White Sox poised to enter next phase of rebuild

September 9th, 2019

CHICAGO -- Late Saturday evening, the White Sox officially were eliminated from 2019 postseason contention. On Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field, they surpassed their '18 win total of 62 with 19 games remaining in the season.

Both outcomes were expected, certainly within the current campaign but also before the season began. The end of the beginning phase of the rebuild, as general manager Rick Hahn has described it on a few occasions, resided in this season with a continued focus upon development over contention.

Shortstop leads the American League in hitting at .334 with two weeks remaining, after batting .240 last year. is a 4.6-fWAR player, with an .878 OPS and 52 extra-base hits while playing a skilled third base defensively, after striking out 217 times in 2018.

's first Major League season has been an injury-plagued one, but his 24 home runs lead all AL rookies. is an AL Cy Young Award candidate and a leader of the pitching staff after struggling as a rookie.

Those results don’t even touch on the incredible run put together by Luis Robert across three stops in the Minors on his way to being named MLB Pipeline’s Hitter of the Year.

“It's been tremendous,” said White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing, who served as White Sox manager this past weekend while Rick Renteria had his right rotator cuff surgically repaired. “It's still not a finished product, and every single individual we have here is going to continue to grow and get better.

“You see the progression they have made in the last two years to where they're at now and where we envision them to be at the end of it. They're maturing, they're becoming leaders, they're becoming teammates.”

The White Sox entered the All-Star break with a 42-44 record, making this year a qualified success even before the second half began. But this rebuild doesn’t have an end-game target of mere improvement. The goal is to win World Series titles.

So what’s next for the White Sox as Year 3 of the rebuild melds into Year 4? The roster needs to become more of a finished product as some of the players in the young core become more finished products.

Next year’s team will feature a full season of Robert -- the No. 5 prospect in the game, per MLB Pipeline -- in center, Nick Madrigal (White Sox No. 4; No. 40 overall) at second and right-handed starter gaining from a valuable year of big league experience in 2019. Michael Kopech, who recently talked to MLB.com about his ongoing recovery from Tommy John surgery last September, should be a “normal guy” when competing for a rotation spot in Spring Training.

Dane Dunning, Carlos Rodon and Jimmy Lambert also will be returning from Tommy John surgery at some point in 2020. But teams do not win on youth alone, a point the White Sox clearly understand.

As the White Sox build depth throughout the system, they still might be a little early for wholesale prospect moves to acquire big veteran pieces. Fans will look at free agency and immediately point to right-handed hurler Gerrit Cole and third baseman Anthony Rendon, who would have an instant and immense impact on any team.

But this offseason could be a success even without the White Sox landing any players considered the big fish. It’s about finding top-notch players who also are the right fit, with the focus being right field, designated hitter, a left-handed power bat and a veteran arm or three throughout the staff. It worked in 2005, and it can work again as the Sox try to build upon a young team coming together.

“What Ricky and the whole organization have wanted is everyone pulling in the right direction, and I believe we're there,” McEwing said. “It's proving to be something that's very, very promising.”