For a part of the 2016 season, it seemed as if the White Sox were well on their way. On May 9, they had a record of 23-10 and were in first place by six games in the American League Central division. Unfortunately, the White Sox finished the season by going 19 games under .500 the rest of the way to end with a record of 78-84. This resulted in manager Robin Ventura's five year tenure with the team ending and Hahn deciding it was time to get his team younger. The White Sox hired former Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria, a man clearly deserving of another chance to manage after he was let go by the Cubs because Joe Maddon was available. It will not be easy for Renteria, who will be managing the White Sox without the best pitcher in the American League, Chris Sale, who was traded to the Boston Red Sox in a high profile deal that brought back infielder Yoan Moncada and pitcher Michael Kopech. They then netted a surprising return in a deal with the Washington Nationals for outfielder Adam Eaton. The White Sox acquired top pitching prospects Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning from the Nats in the trade, instantly giving Chicago one of the best farm systems in all of baseball.
The White Sox still have a lot of quality talent on their roster. First baseman Jose Abreu, Frazier, left handed starting pitcher Jose Quintana and closer David Robertson not only have a lot of value to other baseball teams, but they give the White Sox a fair chance to play competitive baseball while they rebuild. It is reasonable to think some or all of the preceding players could be traded by either the start of the 2017 season or the trading deadline, but there is also a chance they are not. Perhaps the high returns for Sale and Eaton could have scared away other teams who do not want to give up their own farm. And by no means are the White Sox expected to have to trade their top players just for the sake of trading them.
The first series of young players getting an opportunity for the White Sox will be shortstop Tim Anderson (.283 batting average, 9 home runs, 30 runs batted in in 99 games last season), center fielder Charles Tilson (just 2 MLB at bats in 2016) and catcher Omar Navarez (27-101 in 34 games). Anderson is 23, Tilson 24 and Navarez is 25. Having Abreu at first base and Frazier at third give the White Sox a combined 65 home runs at the corner positions and Melky Cabrera (.296, 14, 86, 42 2B, 175 hits) seems to quietly have a good season every year. Moncada could get a fair opportunity to play second base as Lawrie could be headed for a utility role. Another possibility is for Frazier to move to either designated hitter or first base, with the latter move putting Abreu in the DH role. Former first round pick Courtney Hawkins is an option to play right field, but will not until he is proven to be ready to take over for the incumbent, Avisail Garcia. If I was the White Sox, I would go with my most exciting young team, using Matt Davidson, Garcia and Tyler Saladino off the bench. Former Phillies infielder Cody Asche is in camp and could likely land a spot as a utility player. I would line the White Sox up like this Moncada 3B, Anderson SS, Abreu DH, Frazier 1B, Cabrera LF, Lawrie 2B, Navarez C, Hawkins RF, Tilson CF.
Outside of Quintana and the talented Carlos Rodon, the projected starting pitchers for the White Sox are James Shields, Miguel Gonzalez and Derek Holland. This will allow for Giolito, Lopez and Carson Fulmer to minimize their MLB innings this season and take time to fine tune their craft in Triple- A. Of course, a trade easily opens up a spot, which will likely first go to Lopez, who seems to be the most MLB ready at this point.
The White Sox have a decent to good bullpen, led by closer Robertson and set up relievers Nate Jones and Dan Jennings. Right handers Tommy Kahnle and Zach Putnam threw the ball very well last season and could take on a larger role if Robertson is traded. Kopech is their future closer and will likely take the rein some time this season.
The White Sox have a lot of veteran talent on their team. Still, they are clearly going through a transition right now. I would expect the youth movement to take center stage, especially if they are able to swing another trade before the start of the season. But let me reiterate, there is no reason for the White Sox to trade players for the sake of making a trade. They should hold Quintana until a team like the Houston Astros or New York Yankees are willing to part with the pieces required to make such a deal. If not, they should hold onto Quintana as he could provide some leadership for the young pitchers coming up within the next year or so.
I believe the White Sox will bottom out this year, in spite of the talent they currently have on their roster. Las Vegas has them reasonably at 73.5, which is assuming what you see now is what you see during the season. I think it will be less than that; I have the White Sox at 66-96, fourth place in the American League Central division.