
What if Renteria turns out to be only one of several guys in uniform crossing Chicago's baseball lines?
How loud would the reaction be around the city if the Sox finally used Sale or Quintana to tap into the wealth of talent accumulated by Theo Epstein and the Cubs?
Along with the Red Sox and Rangers, the Cubs are positioned better than anyone else to pull off a Sale/Quintana trade this winter, when there will be a shortage of pitching on the free-agent market. So don't dismiss the possibility of a huge White Sox-Cub trade simply because of the politics involved.
Nor should you think that the White Sox would only trade one of their two stud left-handers if they're writing off their chances of winning now.
Hahn was noncommittal about the Sox's direction on Monday, which is smart. He would only hurt his own bargaining position by saying he's open to offers for Sale and Quintana, as he had in July.
Here's what I heard listening to him: The White Sox still believe they can compete in the American League Central over the next couple of seasons, and they're not sacrificing that to appease those advocating a total rebuild.
I asked Renteria if his team could compete with its current roster.
"I think with a couple of additions it's possible to be able to compete, but every year's different,'' he said. "Sometimes [you] put together a club, everybody goes into Spring Training very optimistic about what's going to happen, [and it doesn't happen]. … A team must go out and play the game a certain way. You can't just play as everybody else does. Give you an example -- advancing runners, getting runners in from third base. You can't play on the same level as everybody else; you actually have to be better. That's a challenge for us that we're going to have to overcome. That's just playing the game.''
When the Cubs hired Joe Maddon two years ago, it was no reflection on Renteria. Epstein was pleased with the job Renteria had done after replacing Dale Sveum, which contributed to a seven-game improvement in the standings. He made a change only because he got an unexpected shot at Maddon, whom he viewed as the best manager in the game.
Renteria says he appreciates the chance that the Cubs gave him and that there are "no hard feelings'' on his part.
Hahn believes Renteria is a first-division manager. The question is the same as it's been during most of the eight seasons since the White Sox last went to the postseason -- are there enough first-division players on the roster?
Speaking to a group of reporters after the news conference had broken up, Hahn pointed to a lack of depth within the organization as a reason the Sox slid to fourth place after their 23-10 start. He's right.
The top seven players on the White Sox (Quintana, Sale, Adam Eaton, Todd Frazier, José Abreu, Tim Anderson and Melky Cabrera) produced 27.9 WAR. That's only about two wins fewer than the Indians got from their seven best players and a hair less than what the Tigers got from their seven best.
It's the middle of the roster that has failed the White Sox. They haven't produced enough players to fill out the team and may have been too willing to deal them for name-brand guys.
As highly as the Sox value Sale and Quintana, they've reached a point where they know they need to try something else. One idea is trading one of them to fill multiple holes -- say in a deal for two or three young big leaguers and two or three prospects, including an impact arm.
When Hahn discussed trades in July, he knew contending teams like the Red Sox, Rangers and Cubs would be reluctant to deal big league players during the season. It will soon be the time to renew those conversations, this time with players like Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, Nomar Mazara and Jurickson Profar in play.
It would be silly not to sit down with Epstein or Jed Hoyer at a Starbucks and talk about players like Kyle Schwarber, Javier Báez, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora Jr., Matt Szczur and Mike Montgomery. There's a deal to be made to help both teams, and Renteria can certainly use some help if he's going to succeed in his new job.
Evers, the Hall of Fame second baseman who served as a player-manager for the Cubs in 1913, was hired by Charles Comiskey to manage the White Sox in 1924 after his original choice, former Cubs first baseman-manager Frank Chance, developed respiratory complications. Evers did not prove to be a one-man answer to the fallout from the Black Sox scandal.
Renteria won't be a quick fix either. But the right trade or two this winter could put him in position to have some staying power on the South Side.

Phil Rogers is a national columnist for