The 2021 White Sox figure to be in the middle of the pennant race in the American League. Building on their breakthrough 2020 season, the Sox realized that they had several areas of need. During this offseason, Rick Hahn and company set out to address what they felt were their biggest needs.
2021 White Sox: Biggest Needs
Going into the offseason, there were several obvious areas where the Sox needed to make an upgrade. Some of these were made clear during the brief playoff series they played against the A"s. Others were there during the season but may have been brushed over as the team put together a 35-25 record. Winning can only cover weaknesses for so long. So, where did the Sox need to improve?
The White Sox record in 2020 was more remarkable when one considers that they only had two reliable starters. Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez struggled in the third and fourth spots respectively, while the fifth starter"s spot was somewhat of a revolving door. The lack of depth in the rotation was highlighted by the fact that they had to use unproven Dane Dunning as a starter in a do-or-die game three. Dunning failed to get out of the first inning. So, the 2021 White Sox definitely needed to address their rotation if they were to contend over a 162 (or less) game season.
Alex Colome had a solid run as the White Sox closer over the last two years. He became a free agent after the 2020 season, and the Sox did not immediately re-sign him. Whether they were looking at somebody else or pursuing re-signing Colome, he remained unsigned. In either case, the 2021 White Sox could not expect to be serious contenders without a viable, experienced closer.
Ask any Sox fan, and they will tell you that right field has been a sore spot for a while now. That is one area where one can definitely find a consensus. Most recently, the White Sox tried Nomar Mazara in right field. They acquired him in a trade following the 2019 season, hoping to plug a gaping hole. Unfortunately, Mazara got a late start following an undisclosed illness, and never really got going. He ended up hitting a meager .228 with a poor OPS of .589. He was non-tendered by the Sox in December.
One area where the 2021 White Sox hope to get more production is the DH position. It has been a problem area for several years, which is somewhat ironic when one considers the whole concept of “designated hitter." In any event, the White Sox tried to fill the spot with veteran Edwin Encarnacion in 2020. Encarnacion hit career lows in all hitting categories, hitting .157 with an OPS of .627. To say he failed would be a slight understatement.
In 2020, the White Sox had the rare luxury of having two solid catchers. Yasmani Grandal and James McCann carried the load and were a big part of the team"s success. Predictably, though, McCann received and accepted a four-deal from the Mets to be their number one catcher. While the deal was well-earned, it has left the White Sox in a somewhat precarious position.
2021 White Sox Making Moves
With the needs listed above, there was no way GM Rick Hahn and company could stand pat this offseason. Then again, filling that many holes would be a pretty tall order for a team that is not known for being big spenders. So, the challenge Hahn faced was how to prioritize and fill the various needs. (Note: This does not address the moves off-the-field in terms of hiring a new manager and pitching coach. Those will be addressed in future articles.)
So, which of these holes would the Sox be able and willing to address? Do they go far enough in terms of making the 2021 White Sox serious contenders? Are the White Sox done making acquisitions? All of these are fair questions that require answers, as Sox fans are ready to see their team in the World Series sooner than later.
Best Move #3
This is essentially by default, as the White Sox have not addressed the DH or backup catchup positions. Number three on the list goes to the signing of Adam Eaton to play right field. Eaton, 32, signed a one-year deal in December to replace the departed Mazara. While he has had his moments, Eaton is no guarantee. It would be fair to question just how much he will contribute. Still, it will be hard to do any worse than Mazara did in 2020. As a one-year deal, this should be no worse than a break-even proposition for the White Sox.
Best Move #2
The White Sox had a tough choice to make when it came to the closer"s spot. They had to decide whether to try to persuade Colome to stay or go in a different direction. They chose the latter, and signed Liam Hendriks, voted the top reliever in the game after the 2020 season. In this case, the Sox went from a solid closer to perhaps the very best closer. Hendriks should be very effective in helping the 2021 White Sox achieve their goal of a deep playoff run.
Best Move #1
There is no doubt that the White Sox needed to do something with their starting rotation. While they do have promising young starters, the time is now for the Sox to make their move. So, Hahn went out and acquired veteran Lance Lynn from the Rangers. Lynn lead all of MLB in innings pitched over the last two seasons and will be a solid third starter, along with Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. His presence will allow the young pitchers more time to develop. This trade was a win-win for the Sox.
Sox fans will continue to dream about deals that address the DH and backup catching positions. Still, they have made progress in addressing their most pressing needs. They are better now than they were at the end of the 2020 season. Who knows, 2021 could be something special on the South Side. Stay tuned, Sox fans.
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