Weigh in on the best White Sox of the decade

Not only is the 2019 season officially over after the Washington Nationals won the World Series, but so is this baseball decade. Some of you probably do not remember most of the players for the White Sox in the 2010s (I mean, who can blame you, though), but some rose above the rest.

This thought exercise is inspired by a relatively recent Effectively Wild podcast from FanGraphs with hosts Meg Rowley (FanGraphs managing editor), Ben Lindbergh (writer at The Ringer and author), and Sam Miller (writer at ESPN). They guessed the top five hitters and pitchers of this decade in terms of fWAR, and then checked to see if their guesses were correct. Now, since South Side Hit Pen is of course a White Sox site, we are going to come at this with a Sox angle. We will be creating our own White Sox lineup of the decade (2010-19).

Now, I have to warn you, it is not pretty, and the White Sox record over the decade should tell you why.

The Sox as a team only had two winning records, in 2010 and 2012. Their overall record was 743-876. They never went to the playoffs, obviously, the first time the Sox missed the playoffs for an entire decade since the 1970s. The Sox only had 13 different players selected to the All-Star game (Chris Sale’s multiple selections only count as one), seven hitters and six pitchers.

The big theme of the decade, maybe besides mediocrity and then the rebuild, was honoring White Sox past. The Sox had eight former employees get into the Hall of Fame: Robert Alomar (2011), Ron Santo (2012), Frank Thomas (2014), Tony La Russa (2014), Ken Griffey Jr. (2016), Tim Raines (2017), Frank Thomas (2018), and Harold Baines (2019). A great group of guys, but most from a distant White Sox past. The organization retired a few numbers to help boost some meager attendance as well. Thomas (No. 35, 2010), Paul Konerko (No. 14, 2015), and Mark Buerhle (No. 56, 2017). Again, those honors don’t just remind fans of how successful the distant past was, but how utterly bad the recent past is. So, as you will see, this is not a great group of players to choose from for an All-Decade lineup.

I implore you all to try and create a lineup yourself before looking at the polls. When I did this, I found that I couldn’t even remember a lot of players from 2010-13, even some of the better ones. But if not, or when you are done, choose which player(s) you think had the highest fWAR for the White Sox at each position in the polls below.

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Meet the Players: James Fox

In another big South Side Hit Pen signing, we welcome FutureSox writer and all-around good dude James Fox to the team. James coordinates the FS draft coverage and does some great prospects writing for them. In the non-White Sox world, he teaches sixth grade English in a special education setting and coaches high school football and track and field.

While not an outright contrarian, James believes in relative harmony between South and North Side fans, instead training all his ill will to our division rivals: “The Cleveland Indians ruined my childhood and I enjoy when bad things happen to them.”

James slides in as the managing editor of our site, and will provide major league writing for us. Please give our new, choice free agent a hearty welcome!

Hometown Lockport 

White Sox fan since 1990

First White Sox memory Seeing Frank Thomas play in person as a six-year-old and falling in love with the team

Favorite White Sox memory It would have to be the World Series in 2005 

Favorite White Sox player Yoán Moncada is my favorite player on the current team, but Frank Thomas is my favorite professional athlete of all time. 

Next White Sox statue Hawk Harrelson

Next White Sox retired number Ozzie Guillén

Go-to concession food at Sox Park You can never go wrong with the brats or sausages on the concourse 

Favorite baseball movie Bull Durham. Anytime you can mix a RomCom with the minor league experience, I’m in. (I’m looking at you, Summer Catch) 

Hall of Fame speed round
Mark Buehrle  No
Joe Jackson Yes
Paul Konerko No
Minnie Miñoso No
Omar Vizquel No 
Chris Sale Yes 

South Side Hit Pen on the field: 3B. I was bad and couldn’t field anything, but I could make the throw across the diamond 

True or false: Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders what the part that isn’t thinking isn’t thinking of. False. In my experience, some people wander through life consistently oblivious to what’s happening 

Picks to click: free agent starters

Top dog: With three plus pitches and an ascendant career arc, Zack Wheeler would be a divine addition to the White Sox rotation. (Rawlings)

The Chicago White Sox pitching staff was 19th in Major League Baseball with an fWAR of 12.3 last year. Fortifying the roster in anticipation of the 2020 season is a desired outcome of the front office and pitching appears to be a priority. Young righties Lucas Giolito (5.1 fWAR), Reynaldo López (2.3 fWAR) and Dylan Cease (0.7 fWAR) make up the majority of that production, however, and reinforcements will be necessary.

Some good news comes in the form of 23-year-old phenom Michael Kopech re-joining the White Sox rotation, in addition to the eventual arrival of lefty Carlos Rodón. TJS rehabbing righthanders Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert, as well as southpaw Bernardo Flores, could offer late-season help from the farm system, if taking the most optimistic outlook.

But this isn’t enough depth or quality to dispel the notion that help from outside the organization will be inevitably added.

After failing to convert on intended targets last offseason, general manager Rick Hahn was emphatic that his club would continue to have a seat at the table in free agent discussions, saying, “The money will be spent. It might not be spent this offseason, but it will be spent at some point. It’s not just sitting around to accumulate interest. It’s money trying to be deployed to put us in the best position to win some championships.” For the sake of everyone involved, hopefully that money doesn’t just sit and collect interest into 2020.

Southpaw shopping?

In theory, the White Sox could look to balance out their starting rotation with a left-handed option from the free market. Those options are aplenty, with names like Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Cole Hamels currently looking for work.

