Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Extra Innings: The anatomy of a failed rebuild

The dynasty that could’ve been.

extra innings-henry blickenstaff

In 2021, the Chicago White Sox were one of the best teams in baseball, cruising to an American League Central title with a record of 9369. Tim Anderson’s epic walk-off home run against the Yankees in the Field of Dreams game was perhaps the best moment of the entire baseball season (look it up, it’ll give you chills). Years of rebuilding the farm system were paying off. Despite a disappointing exit in the division series, the future seemed bright. Heading into 2022, the White Sox were ranked No. 4 in ESPN’s preseason power rankings.

Unfortunately, the last two seasons have been an unmitigated disaster for the White Sox. They spent the entire 2022 season within five games of .500, fittingly finishing at 8181. Injuries plagued their lineup, while their pitching staff, which had been a huge strength the year prior, was bottom-five in the AL in runs per game.

Things went from bad to worse in 2023, as the White Sox posted an abysmal 61101 record. Reflective of the season was the fact that Anderson, once one of the most electric players in baseball, was perhaps the worst full-time player in MLB, with -2.0 WAR, a .582 OPS and just one home run in 524 plate appearances. Vice president Ken Williams and general manager Rick Hahn were both fired on Aug. 22.

What makes the failure of this rebuild so shocking is the fact that they made a lot of ostensibly good trades to acquire prospects. After the 2016 season, they traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for a haul of prospects headlined by Yoán Moncada and Michael Kopech and gave up Adam Eaton to the Nationals for pitching prospect Lucas Giolito. At the trade deadline in 2017, they picked up Eloy Jiménez and Dylan Cease from the Chicago Cubs for José Quintana. All of those players except Cease were top 20-ranked prospects in 2017.

The trouble is that while all of those players have shown promise in the big leagues at one point or another, none have become the stars they were supposed to. Some is in part due to injuries, especially in Jiménez’s case, but seeing as none of them have been consistently good even when healthy, there’s clearly a player development problem.

The other nail in the White Sox’s coffin was offseason inactivity. After a great 2021 season, you’d think the front office would be eager to add and make a World Series push for 2022. But instead, their main achievement was letting ace Carlos Rodón walk in free agency.

While I’m a believer in building teams from the ground up, free agents aren’t useless. Most championship teams have a core comprised mainly of homegrown guys though also have key contributors acquired through free agency or trades. And the fact that the White Sox are one of only three MLB franchises to have never handed out a nine-figure contract is absolutely a factor in the failure of this rebuild.

The White Sox had every ingredient in the recipe for a collapse. Poor player development, consistent injuries and front office negligence all contributed to a major letdown. It’s time for this team to clean house, and that goes for executives, coaches, players and even owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who should sell this team for the sake of the fans.