The Chicago White Sox and the San Diego Padres mirror each other in a few ways. Both are pivoting from rebuilding to contending, both snapped decade-plus postseason droughts this summer, and both are considered to be serious contenders in 2020.
The difference between the two clubs, however, is significant. A.J. Preller and the Padres are showing the White Sox this winter what seizing the opportunity looks like.
With both clubs on parallel trajectories towards competing for a World Series Championship following the 2020 season, the Padres — not the White Sox — are seizing the opportunity in front of them.
On Sunday night the Padres struck a blockbuster trade for former Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. By Monday afternoon, the Padres were not done yet, still in “deep talks” to acquire 2020 Cy Young finalist, Yu Darvish. This after they acquired Mike Clevinger from the Indians at the previous trade deadline.
Yes, Clevinger will miss the 2021 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but they paid up for him. And yes, the White Sox did flip Dane Dunning and Avery Weems to the Texas Rangers for Lance Lynn earlier this month, but that’s a move that now feels significantly underwhelming after watching the Padres deal from depth for Snell and double-down by staying in negotiations for Darvish.
The Padres have also reportedly landed free-agent infielder Ha-Seong Kim according to MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell on Monday afternoon, and the potential deal for Darvish is also believed to include either Willson Contreras or Victor Caratini behind the dish for San Diego.
The White Sox have signed Adam Eaton to a one-year deal (with a club option for 2022) aside from landing Lance Lynn this winter.
While I still believe that the White Sox are the front-runners in the American League Central as it stands on paper today, they’re taking a different path and fighting a different battle than San Diego. The Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Baseball Team are shaving payroll and taking a step back in 2021 after the financial impacts of the fan-less 2020 campaign, making the White Sox almost a defacto favorite to take over the AL Central crown.
The Padres are wheeling and dealing in an effort to close the gap between themselves and the defending World Series Champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The White Sox still need to address their questions at the back of the rotation and bullpen, and they’re facing another season in which their designated hitter spot in the lineup will be less than ideal, to say the least. Banking on Andrew Vaughn — who hasn’t seen a competitive at-bat above Winston-Salem — is risky at best.
While the White Sox still seem to be the favorite to win the AL Central in 2021, there’s still question marks on this roster that make their immediate future unsettling. Making the playoffs is nice, but is that the goal here? Is becoming the defacto favorite on paper through your competition taking a step back the goal here?
The White Sox have money and prospect capital to spend, just like the Padres, but they’re seemingly content with adding more stop-gap solutions to their roster and kicking the can down the road. The Padres, on the other hand, are going for the kill. They’ve added Snell to a rotation that already includes Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddack, Zach Davies, and some combination of Mackenzie Gore, Joey Lucchesi, Adrian Morejón, and Ryan Weathers in 2021, and then Mike Clevinger in 2022.
If a Darvish deal comes to fruition, they’ll likely subtract from that group to make it happen, but they’ll still roll out a rotation comparable with the best in baseball in 2021.
- Blake Snell (3.24 ERA, 10.49 K/9, 2018 AL Cy Young)
- Yu Darvish (3.47 ERA, 11.12 K/9, 2020 NL Cy Young finalist)
- Dinleson Lamet (3.76 ERA, 11.83 K/9)
- Chris Paddack (3.74 ERA, 9.71 K/9)
- Some combination of Morejón, Weathers, Lucchesi, or Gore
This conversation might be an exercise in futility, comparing two teams that play in opposite leagues and have different hurdles to jump in front of them, but it reminds me of a concerning quote that surfaced in October 2019. A quote that White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf allegedly spoke to former Miami Marlins executive David Samson, which Samson shared on Dan Lebatard’s ‘Mystery Crate’ podcast.
“Finish in second place every single year because your fans will say ‘Wow, we got a shot. We’re in it!’ But there’s always the carrot left.”
This was seconded by former White Sox pitcher Jack McDowell who said in response to the Lebatard podcast that Reinsdorf said the same thing to him back in 1992, just two years before Reinsdorf played a hand in dashing a potential White Sox World Series run in favor of a work stoppage in 1994.
Samson has no reason to lie, McDowell has no reason to lie. Reinsdorf has notoriously done nothing but lie to his fan base, so it’s not hard to believe this quote came from his mouth. Especially when you consider previous half-baked attempts to sustained success, and what’s transpired (or more specifically, hasn’t transpired) here this winter amid what looks like the franchise’s best-ever opportunity at having sustained success.
Jerry Reinsdorf has proven time and time again that his bottom line is his chief concern, so why should we expect this to be any different? What should be the golden era of White Sox baseball is starting to smell a lot of the same old status quo from Jerry Reinsdorf. Second-place finishes, second-place spending, and second-place roster construction with a dash of impending labor strife looming during the contention window — welcome to the early-nineties, White Sox fans.
Photo: Jake Roth / USA Today