Bumgarner could be seen as the veteran stopper to place right in the middle of a young rotation, similar to the thinking when the Cubs signed Jon Lester was signed. The 30-year-old Bumgarner eats innings and has a strong pedigree of playoff performances. Madison also possesses a strong personality that would resonate with the city of Chicago and the South Side fan in particular. Hitting is a big part of his game, though, and he may choose to stay in the National League because of that. He a decision to make on his qualifying offer as well.

Ryu has only played for the Los Angeles Dodgers during his time in the major leagues, and he could look to stay on the west coast regardless of which uniform he wears in 2020. He’d be a solid addition for the Pale Hose, however. The 32-year-old lefty posted a 4.8 fWAR last year over 182 innings, with a 2.32 ERA and 3.10 FIP. The 6´3´´, 255-pounder will be testing the free agent market without the qualifying offer attached after accepting a QO to remain with the Dodgers last offseason.

It’s a second straight offseason of waiting for Keuchel, and his market should be more active this time around without the QO attached to his services. The 31-year-old southpaw posted a 4.06 xFIP in Atlanta this past year over 112 innings. He and superagent Scott Boras were unable to secure the escalated payroll commitment they desired in the marketplace a year ago, but Keuchel should land something in the three-year, $50-$60 million range this time around. He has a playoff pedigree as well and would slot nicely into the middle of the White Sox rotation.

Hamels was having a bit of a renaissance in the first half for the Cubs last season prior to an oblique injury that limited him to just 141 ⅔ innings. The 35-year-old was a fan of Chicago, but his thoughts on playing for the Sox are currently unknown. Cole struggled in the second half, but posted a 3.81 ERA with a 4.09 FIP overall. His rumored destinations seem to be returning to Philadelphia, where it all began for him, or a sojourn west to play for a contender. Hamels may have to ultimately wait for some of the other dominoes to fall in the market before finding his next gig.

Another spin at the Wheel

Similar to their pursuit of a hitter, it’s imperative that the White Sox don’t become slaves to handedness in their search for upgrades to the starting rotation. The southpaws on the market all would fit nicely every fifth day, but the best addition the front office can make is by adding a 29-year-old righty to anchor the current staff.

Zack Wheeler could be the remedy that the rotation needs, and the White Sox have shown interest in the former Met. Wheeler is a free agent for the first time after being selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft out of East Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga., by the San Francisco Giants.

Wheeler has had some blemishes on his record since making his big league debut in 2013, and battling numerous injuries has become a trend for the righthander. The 6´4´´, 195-pounder has accumulated 12.6 fWAR in his career but 4.7 of that came last season. Wheeler is seen as an ascending talent with some mileage left in his right arm.

Zack posted a 3.96 ERA with a 3.48 FIP in 195 ⅓ innings in 2019. He also threw 182 innings in 2018. His 3.90 K/BB ratio was the best output of his young career and it should solidify him as the third-best option on the free agent pitching market. Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg are clients of Boras Corporation and could break some financial barriers this winter. The presence of that pair could help or hurt Wheeler, a Jet Sports Management client.

Boras has no issue taking his constituents into the new year and holding out for the best possible deal. This could affect Wheeler in the sense that it could potentially take desperate suitors out of his marketplace. Plus, teams that miss on the big two would likely turn to Wheeler after their failed attempts. It could also help Wheeler in the sense that he could be seen as the best pitcher on the market willing to sign before Christmas.

Fitting in Pale Hose

Due to the presence of Boras and built-in proclivities of the past, it’s unlikely that the White Sox will be serious contenders in the markets of Cole and Strasburg. Wheeler should be pitching his home games at 35th and Shields next season, though. He’d slot perfectly behind Giolito to form a dynamic duo at the top of the rotation. He’s also the perfect steward to take this young rotation into the future because he’s still ascending with his best days ahead of him.

Wheeler’s fastball sits in the 95-100 mph range regularly and he posts elite spin and velocity numbers. Equipped with stellar peripherals, Zack offers immense upside as a guy available for possibly less than he’s theoretically worth. Wheeler has three plus pitches, and throws a slider and a changeup as well. His use of tunneling to enhance the look of his stuff is another added benefit to his evolving arsenal.

The White Sox have $14.8 million committed to their 2020 payroll before arbitration raises set in, and the money will apparently be spent. Wheeler will come with a qualifying offer attached, so the White Sox would have to pay the penalty in addition to the player. For this season, that would mean the forfeiture of their second round pick, plus the slotted amount that comes with the selection, in addition to $500,000 of international pool space.

The White Sox are unlikely to play at the very top of the free agent market, but there are plenty of tertiary additions available that could thrust the franchise immediately into contention in the American League Central next season.

Zack Wheeler would be a realistic start to that process.

Follow James on twitter.

Today in White Sox History: November 12


1959 — He helped lead the White Sox to their first pennant in 40 years and because of his contributions on the field and in the clubhouse, Nellie Fox became the first member of the franchise to be named American League MVP. Fox hit .306 on the year with 191 hits, 34 doubles, 70 RBIs and 71 walks (as compared to only 13 strikeouts!) Fox also led all AL second basemen in putouts, assists, total chances and fielding percentage. He also was named to the All-Star team.

Nellie got 16 first-place votes by the Baseball Writers Association of America and beat out his teammate, shortstop Luis Aparicio, 295-255. Pitcher Early Wynn, who’d win the Cy Young Award that season, would finish third, giving the Sox the top three spots in the final voting.