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Inbox: Will White Sox take next step in rebuild?

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

CHICAGO -- Here's this week's edition of the White Sox Inbox, with the Hot Stove heating up around the South Siders.

How persuasive can the White Sox be to attract good, effective veteran players to a team that has lost nearly 200 games over the last two seasons? Is there reason to hope for an improved win-loss record in 2019? So far, the Sox are regressing each year in losses. Is at least a .500 season still out of the question?
-- Michael, Melbourne, Fla.

CHICAGO -- Here's this week's edition of the White Sox Inbox, with the Hot Stove heating up around the South Siders.

How persuasive can the White Sox be to attract good, effective veteran players to a team that has lost nearly 200 games over the last two seasons? Is there reason to hope for an improved win-loss record in 2019? So far, the Sox are regressing each year in losses. Is at least a .500 season still out of the question?
-- Michael, Melbourne, Fla.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn already has talked about 2019 being a competitive season -- if not one for contention -- so expect the White Sox to make moves in that direction. Remember: Hahn predicted Year 2 of the rebuild being the most difficult before it even began, so the 100 losses clearly aren't ideal but also aren't indicative of overall development within the organization.

Selling free agents like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, as prime examples, on the team might be the most difficult White Sox task for a pair of players accustomed to winning. But the White Sox can point to the critical mass of young talent assembled, potentially making this team a postseason contender for years to come, and Machado or Harper becoming the face of the franchise. Chicago is not a bad city to have in the background as well.

Video: Merkin on White Sox interest in Harper, Machado

Any updates on Dane Dunning's rehab?
-- Dennis, Dallas, @Decker98

Submit an Inbox question

Dunning finished well in instructional league, per White Sox director of player development Chris Getz. The fall work was a good test for his right elbow, and Getz added that Dunning passed with high marks. The White Sox expect a healthy and competitive Dunning, who ranks sixth among White Sox prospects, come Spring Training.

Do you think the Sox will spend big money in free agency this offseason?
-- Kevin, Westmont, Ill., @BarnacleKevin

The White Sox will spend this offseason, with the same meticulous and directed approach they've employed throughout the entire rebuild. The plan appears to be there to make a significant step forward if all stars align.

Video: Rosenthal discusses White Sox, Reds' free agent plans

Rick Renteria made a point of removing and disciplining players for not putting in effort or not running out ground/fly balls. Where do you think the breaking point is as we get better? Will he still remove better players as the team needs the wins more?
-- Daniel, Chicago, @DanielL59980553

Those Renteria rules apply to all players and will apply for years moving forward based on his extension news. As Renteria pointed out in-season, there's some interpretation to be made. But this is the culture he has established along with his coaching staff within the entire organization.

I keep hearing the White Sox will make a run in 2020. Why can't they make a run in '19? What is going to happen in '20 vs. next year?
-- Rod, Lockport, Ill. @hotrodexpress

Rebuilding is an extended process, and while the White Sox never have set a year for planned contention, it's commonly thought to be starting in the 2020-21 window. With the American League Central standing as probably the weakest division in the Majors, a few key moves and continued development from the young players could quickly put the White Sox on the fringe of the mix in '19. Yes, it would be a long, long way to travel from 100 losses, but stranger things have happened.

Do we re-sign James Shields on the cheap?
-- Joe, Milwaukee, @jnez50

I always thought Shields was a possibility to return, and Hahn made comments to reporters recently indicating the right-hander remains in the picture. Shields wants to keep pitching and was probably the most reliable starter on the White Sox staff across the board. People might downplay the mentor factor in the short term, but he has had a positive influence on several younger players.

What was the theme to your Bar Mitzvah?
-- Jon, Deerfield, Ill. @jon_greenberg

I don't remember the theme, but I do remember DePaul beat UCLA to reach its only Final Four on the afternoon of my Bar Mitzvah. We watched the last few minutes at the lounge in the Harvey Holiday Inn. I miss the days when DePaul basketball was a national power.

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