Earlier this month, White Sox GM Kenny Williams used the word rebuilding for the first time during his tenure. Its never a popular word to use with a fan base.
However, rebuilding can happen by making moves that set up your future without trading the most valuable assets on your roster. The White Sox did that Wednesday night with the extension of pitcher John Danks. By locking up Danks, the White Sox can still rebuild, while making a commitment to make him the cornerstone of their rotation. The move also gives fans hope for both the short and long term future after a disappointing 2011 season and what thus far has been one of their roughest offseasons, at least emotionally, with the departure of fan-favorites Mark Buehrle and Ozzie Guillen.
The news of the extension was a surprise, especially with Danks. Most expected Danks to pitch elsewhere in 2012 as the White Sox were reportedly shopping the southpaw for a package of prospects. Ive never been a huge fan of that, trading a pitcher in his prime for a package of unproven hope. Outside of budgetary reasons, these moves rarely work out. Teams trade assets in hopes of landing the guy they traded. In other words, if the Sox traded Danks, they were hoping to get a prospect that turned out to be the next Danks. Makes no sense.
This deal, though, does. It gives the Sox a solid front-line starter with the ability to shop other parts of their roster to provide salary relief and still get decent talent in return.
At the winter meetings, I felt the best move the White Sox could make was locking up Danks for four years.
They did one better, by making him the richest pitcher in White Sox history.
27-year-old Justin Jirschele made quite an impression in his first season as manager of the White Sox Class-A affiliate in Kannapolis. He helped lead the Intimidators to the South Atlantic League championship, and was named White Sox Minor League Coach of the Year. Jirschele came on the podcast to speak with Chuck Garfien about how he went from playing minor league baseball with the White Sox to coaching in their system. He talks about how growing up with a dad who was coaching minor league baseball helped mold him as a manager who is wise beyond his years. Jirschele also gives a report on some of the top White Sox prospects he managed last season such as Jake Burger, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Miker Adolfo.
The White Sox farm system is baseball's best, according to one of the people making those rankings.
In the wake of Major League Baseball's punishment of the Atlanta Braves for breaking rules regarding the signing of international players — which included the removal of 12 illegally signed prospects from the Braves' organization — MLB.com's Jim Callis tweeted out his updated top 10, and the White Sox are back in first place.
Now obviously there are circumstances that weakened the Braves' system, allowing the White Sox to look stronger by comparison. But this is still an impressive thing considering that three of the White Sox highest-rated prospects from the past year are now full-time big leaguers.
Yoan Moncada used to be baseball's No. 1 prospect, and pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez weren't too far behind. That trio helped bolster the highly ranked White Sox system. Without them, despite plenty of other highly touted prospects, common sense would say that the White Sox would slide down the rankings.
But the White Sox still being capable of having baseball's top-ranked system is a testament to the organizational depth Rick Hahn has built in such a short period of time.
While prospect rankings are sure to be refreshed throughout the offseason, here's how MLB Pipeline's rankings look right now in regards to the White Sox:
4. Eloy Jimenez
9. Michael Kopech
22. Luis Robert
39. Blake Rutherford
57. Dylan Cease
90. Alec Hansen