The White Sox got some good news Thursday: It's going to be a lot easier to compete for the AL Central crown in 2021.
The division-rival Cleveland Indians shook things up with a blockbuster deal that sent star shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets, sending arguably the Central's best player in Lindor not just out of the division but out of the American League altogether.
Since the 2019 trade deadline, the Indians have traded Lindor, Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger, with Brad Hand and Carlos Santana departing for free agency this winter. Though they still have reigning AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and AL MVP candidate José Ramírez, it's been a massive exodus of talent out of Northeast Ohio that has seemed to create a sizable gap between the Indians and the White Sox and Minnesota Twins at the top of the division.
Even after trading Bauer and Kluber before the 2020 season began and trading Clevinger during it, the Indians still managed to contend last year — as well as be a thorn in the White Sox side, taking eight of the 10 contests between the two rivals. They finished the campaign on a surge that included a four-game sweep of the White Sox in the final week of the regular season and ended with the same record as the South Siders, just one game back of the division-champion Twins.
The White Sox, who enter the 2021 season with World Series aspirations, will have to dethrone the Twins to claim Central supremacy. But despite slowly improving rebuilding clubs in Detroit and Kansas City, the White Sox seem to boast the best roster, on paper, in the division. The Twins edged the White Sox by just a game a season ago and could potentially lose Nelson Cruz, their best hitter, who is currently on the free-agent market. The White Sox offseason acquisition of Lance Lynn helps them come neck and neck with the still-deep Indians in the starting-pitching department. Bieber was the unanimous choice for the Cy Young; White Sox pitchers Dallas Keuchel, Lynn and Lucas Giolito, however, finished fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, with no other members of a solid Indians rotation receiving votes.
While Lindor's career numbers against the White Sox were not as spectacular as they were against other teams, not seeing him — and the Cleveland team he helped make a lot better — 19 times a year is terrific news on the South Side.