Simulated SoxFest: What's up with the roster, La Russa, farm system?
SoxFest has always been a popular event, for several reasons.
Whether it was held at the Palmer House, Hilton Chicago or the latest venue -- McCormick Place -- the annual winter gathering gave White Sox fans a chance to thaw out and look forward to the warmer days ahead.
SoxFest also gave fans a chance to get autographs from favored players present and past, to load up on merchandise and to attend a wide array of seminars.
The Q&A's with GM Rick Hahn and the manager of the moment were always the most popular sessions, but this is the second straight year SoxFest was postponed.
The pandemic is directly responsible for shutting down SoxFest, but the event would have been bagged this year due to the lockout MLB owners imposed on the players when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expired in early December.
Had Hahn and manager Tony La Russa been present for a question and answer gathering with White Sox fans, here are a few questions that likely would have been posed:
What are the biggest holes on the roster?
It's still right field and second base.
Hahn did beef up the bullpen before the lockout, signing right-hander Kendall Graveman to a three-year, $24 million contract in late November.
He also retained versatile veteran Leury Garcia on a three-year, $16.5 million deal.
The Sox might fill their hole in right field with Gavin Sheets and Garcia, Romy Gonzalez and Danny Mendick are in-house candidates to play second base.
Before MLB shut down, Hahn indicated the White Sox have the money to add a premier free agent like outfielder Nick Castellanos or infielder Trevor Story. If the work stoppage drags on, that might change.
How long is La Russa going to manage?
The Hall of Famer is definitely coming back for another season after emerging from retirement last year and guiding the Sox to a first-place finish in the AL Central and a second straight trip to the playoffs.
The 77-year-old La Russa had some rough moments early last season, but he got himself settled in and did a solid job.
More important, White Sox players enjoyed having La Russa in the dugout. If that continues, don't be surprised if La Russa sticks around for several more years.
Is Craig Kimbrel staying put?
Acquired from the Cubs last July in what will be remembered as one of the worst trades in franchise history, Kimbrel was a bust after moving from the closer's role on the North Side to Liam Hendriks' primary setup man on the South Side.
Teams like the Dodgers and Phillies are likely to be interested in Kimbrel, who has a $16 million salary this season.
What's the farm system look like?
Not much to see here.
Most of the Sox's best minor-league players have either been promoted to the major-league roster or traded.
Colson Montgomery, a 19-year-old shortstop drafted on the first round last year, is worth keeping an eye on but the White Sox are the only team in baseball that doesn't have a player on Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list.
What's up with Carlos Rodon?
He's still a free agent, but the odds of the left-handed starter coming back to the Sox are long.
Rodon was non-tendered after the 2020 season and he wound up rejoining the White Sox on a one-year, $3 million contract. Proving to be quite a bargain while going 13-5 with a 2.37 ERA, Rodon also had more health issues.
With Michael Kopech waiting in the wings, the Sox are OK with Rodon signing with another team.