PORTLAND, MAINE — 06/21/16 — Yoan Moncada watches the game from the dugout Tuesday night at Hadlock Field in Portland while making his Sea Dogs debut. Troy R. Bennett | BDN
On a bleak September night at the end of the 2011 season, the Chicago White Sox walked off the field having just watched second-year reliever Chris Sale blow a save against the Toronto Blue Jays. The loss was the Sox’ 83rd and final defeat of what was a frustrating and disappointing campaign. Plagued by the constant media attention swirling around their underperforming roster and controversial manager Ozzie Guillen, the future of the franchise that had captured their first World Series Championship since 1917 just six years earlier was beginning to look bleak. It was just a day after the season ended that the White Sox front office sent their embattled manager off to the Florida Marlins in exchange for two prospects. The South Siders had entered the 2011 season with the 5th highest payroll in baseball and a team full of aging veterans, and finished it with a barren farm system and nothing to show for their efforts but uncertainty.
Things weren’t looking much better in Chicago a few months later when ESPN baseball writer Keith Law, in his annual farm system rankings, infamously said that the Sox’ system was “No. 30, and not particularly close to No. 29 either.” Through a combination of owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s notorious refusal to spend money on young talent, and a front office that had shipped off the bulk of the young talent they did have in the years prior in trades for expensive veterans like Ken Griffey Jr. and Manny Ramirez, the Sox were left with a collection of minor league talent that could be called “depressing” at best. The organization boasted pitchers Addison Reed and Simon Castro as well as outfielder Trayce Thompson as it’s top prospects at the time, and not much of note behind them.
In 2012, then White Sox GM decided that it would be a rebuilding season in Chicago, and started by dramatically cutting the team’s payroll. Veterans Mark Buerhle, Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin, and others departed and were replaced by as much young talent as possible. The group of minor leaguers brought into the organization in 2012 included future starter Jose Quintana. After a surprisingly strong start to the season, the rebuild turned back into a competing season as Williams shipped off a number of prospects to bring in pitchers Francisco Liriano and Brett Myers, as well as 3B Kevin Youkilis. Unsurprisingly, the White Sox failed to reach the playoffs again in 2012, but that season would set the tone of mediocrity for the next four years.
In 2012 on the North Side of Chicago, the Cubs, dove headfirst into a complete organizational rebuild in order to become competitive again. Meanwhile on the South Side, the White Sox continued to tread water, holding onto their increasingly expensive veterans for as long as possible while marginally improving their minor league system each year. After watching their crosstown rivals go from 100 losses to World Series Champions in the same time period though, it appears that the White Sox are finally ready to dive head first into their own rebuild and, to their credit, they couldn’t have picked a better time to do it.
In the last 48 hours, the White Sox have added Yoan Moncada (#1), Lucas Giolito (#3), Michael Kopech (#30), Reynaldo Lopez (#75), Luis Basabe, Victor Diaz, and Dane Dunning to their organization in exchange for stars Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. They join current prospects Carson Fulmer (#38) and Tim Anderson (#47) in the suddenly promising South Siders’ farm system. The Sox are still likely to move pitcher Jose Quintana as well as talented hitters Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier, and Brett Lawrie, all of whom should fetch considerable returns as well. With a dearth of free agent talent in the market this offseason, the talent on offer from Chicago is among the best available and GM Rick Hahn won’t settle for less than he feels the team deserves.
For fans of the White Sox, the next few seasons aren’t going to be pretty. This team is going to be bad, possibly historically so if Hahn does indeed trade away the rest of the valuable pieces left in the major league squad. Judging from what the Sox have received from the first two deals however, they shouldn’t be bad for very long. It was just over five years ago that Law declared the Sox’ farm as the worst in the majors. After this offseason, don’t be surprised to see a very different statement from him about it. I’ll even start it off for him: “No. 1, and not particularly close to No. 2 either.”