Chicago White Sox
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CHICAGO The Chicago White Sox watched last fall as the crosstown rival Cubs snapped a 108-year championship drought.
Now, the White Sox will try to follow the same blueprint as their neighbors to the North. General manager Rick Hahn made no secret that a rebuilding project was underway this offseason when he shipped ace left-hander Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox and speedy outfielder Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals in exchange for a handful of talented prospects.
More deals could be in store before the trade deadline for the White Sox, who are focused on long-term success much more than their win-loss total in 2017. Left-hander Jose Quintana, closer David Robertson and third baseman Todd Frazier are among the veterans who could be shipped to contending teams in the coming months as Chicago continues its youth movement.
To lead the effort, the White Sox hired Rick Renteria to replace Robin Ventura as manager. The 55-year-old posted a 73-89 record as Cubs skipper in 2014 but was fired after Joe Maddon became available the following winter.
Hahn praised Renteria's ability to connect with younger players and teach proper fundamentals.
"We're going to have a team where your identified priorities are teaching, holding guys accountable and building something for the future," Hahn told the Chicago Tribune. "Ricky and his staff, in my opinion, can very much handle a team that's ready to win, and I fully expect them to be in place when this team is ready to win. But in a lot of ways those were the first moves publicly saying this is what we're doing."
Most of the team's top prospects will open the season in the minor leagues. As the year progresses, fans might expect to glimpse the franchise's future with the arrivals of second baseman Yoan Moncada, left-hander Reynaldo Lopez, and right-handers Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech. Homegrown catching prospect Zack Collins and right-hander Zack Burdi could reach the majors sooner than later, and right-hander Carson Fulmer should be back soon after a brief big-league stint in 2016.
As the White Sox await an influx of young talent, the major league roster features a couple of young building blocks including shortstop Tim Anderson. As a rookie in 2016, Anderson hit .283 with nine home runs, 30 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 99 games.
Renteria will look for leadership in a group of veterans that includes Jose Abreu and Frazier at the corners of the infield. Quintana is the quiet leader of a starting rotation that also includes young left-hander Carlos Rodon, up-and-down right-hander James Shields and journeyman right-hander Miguel Gonzalez.
In all likelihood, Chicago will miss the playoffs for the ninth season in a row. But thanks to Hahn's trades and Renteria's arrival, the franchise is hopeful that its rebuilding project will lead to brighter days on the South Side.
"I'm really happy to be here," Renteria told CSN Chicago. "I'm happy to be in the situation we're in. The organization is taking the step that is hopefully leading us as many organizations have done over the last six or seven years, trying to create something more sustainable over time. The foundation is being laid both with the players and the way they're going about doing everything. So hopefully it will be something good for us."