Rozner: After fine offseason, White Sox optimism off the charts

  • White Sox general manager Rick Hahn walks the black carpet at Friday's opening of SoxFest at McCormick Place. "We think very bright days are ahead of us," he said.

      White Sox general manager Rick Hahn walks the black carpet at Friday's opening of SoxFest at McCormick Place. "We think very bright days are ahead of us," he said. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/24/2020 4:59 PM

The excitement surrounding the 2020 White Sox is understandable.

More than that, it was palpable Friday afternoon as SoxFest kicked off with huge crowds at McCormick Place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The rebuild has gone well, actually about as well as one could possibly expect, aside from the inability to lure major free agents a year ago.

Now into Year 4, this is about the time the Sox ought to be competing for a playoff spot, if not reaching the postseason.

And that's probably something to keep in mind. This team hasn't competed for anything yet.

There will always be comparisons to the Cubs, who reached the NLCS in their fourth year, something not even the Cubs expected. But it did set them up perfectly to win it all in Year 5.

Are the Sox that far along?

Again, the Cubs were a year early, but their young players arrived and performed so well as a group that by August of the fourth year the plan had gained speed and momentum that could not be stopped.

Keep in mind as well that the Sox have "won the winter" in the past and it worked so poorly that it's not a phrase that's very popular on the South Side.

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So what's crucial here is not as much 2020 as it is setting this up to work for an extended period.

And this is point GM Rick Hahn tried to make clear -- again -- as he tossed out the first pitch of the 2020 festival.

"The entire purpose of this rebuild was to put ourselves in a multiyear position to win multiple championships," Hahn said. "So the progress that we make in any given offseason has to be viewed, not just with what's going to happen in that upcoming season, but what position that puts us in toward accomplishing that long-term goal."

That's when Hahn said perhaps the most important thing he will say until it's time to make another crucial deal.

"We want to make sure we are well-positioned once that window opens to win as many championships as possible," Hahn said. "When that window opens? We're going to find out together."

Right, because predicting when young players are going to figure it out, or make adjustments and hit their stride is pretty much impossible, especially since they generally find it at different times.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It's rare that they all arrive at the same moment, though it has happened for teams like the Cubs and the Astros. Well, the Astros had some extra help. The Royals are a better example of how long it can take.

"The players think it's going to happen come Opening Day of this year," Hahn said. "Whether we're blessed with good health and continued progress from our young players, we'll find out.

"But we look at in the front office from a multiyear perspective. The guys in uniform are going to do everything in their power to make it about now, which you have to appreciate."

There is no doubting the Sox are better than a year ago.

Yasmani Grandal is an upgrade at catcher. Edwin Encarnacion is an upgrade at DH. Nomar Mazara is an upgrade in right field. Luis Robert is an upgrade in center field. Nick Madrigal will be an upgrade at second base when he arrives.

Dallas Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez and Steve Cishek are upgrades to the pitching staff, even if they aren't the names you hoped for in free agency.

Imagine the rotation if Michael Kopech can return in a few months to join Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease and Keuchel.

Yoan Moncada took a huge step forward at third base in 2019, as did Tim Anderson at short. Jose Abreu returned on a very reasonable three-year deal. Eloy Jimenez hasn't even scratched the surface of his talent yet.

Yes, there is great reason to be excited, but a fair amount of patience and reasonable expectation ought to be mixed in somewhere.

"We've had a nice winter. We've had, in our opinion, a real nice three years since we started with the Chris Sale trade," Hahn said. "We think very bright days are ahead of us and we look forward to enjoying them.

"But we haven't accomplished anything yet. This whole process is about winning championships, about finishing with a parade at the end of October.

"Until that happens, I don't think any of us are really in a position to feel satisfied or feel like we've accomplished anything."

The Vegas wins totals have Minnesota at 92½, Cleveland at an overly optimistic 87½ and the Sox at 84½, which seems like a fair number for a team coming off a 72-win season, despite all the upgrades.

Making the playoffs this season is not as important for the Sox as seeing growth in the players, and in a perfect world they would at least play in meaningful games in September if they don't reach the postseason.

While not wanting to snow on the fans' cavalcade, Hahn offered Thursday the quote that will be remembered until there's White Sox confetti on Michigan Avenue.

Said Hahn, "In terms of feeling like we've accomplished something or feeling satisfied, ask me after the parade."

That is precisely the right approach.

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