What’s Next for the White Sox?

20140124_mm_soxfest0243Heading into the off-season, many wondered which direction the White Sox would take into the near future.

After a very disappointing 2015 campaign that saw many players underachieve, would the Sox blow everything up and engage in an organizational rebuild, or would they try and continue to build around the star power that they have in Chris Sale and Jose Abreu?

Well, when they traded away promising young outfielder Trayce Thompson to the Reds this week for Todd Frazier, those questions were answered.

The White Sox are trying to win right now.

Although the Major League Baseball off-season is still fairly young, the Sox have reshaped their roster on numerous fronts.

Frazier, one of the game’s premier third basemen, will undoubtedly be an upgrade at his position over anyone and everyone the Sox could have returned from last year. The same can be said for second baseman Brett Lawrie, who will be a sight for sore eyes after seeing Carlos Sanchez step into the batters box 420 times last season.

The catcher position is completely overhauled, as the Sox decided to sign veterans Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro after letting Tyler Flowers and Geovanny Soto walk.

So with the Sox shaping their roster to win in 2016 and perhaps 2017 as well considering all of their big name players will also be under contract next season, what should be their next step in improving their chances at their first playoff appearance since 2008?

The two positions that currently stand out the most are right field and shortstop.

At the shortstop position, Tyler Saladino is probably already penciled in as the Opening Day starter. But Tim Anderson, the organization’s #1 prospect, is also not far away from his big league promotion. The Sox are hoping that Saladino can provide solid defense and be a stop-gap until Anderson is ready, which may be as soon as the All Star break this year.

Right field is much more of a challenge moving forward. In the wake of drastically improving the third base position, the outfield took a hit by losing Trayce Thompson. The 24-year-old Thompson was the best defensive outfielder the Sox had in the entire organization, and he figured to be a fixture in outfield for years to come. Avisail Garcia is currently the team’s best option in right field, and that is ma problem.

There are three very talented options still available via free agency in Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, and Alex Gordon. If the Sox decide to go all-in with their “win now” approach, it would be wise to invest in one of them. Obviously, given the track record of all three of them, they will not come cheap; and the Sox don’t have much financial wiggle room to work with.

But the bottom line is that they need to find a way to sign one of them.

They have Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Jose Quintana, and Adam Eaton all in the primes of their careers. They have a budding star in Carlos Rodon. They have one of the game’s better closers in David Robertson. If they want to win now, they need to do it the right way and minimize the liabilities on their Opening Day roster.

Garcia, despite the thoughts that he can one day bloom into an All-Star level player, is currently a liability. Upton/Cespedes/Gordon would not only improve the state of right field in all facets on the south side, but adding one of their bats to the lineup would certainly make the White Sox into a true contender.

The challenge that the Sox are facing with the possibility of signing one of the aforementioned outfielders is the fact that they probably will not be able to offer a $100 million contract without cutting a decent chunk of the 2016 payroll that they already have. The presence of John Danks (owed $15.75 million in 2016) and Adam LaRoche (owed $13 million in 2016) are crippling the Sox chances of signing any noteworthy free agents. Combine Danks’ and LaRoche’s salary with the fact that they are both coming off horrific seasons, and you have a true thorn in the side of the franchise.

Both Danks and LaRoche will be off the books a year from now, but with the team gearing up to win as early as next year, they will probably need to find a way to move one of them to make the Todd Frazier trade worth while. General manager Rick Hahn is faced with a challenge. He already made his commitment to 2016 and 2017 by trading for Frazier. It’s now up to put out all of the stops, put all his chips on the next two seasons, and find a better option than Avisail Garcia to play right field every day.