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The rebuild is over. But that doesn't mean World Series contention has begun.
The White Sox have enough prospects, period. Therefore they almost certainly won't have to go through the soul-sapping (and prospect-damaging) exercise of losing on purpose in the next year or two (one of the keys to the successful Cubs rebuild is that so many of their key players didn't play for the major league club until 2015 - the first year they were trying again after the long tank winter).
Let me quickly be clear, however, that I am not advocating that the South Siders go on a free-agent spending spree just yet. And they shouldn't rush any prospects (which no team should ever do). Tank lovers always warn that if teams try too soon, they'll mess up their prospects. How stupid is that? Prospects come up when prospects are ready - their play dictates it. And the pathetic tankers run the risk of leaving them down too long.
I can just hear it now by the way . . . "Wait, you're writing about the White Sox? Surely they are the fifth- or maybe even the sixth-most compelling Chicago team." And all I can say in response is, it's my column and I will write it the way I want . . . and the Bears are on a bye. And the Bulls stink, the Hawks aren't very good, I don't want to write about the Fire and surely enough has been written about the Cubs to last us awhile.
The task for the White Sox actually isn't difficult. Just proceed from here trying to play the best major league baseball possible. And spare the fans the ridiculous artificial timelines. Just because the Cubs tanked three seasons and the Astros really tanked three seasons doesn't mean the White Sox should.
The main thing those timelines do by the way is extend guaranteed employment for management. Why should Rick Hahn be on a hot seat if no one expects decent baseball on the South Side for a couple more years? Well, forget that. As of now, Hahn is judged the same way competitive GMs are judged. And I guarantee you he wouldn't have it any other way.
Anybody else have any other reasons why one tanked season wasn't enough in this instance? Now if they get to the All-Star break this coming year well out of contention, a trade of a veteran or two will make sense. But they surely won't need to trash the place.
If they have a chance to contend for a playoff spot, it is clear they should go for it. Not "trading for Justin Verlander at the deadline" go for it but adding a helpful short-term piece or two. The value of playoff experience for young players far outweighs the value of drafting even 10 spots higher in a given draft.
In fact, when you think about it, tanking really only benefits a team in the first round. Look at the Cubs - Theo and Jed got the job done in the first rounds following the initial terrible season (2011) and the tanked campaigns of '12, '13 and '14. They drafted Albert Almora in '12, Kris Bryant in '13, Kyle Schwarber in '14 and Ian Happ in '15. Then those guys' development worked out for them to start contributing at the major league level in '15 and beyond.
But when you look at the Theo-Jed draft record in rounds two through whatever in their now sixth season at the helm for the Cubs, it is not pretty. The bottom line is, the Cubs are still getting their asses kicked by the Cardinals in terms of developing major leaguers drafted after the first round, just like the Cardinals have been kicking the Cubs' ass in that way for what, about a century?
I was happy the Astros won the Series for Houston but I must admit I was rooting for the Dodgers if for no other reason than to change the national conversation about how to win at baseball.
I still believe winners can be built in different ways but there is no denying the last two champs did it by engaging in years of tanking despite the fact that they were big market/revenue ballclubs. Still, some problems loom for the "you must tank for a long time" crowd.
It appears the Yankees have made the transition from old to young while staying in contention the whole way. I think Joe Girardi was a big part of that and therefore am puzzled by his firing and even more puzzled by the Nats not hiring him (check that - the Nats didn't hire him because he would have been too expensive plain and simple - does anyone really believe that Dave Martinez gives them a better chance of winning next year than Girardi would have? Please).
The Red Sox have had some bad years in the last half dozen but they weren't on purpose. And they now appear to have the sort of young talent depth to contend for an extended stretch. No-tankers such as the Dodgers, Nationals and, yup, the Cardinals are also in the hunt.
So get to work on winning, White Sox. Carlos Rodon is a huge question mark but they obviously have the beginnings of a young, talented starting pitching staff with Lucas Giolito, Rey Lopez and others. Go get an experienced bullpen arm or two and welcome back potentially competent relievers who missed the end of last season with injuries. See if you can sign Jose Abreu or Avisail Garcia to Jerry Reinsdorf special bargain contracts or allow them to be trade bait if the team falters in the first half of next year.
Tanking in any way, shape or form is no longer required.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.
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