Fortified White Sox say they’re ready to contend again
CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago White Sox and their long-frustrated fans say they’re primed and pumped for the team to contend in 2020.
The White Sox haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 and have endured seven straight losing seasons, but there was an optimistic buzz at the team’s sold-out fan convention Saturday after a splashy offseason.
“It hard not to be excited and feel that energy they’re giving us,” fourth-year manager Rick Renteria told the crowd. “Obviously, it’s our job to put it from paper to the field and accomplish those things you want us to accomplish.”
The AL Central title — and more — may be within reach as the White Sox emerge from a rebuild and an offseason filled with free agent signings.
“Our guys are telling our young players, ‘Hey it’s time to go,’” Renteria said. “We don’t have time to mess around. We have a window of opportunity. Let’s take it. That’s where we’re at.”
Renteria has been cautious with his words and patient with young players the past three seasons. Chicago heads into 2020 with a lineup full of talented youngsters, including AL batting champion Tim Anderson and sluggers Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jiménez. At least two other top prospects — center fielder Luis Robert and second baseman Nick Madrigal — are expected to join the lineup this year.
General manager Rick Hahn aggressively pursued a mix of big-name and second-tier free agents to fill holes he identified last September as the White Sox finished with just 72 wins.
Chicago’s rotation looks solid with the addition of 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel and veteran left-hander Gio González. Catcher Yasmani Grandal signed a $73 million, four-year deal, and slugger Edwin Encarnación agreed to a $12 million, one-year contract.
Veteran reliever Steve Cishek joined from the crosstown Cubs to add depth, and the White Sox also brought back slugger José Abreu on a $50 million, three-year deal and acquired outfielder Nomar Mazara from the Texas.
“To see the signings come through, I’ve been waiting on that,” said the 26-year-old Anderson, who led the majors with .335 average last season. “It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be fun.”
Hahn, who has a law degree from Harvard, is more cautious despite his busy winter.
“Winning the offseason so to speak or winning the winter or whatever you want to call it, is well and good, but until it translates into wins on the field, it’s pretty meaningless,” Hahn said. “We’re going to know a lot more in a year about how this young core is coming together.”
Renteria is ready to embrace the expectations that come with a club pushing to compete. His job now? “I’ve gotta stay out of their way.”
“We’ve really got a robust lineup, a much better lineup,” Renteria said. “We’re in a good place.”
NOTES: Anderson made an MLB-leading 26 errors at shortstop last season but also turned in sensational plays. Renteria bristled when a fan asked if he’d consider moving the athletic infielder to right field. “I think Tim Anderson will become an elite shortstop in the big leagues,” Renteria said. “He’s ready to make the next step.” In a later session, Anderson acknowledged his inconsistency. “I’ve made a lot of errors, but I’m cleaning up,” he said.