The Rebuild Has (Finally) Begun

Chris SaleThis has been a long time coming, and I’ve been wanting to say it for a while, but have been unable due to general manager Rick Hahn’s insistence that past deals and trades during his tenure have been nothing but a “reshaping” or retooling”. So here we go: the Chicago White Sox have definitively entered a rebuilding phase. Chris Sale will change his Sox and will be heading to Boston. Even though Hahn still balked at using that word, “rebuilding”, in today’s press conference, it’s obvious that this trade clearly signals such a direction for the team, as Hahn went on to say that the floodgates have been opened, and no one is an untouchable list anymore. That goes for Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana too.

So just who did the White Sox acquire? Oh, nobody; just four prospects… including the number one prospect in all of baseball. Let that sink for a moment. The Sox traded one of the best pitchers in not just the American League, but all of baseball, and received four players in return. Two of those players are ranked in the top 100 of all MLB prospects, and all four of them are now ranked in the top thirty of the White Sox’s entire organization. And that coveted top prospect, who expects to make an impact this season, is none other than 21 year old, Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada. A second baseman by trade, when he made his major league debut for the Red Sox this past season, he was moved to third base to accommodate Dustin Pedroia. It would appear now that the Sox will most likely move Moncada back to his proper position as Todd Frazier seems to be the man at third base… for now. But the potential for Moncada is almost immeasurable. The Sox may have their first quality second baseman on their hands since Tadahito Iguchi, or if we’re looking long term, since Ray Durham. There’s no reason Moncada shouldn’t be a big part of the White Sox for years to come.

That takes us next to the White Sox’s new #2 prospect, Michael Kopech. He ran into some trouble in 2015 when he was found to have used a banned substance and received a suspension, and also injured his hand when he got into a fight with a teammate, but he seems to be rebounding from all this. His performance in the Arizona Fall League this year was stellar, as he struck out 26 batters in 22 1/3 innings, and he’s also been known to break triple digits with his fastball, supposedly reaching 105 MPH on occasion. While he won’t contribute as soon as Moncada will, I don’t see why Kopech shouldn’t be able to be a front of the rotation starter by some time in 2018. The other two minor leaguers the Pale Hose received include speedy outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, who could possibly be the heir apparent to Eaton if he is dealt, as well as 22 year old right-handed pitcher Victor Diaz, who expects to eventually figure into a bullpen which sorely needs some strong arms after last season’s revolving door of mediocrity.
So how should a White Sox fan feel about all this? Well for one, it shows that Hahn isn’t going to lay down and let the Chicago Cubs monopolize the Windy City. If Hahn had decided to stand pat this offseason, he would’ve and should’ve been rightly vilified. The Cubs’ World Series victory pushes the Sox into an ever increasing obscurity, and unless the Sox make some major overhauls (such as this Sale trade), the Sox will barely be a blip on the radar of anyone in Chicago, let alone the rest of the baseball world. That’s why it’s great that Hahn and Kenny Williams are off to a great start in acquiring some young talent that can push the team into a new direction. If Hahn stays true to his words of this trade being only the beginning, the Sox may finally come out of the stagnation that has led to them becoming one of the most irrelevant teams in Major League Baseball.

But then that leads to the question; should we as fans be happy that the Sox just got rid of one of the best pitchers in the game? Is it worth it to have traded such a star for four largely unproven prospects? I’m going to have to answer in the affirmative. I admit, I would’ve rather seen the White Sox acquire some different prospects on the back end instead of Basabe and Diaz. When the news first broke, and only Moncada and Kopech were mentioned, I was hoping for another outfielder in third baseman Rafael Deves, and perhaps a lefty pitcher such as Trey Ball. But it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve been saying for almost a year now that if the White Sox were to trade Sale, they would literally need a king’s ransom, and I think the Sox would’ve been justified in insisting on a quality third baseman in Devers in addition to Moncada and Kopech. But after stepping back and seeing what the White Sox actually ended up with, I sincerely think we got as a good a deal as we possibly could’ve gotten. Any deal with the Washington Nationals, for instance, wouldn’t have included baseball’s top prospect. And if they had traded away their two top prospects, the Sox may not have gotten much else. At least in this deal with the Red Sox, the Pale Hose have at least three quality players that now sit in their own organization’s top 10, and a fourth who may or may not become a force in the bullpen in a couple seasons.

The White Sox did well here, and if anyone is complaining that Hahn was wrong in moving Sale, and that now fans have to sit through a rebuild, they have no ground to stand on. What has the last 11 years of standing pat and trying to “reshape” without blowing it all up got us? Nowhere. Just one playoff appearance in all that time, and it was a quick, one-round exit. Like the Bulls realized this past offseason with their trade of Derrick Rose, the White Sox realized that something had to change, and there’s no way to make everyone wake up then by trading your best player for a bevy of damn good prospects. Any allusions to the White Flag Trade of 1997 should be dismissed out of hand. That team had a shot to win; the roster as was currently assembled, did not. In fact, it still doesn’t as is currently assembled, but this trade to acquire Moncada and company is hopefully the beginning of something fresh. Once more trades happen, we’ll see that the team will be poised to do something grand in a couple seasons… and that should be OK with everyone. I’d rather have hope for the future and watch a couple years of rebuilding baseball than watch a couple seasons with the exact same results happening with the same old guys (maybe a third or fourth place finish), while having next to no hope for the future of the organization. Moncada, Kopech and Basabe give fans just that: hope.

It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the Hot Stove talks shape up. With Sale moved, anything is possible at this point. No one is untouchable. And while that might make us feel a bit sentimental at losing players such as Abreu or Eaton, the change should be welcomed. If the team acquires the right young players, we’ll be watching good baseball for years to come with the same core of players. But again, this is just a start. Now the follow through needs to happen. The ball is firmly in Hahn’s court. He’s got my OK to make as many deals as possible and turn to turn this whole thing into a real fire sale. Let’s not fear the rebuild; it’s finally time to embrace it.