As the sun rises over the Arizona desert, a new era dawns on the Chicago White Sox.
After a tumultuous 2016 season, Rick Hahn and company have plotted a new course for the South Siders. Here is a retrospective on the offseason that lit the Hot Stove on fire in Chicago.
The Chicago Cubs were the toast of the town after they reeled in their first World Series championship in 108 years, but the White Sox stole some thunder at the Winter Meetings. Calls to tear down the White Sox current roster in favor of younger, sleeker talent were deafening by the end of the season and Hahn followed through at the Winter Meetings in December.
But before any players were trotted out in trade discussions, a new leader was crowned to lead the South Siders into battle in 2017. Robin Ventura stepped down shortly after the end of the season and Rick Renteria was quickly inserted as the new White Sox manager.
Renteria isn’t new to the White Sox dugout after spending 2016 as the bench coach and brings an altogether fresh outlook to a young squad. At SoxFest in January, Renteria was candid about how he intends to handle the 2017 squad, stating he is open to player feedback, but that players better be ready to take what they dish out because Ricky is a big boy.
We’ll see how this fiery attitude plays out this season, but Renteria provides a welcomed sense of cultural sensitivity for Latin players. Not to suggest the opposite, but Renteria is bilingual, eliminating communication errors as an excuse for failure.
Next, the beloved South Side gem Chris Sale was sent to the Boston Red Sox for a host of heralded talent. Trading Sale away was the opening salvo in a torrent of attempted moves. The shock of such a trade was brief as optimism flooded in with the White Sox adding Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Victor Diaz and Luis Alexander Basabe into the fold.
Despite the appearance of tipping the scales in the White Sox favor, sending Sale to the Red Sox put together a staff with two Cy Young award winners that will play second fiddle to Sale. Both sides clearly benefited.
The more puzzling deal was sending Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals for a second prospect haul including Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning. All three pitchers are exceptional talents and Dunning is poised to step out of the shadows and turn heads.
Eaton was revered in Chicago and while he was a very good right fielder, the level of prospects the Nationals gave up to land Eaton is surprising. Although Eaton allows stud infielder Trea Turner to move to shortstop permanently, the price tag was shocking to almost everyone in baseball. Now, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is desperate for a closer and still at the negotiating table with Hahn over David Robertson.
As negotiations leak into Spring Training and, inevitably, into the season, veteran players must endure the uncertainty of a season lost in rebuilding. Todd Frazier will certainly grab some attention from other clubs while Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera and Jose Quintana are hot commodities as well.
Rebuilding is anathema to the patchwork, retooling philosophy of years past, and players must withstand the hiccups of a tempestuous season.
Eight years of postseason droughts are a faded memory as the glow of optimism grips the revitalized White Sox in 2017. This may be a trying season for the South Siders, one that is easily overlooked as the future dawns on the South Side of Chicago.