This installment of Comeback Candidates can now officially take into account one more Chicago transaction: the bizarre retirement of Adam LaRoche. The flap is yet another negative for a White Sox club that has not reached the postseason since 2008, but there are reasons to believe they could break through in 2016.
The White Sox went 76-86 in 2015, their fourth losing record in the last five seasons. Despite the loss of LaRoche, trading for Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie deepens a lineup that ranked 28th in baseball in runs scored and 26th in home runs last year. The pitching staff was just adequate in 2015, ranking right in the middle in terms of overall, rotation, and bullpen ERA. But with Chris Sale as their ace and a hopeful breakthrough from Carlos Rodon, things could get better this season.
Reasons for Hope
If the stars are to align for the ChiSox, the stars need to produce. Sale is front and center, an elite southpaw starter coming off a solid yet unspectacular (for him, anyway) season. Losing Jeff Samardzija puts added pressure on Rodon to step up, as well as fellow lefty Jose Quintana. The team is hoping for a rebound year from Mat Latos, as well. As for the lineup, bringing in Frazier and his 64 home runs from the past two years combined is a major plus and provides much-needed protection for Jose Abreu. David Robertson got off to a hot start before struggling somewhat in the blown saves department, but he is still a highly dependable closer.
Reasons for Doubt
Outside of Sale, Abreu, and Frazier, the team has greatly underachieved. More is needed from players like Avisail Garcia, Adam Eaton, and John Danks, to name a few. The rotation is pedestrian after Sale until proven otherwise, and the team lacks overall speed (the Sox stole only 68 bases last year, 24th in MLB). The LaRoche situation didn’t help matters either, even though he had a poor year in 2015.
Will they or won’t they?
The AL Central isn’t exactly a loaded division, yet one could argue the White Sox are the least talented team in it. Unless a whole lot goes right, like big years from unexpected sources to go along with the expected production of the stars, it will be another quiet October for the South Siders.