GLENDALE, Ariz. – Here’s something that you’ve heard a lot already and probably will again a few times over the next two months: There’s a different vibe around the White Sox in 2020.
People said it after a strong offseason push in December, then at the team’s annual fan convention in late January. Big acquisitions in free agency along with the continued development of a young core have brought some much-needed optimism to the franchise after years of being “mired in mediocrity” as general manager Rick Hahn described in 2016, then underwent three seasons of rebuilding.
The time to compete is now for the White Sox, and it makes for a completely different vibe for the team’s spring training in Glendale this spring.
Beginning with the reporting of pitchers and catchers on Wednesday, Rick Renteria arrives with his first real expectations for success since taking over as the manager of the club in 2017. He wasn’t afraid to shy away from those back in January, when he said it would be a disappointment if the team failed to make the playoff in 2020.
It’s a fair hope for the group, considering the patience they’ve asked from the fan base as they’ve struggled through the last three seasons where wins at the major league level haven’t been the priority. Progress showed by some of the core players with the White Sox in 2019, especially Eloy Jimenez, the strong minor league play of others (Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal), the return of a few injured players (Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodon around midseason), and the free agent additions figure to bolster the team’s chances for victory.
Those signings by Hahn, including Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion, and Dallas Keuchel, stirred up their fan base while setting the team on the path to earning their first playoff berth since 2008.
Renteria will have a few things to decide during spring training before the team opens the season against the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field on March 26th. His rotation will need to be set in stone, but figure Lucas Giolito and Keuchel to be near the top along as Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo Lopez, and veteran Gio Gonzalez work their way into the other spots.
With Yolmer Sanchez gone, the White Sox will have to decide who steps into the second base spot to start the year, and whether that man will be Nick Madrigal, who had a strong season in the minors last year. Whether he starts the year in Chicago or Charlotte will be a question that lasts for most of spring training.
The catching rotation will also be something that has to be set as Yasmani Grandal joins 2019 All-Star James McCann behind the plate for the 2020 campaign.
But for the most part, those are good problems to have. Bad ones have been the norm for the White Sox for the majority of the last decade, and now comes the time for the team to deliver on their rebuilding goals. So expect things to continue to feel a little differently, for the better, for the White Sox as the 2020 season gets underway in Glendale this week.