The White Sox see the Twins getting ready to pluck a wild-card spot from the American League playoff tree, and perhaps they wonder what might have been.
Had they kept Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and their more-than-respectable bunch of relievers and spruced up the roster with an upgrade or two, who’s to say it couldn’t have been them?
“I heard [chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] say if we had kept the club together, we might have been in the hunt,” pitching coach Don Cooper said the other day. “But it was time to break it up.”
Break it up they did, trading Sale, Quintana and many more for a bevy of prospects in moves that have the organization feeling fine about the future. First major-league glimpses at right-handers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez and second baseman Yoan Moncada, to name three, have been encouraging.
“I can’t wait to get to spring training to see all the other kids we got in these trades,” Cooper said. “And we have another draft coming up.”
Which is where the Sox’ games in this final week of the season enter in. After their 9-3 loss to the Angels on Tuesday, the Sox had the fourth-worst record in the majors (64-93), which would qualify them for the fourth pick in the June draft. There is room to drop over the final five games.
Manager Rick Renteria, who has managed each game, it seems, as if the Sox were in contention, was managing the Cubs in 2014 in a phase of their rebuild. He has watched the Astros, Indians and other organizations build from the ground up and sees the Sox’ front office “doing it the right way.”
“The organization, for the first time, made a commitment to restock [its farm system] with high-quality players and put together a theme, or mantra, and identity for the organization that the younger players and veterans remaining could take a hold of,” Renteria said. “Because they had a good plan on how to proceed, it was the right time to do it.”
Renteria said the real challenge of the rebuild lies ahead, probably not next season — “Next year is going to have to be something similar to this,” as Cooper said — but in another offseason or two.
“That’s the toughest part for any organization — when you’re building from within and go outside [in free agency] for the final pieces,” Renteria said. “Those players have to have the same mindset, and when you’re doing things a certain way, they have to say, ‘OK, I’m in.’ Otherwise it can be disruptive.”
Renteria’s first season as Sox manager is winding down. Because of Carson Fulmer’s blister, Renteria gave 31-year-old right-hander Chris Volstad his first start in the majors since he was a Cub in 2012. Jose Abreu hit his 32nd and 33rd homers against right-hander Parker Bridwell (9-3), raised his RBI total to 102 and hit his 42nd double in the eighth. But Volstad served up home-run pitches to Brandon Phillips, Luis Valbuena and Mike Trout in the Angels’ six-run second. (Volstad pitched perfect first, third, fourth and fifth innings.)
Abreu, who sat out Monday with a sore shin, is batting .307 and leads the AL with 338 total bases.
“I like to hit for power, and hitting home runs makes a connection that generates excitement,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “[But] I like to get my base hits.”
The Sox have won four of their last six and 10 of their last 17, trying to finish on a high note, although scouting director Nick Hostetler’s feelings likely wouldn’t be hurt if they moved down in the standings for a higher pick in June.
In any event, “they’re also enjoying themselves,” Renteria said of his players.
“If there is one thing I want to attach a sense of accomplishment to, it’s that they are becoming a team,” he said. “They are developing an identity of a true sense of what White Sox baseball will be.”
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