Sinking White Sox Begin Climb Back to Surface

Scott Engel
Last Updated: Jul 27, 2023

With their trade of Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, the Chicago White Sox officially signaled that the organization is moving ahead with its eyes on the future.

Even though team observers knew the current roster was inevitability going to be plucked apart, the true reconstruction of the team began for real when Chicago sent away Giolito, one of their premier starting pitchers.

“Obviously, given this club’s performance over the course of the last several months, it’s apparent that these type of moves have to take place given where we’re at, putting us in the best position we can be going forward,” general manager Rick Hahn said when addressing the assembled media after the deal.

The White Sox had come out of the All-Star break with some flickering hopes of regaining respectability, according to first base coach Daryl Boston.

“Everybody took a deep breath after the first half, which was the break that we needed, because the first half, of course, didn’t go the way we wanted,” Boston told The Game Day Baseball.

But entering play on Thursday, Chicago had lost eight of 11 games following the break, with a painful two-game sweep by the Chicago Cubs illustrating the gloomy narrative of a second consecutive disappointing season. In the series finale, the Sox were done in by eight unanswered runs by their local rivals, a fifth consecutive defeat that put them a season-low 21 games under .500.

More key performers are expected to be moved by Chicago as the MLB trade deadline closes in. The players hear the talk, but as third baseman Jake Burger put it with a clever spin, the guys that will remain with the ballclub will tune out the external chatter and focus on winning as much as they can.

“It’s all outside noise,” Burger said. “In a Ted Lasso episode in season 3, he takes them to the sewers of England and it’s like, ‘Hey, whatever everybody’s saying about us, it’s poop water.’ It is what it is, and everybody can have their opinions, but we fully believe in each other.”

As the front office continues to retool the roster for 2024 and beyond, many players who had goals of re-launching the team back into contention this season will stay on and try to generate optimism for next season, for both the team and themselves.

“I think you just approach each day trying to win that game, trying to forget what’s behind and not really looking towards what’s ahead and just kind of being in the present,” said relief pitcher Kendall Graveman. “And that’s really the best mindset that we can have right now.”

The White Sox certainly won’t be unwatchable for the rest of the season, and some of the team’s most important pieces of the future are already in place. Outfielder Luis Robert Jr. is giving Chicago’s loyal fans a reason to come to the ballpark on his own as Chicago’s lone 2023 All-Star representative.

“I think he’s one of the best players in MLB,” Burger said. “He’s controlling the zone a lot more and he fully believes in himself, too.

“A lot of this game is confidence. When he’s stepping in the box, he’s thinking he’s one of the best players in MLB and I totally agree with it.”

Robert is the only player in the Majors with 20-plus doubles, 25-plus home runs, 50-plus RBI, 60-plus runs scored, and 10-plus stolen bases. He is on pace for 44 home runs this season, five short of the franchise record set by Albert Belle in 1998.

“His swing is really, really good,” said assistant hitting coach Chris Johnson. “I think the one thing he’s done this year is hone his approach.

“He’s not missing strikes when he gets them. He’s taken some more sliders this year, so he’s learning how to hit, and his swing has taken him to the All-Star Game.”

Boston, who has been around the Majors for a decade as a player and another as a coach and has seen a healthy share of outstanding performers, is impressed with Robert’s exploits.

“It’s impressive to watch on a daily basis,” Boston said. “He has all the tools to be a superstar in this league.

“He plays as good defense as anybody in the league, and he can run and steal bases when he needs to. One of the things right now that is on his mind is to steal more bases.

“Of course, he can hit home runs from right-centerfield to left-centerfield. It’s just a matter of him being patient at the plate, and when his ball is in the zone, he kills it.”

One of the other pillars of the team’s future is Dylan Cease, who was reportedly made unavailable in trade talks. He finished second in the American League Cy Young voting in 2022 but fell in line with the team’s overall struggles in his first dozen starts of 2023, as his ERA shot up to 4.88 by the end of May.

But the 2022 version of Cease has since returned, as he had a 2.20 ERA in June and has allowed three or fewer runs in three of four July starts. Now that he has put the early struggles behind him, Cease can lure the team’s followers to tune in at least every fifth day on the schedule.

