After losing 99 games in 2013, it wasn’t a surprise when the Chicago White Sox began to retool in the offseason, starting with signing Cuban import 1B Jose Abreu to a six-year deal before the calendar had even flipped to November, and then dealing RHP Addison Reed and LHP Hector Santiago in separate deals, allowing RHP Gavin Floyd to walk in free agency, but added intriguing pieces in 3B Matt Davidson (acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Reed), CF Adam Eaton (acquired for Santiago in a three-way trade with Arizona and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), which the team hoped to pair with 2013-trade-deadline acquisition OF Avisail Garcia and holdovers such as DH Adam Dunn and 1B/DH Paul Konerko, who signed a one-year deal to return to the South Side, along with Ace LHP Chris Sale.
Where Do The White Sox Stand? Well, the team is pretty much were it was last season, in last place. Enterting games on June 24, the White Sox record isn’t a disaster, at 35-42, and the team stands just 7.5 games behind division-leading Detroit in the standings.
Manager: Robin Ventura, 3rd season with Chicago, third season as manager. 7-15 in replay challenges
Rotation: Sale missed a couple of weeks near the end of April due to a flexor muscle strain, but in 11 starts, the lefty is living up to his ace lable, posting a 2.27 ERA in 71.1 IP, is posting by far the highest BB/K ratio of his young professional career (7.09), and has been worth 2.3 fWAR in the half season. LHP Jose Quintana isn’t pitching quite as well as last season, but still has a 3.87 ERA in 90.2 IP, so it appears he can at least be a league-average starting pitcher for the White Sox. LHP John Danks is still healthy as of this writing, giving the White Sox three above-replacement-level-or-better lefties in the rotation. Rookie RHP Scott Carroll has a great last name and is looking for endrosements.
Bullpen: So, outside of the last two rotation spots, things didn’t sound too bad for Chicago, right? Well don’t look at the bullpen. Former Indians farmhand RHP Zach Putnam has been a nice find for the Sox, stranding 84.6 percent of inherited runners, and young RHPs Daniel Webb and Jake Petricka look like solid pen arms so far, but LHP Scott Downs is having a rough season (his 5.32 BB/9 rate is the highest of his career) and RHP Ronald Belisario, the team’s de facto closer (cause last-place teams rarely have much use closers), has pitched better than his ERA (5.50 ERA compared to his 3.17 Fielding Independent Pitching) but has blown four saves.
Offense: Nobody is questioning the Abreu signing, as the 27-year-old already has 22 HRs and a .322 OBP (2.3 fWAR so far). The 25-year-old Eaton has been mostly healthy, after an injury-marred 2013 ruined his chances in Arizona, and boasts a .336 OBP. Davidson is only 23 years-old and still has potential, but was sent to AAA to accomodate the surprising play of 3B Conor Gillaspie, who is posting an absurd .337/.381/.828 slashline. Dunn seems to be producing closer to what the Sox expected when he was signed, and has 12 HRs to go with a .360 OBP. Unfortunately, Garcia, the prize acquired from the Detroit Tigers by the Sox in a three-way deal which sent RHP Jake Peavy to the Boston Red Sox, is out for the season after tearing his left shoulder labrum in early April.
Defense: Chicago has been forced to play Adam Dunn in the field 19 times, which has worked out about as well as you’d expect. Regardless of if you prefer traditional defensive stats or advanced metrics, Gillaspie has been a poor defender at 3B (first in the AL at 3B with 16 errors, -8 Defensive Runs Saved), which has been the case with him his whole career. The White Sox have eight position players with negative defensive runs saved (not including the now-injured Garcia, who had -3 in fewer than 69 innings in the field). Only Eaton in CF (6 DRS) CA Tyler Flowers (2 DRS) and LF Alejandro De Aza (2 DRS) have resembled decent fielders (and De Aza has posted -2 DRS in CF and was even in RF).
On the Farm: Top prospect RHP Erik Johnson projects as a mid-rotation starter, but was a disappointment in five April starts before a demotion. The White Sox’s farm system is thin on both impact players and depth, so Chicago will need to get something out of Johnson, a former second-round pick.
Buyers or Sellers? Likely sellers.
What to Expect in the Second Half: It appears like Chicago is committed to a rebuild, and rumors are already trickling out regarding the Sox dangling players to depth-starved contenders. Dunn, Danks, Gillaspie and to a lesser-extent, Konerko could all be on the trading block in the next month or so. Davidson appears to be turning a corner at AAA (and is working with former Indians great Jim Thome at third), so a contender seems willing to bite on Gillaspie while he’s hot could force the White Sox to pull the trigger on a deal. The injury to Garcia and a weak farm system probably cuts short any hopes of getting hot in the second half and making a charge at Detroit, but credit GM Rick Hahn for seemingly kick-starting the rebuild in the offseason, as Eaton and Abreu appear to be players for the Sox to build around, though it’s unlikely Chicago can get it done in 2014.