“A lot of growth has come from this season from him,” Graveman said. “He had to fix mechanical stuff he had going on in his delivery, and he was able to put a lot of work in and a lot of time.

“I saw him working really hard to get it back right. Also, he had a mindset that he’s going to figure it out, he’s going to turn it around, he’s going to get back to who he was last year, and never giving up on the type of pitcher that he is.”

Outfielder Oscar Colás, who was ranked as the organization’s No. 2 prospect by at midseason of 2022, will continue to acclimate to the Majors for the rest of the season. Colás was sent down to Triple-A in May after hitting .211 to open the season, but he was recalled in early July and will likely stay with the big club for the rest of the year.

“I think he’s just trying to find an approach right now, and he’s trying to find out what he needs to do,” Johnson said. “Getting here, wanting to do too much, wanting to do more, that’s kind of a trap we all fall into when we get here.

“It’s up to him to go up there, relax, use his good swing, use his bat speed, get good pitches to hit, and he’ll have success.”

Boston said the 24-year-old Colás is playing with more confidence since he returned to the Majors. “I’d say that he was overmatched when he was here earlier, but it was his first time in the big leagues, and it can be a little overwhelming.

“But since he’s been back, on the outfield side, he’s been amazing. And at the plate, you can see he’s getting more comfortable. He’s still got some things to work on, but as with any young player, those things are expected.”

Burger should also be a notable contributor as the team looks to maintain respectability for the rest of the season. In terms of power, Burger has busted out to hit 22 home runs this season, which ranks fifth in the American League.

Johnson said that while Burger’s batting average (.212) may be looked on as an outside concern, the team wants the third-year infielder to continue to focus on mashing the ball.

“I don’t know that we’re super concerned with average.” Johnson said. “We want him to have good at-bats, drive in runs, and hit the ball out of the ballpark.

“We do want him to shorten up. We want him to use the whole field. When he stays short, his power, exit velocity, and bat speed are going to drive the ball out of the ballpark. If he just thinks line drives in the gaps, his line drives end up in the seats.”

Burger said that he has been working on calming down at the plate when he gets amped up.

“I think I have a tendency to kind of get outside of myself a little bit and try and do too much,” Burger said. “I just have to control the zone and get my pitch and slow down the game.”

Tim Anderson, the team’s signature player for the last six-plus seasons, has been surrounded by trade rumors as the deadline approaches. His down year has been a clear illustration of Chicago’s struggles, as Anderson has hit .245 after previously not hitting under .300 since 2018.

There have been some signs of classic Anderson reappearing recently, though, as he is hitting .300 in July with 12 runs scored. Johnson also pointed to the effects of a knee injury that landed Anderson on the IL in April.

“It’s not like he’s forgotten how to hit,” Johnson said. “He was just in a slump. He got in a rut, and that stuff happens.

“He came back, and he wasn’t quite perfect. Your body just makes different changes without you knowing it, and it ends up being a tough thing to fix.

“But it’s Tim Anderson. He’s hit .300 for four years in a row, and obviously, now he’s showing who he is. It’s not like he’s a different person.”

If Anderson sticks around past the trade deadline, then it will be apparent he may continue to be part of Chicago’s core as it looks to get back into contention in 2024.

The team seemed to be pressing in the first half of the season, and while the results have been disappointing, Boston said the coaching staff will continue to preach positivity for the rest of the year with the talents they still have on the roster.

“A lot of times, it seemed that we tried to do a little more than asked, and we just want guys to do what they are supposed to do and what they are capable of. We have good players. Sooner or later the tide will turn.”


Scott Engel

Scott Engel is a Senior Sports Writer at The Game Day. Previously he was at and The Athletic. His work is also featured at RotoBaller and on Scott is a host on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. He is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. Scott is a four-time FSWA award winner and a 13-time finalist. He was an Associate Editor and featured writer at and his career began at CBS SportsLine, where he was a Senior Writer and Managing Editor. Scott was the Managing Director at RotoExperts.

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