The Chicago White Sox are coming off a 2021 season that could be characterized as either a success or a failure, depending on how you look at it. However, one thing is clear: the White Sox will need to add to their roster this offseason if they want to take home the World Series trophy in 2022. With manager Tony La Russa reportedly coming back for a second season, the Sox plan to build some stability around their exceptionally strong roster, and it feels as if anything short of an American League pennant will be a disappointment in 2022. Here is a position by position look at how the Sox should approach the offseason.
It is safe to say Yasmani Grandal will be the starting catcher once more in 2022. Grandal had an interesting year: he hit only .240, but an incredibly high on-base percentage and slugging percentage meant he registered an elite OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .939. The Sox will need him to match that production next year if they hope to contend for a championship. Their current in-house options to back up Grandal are Zack Collins and Seby Zavala. While they are both reliable backup catchers, perhaps a defensive-minded catcher to pair with Grandal would be beneficial for the development of the team’s younger pitchers. Roberto Pérez and Sandy León are two options who are known for their handling of young pitching staffs.
Coming off another solid campaign, José Abreu is a lock for the starting first base gig once again this year. Though this is his last year under contract with the Sox, the team should not have to go hunting for his replacement. The first-round pick of 2019 Andrew Vaughn figures to slide right into that spot should the Sox choose not to retain Abreu. No work needs to be done at first base this offseason.
Second base seems to be the most troubling position for this White Sox team headed into 2022. While it appeared last year as if the Sox had a long-term second baseman in Nick Madrigal, the team traded him away at the trade deadline in order to acquire star reliever Craig Kimbrel. They acquired César Hernández at the deadline hoping he would fill the void left by Madrigal; ultimately, however, Hernández disappointed, and was let go prior to the start of free agency. Leury García got the bulk of the starts at second in the playoffs, but he profiles as more of a super-utility player on a competitive team (not to mention he is a free agent). If the White Sox are serious about competing for a title next year, they should look to spend big at second base. Chris Taylor could be a solid option, though he will cost a first-round draft pick after he opted to decline the Dodgers’ qualifying offer. If General Manager Rick Hahn and the Sox choose not to spend a large amount of money on the middle infield, Freddy Galvis, Donovan Solano, Josh Harrison, and Jed Lowrie all figure to be available for cheap.
Yoán Moncada will return to his starting third base role, barring any surprises. The bigger question will be who slots in at third base on the days Moncada needs to rest. The most likely options here are Jake Burger, who finally got his first taste of the big leagues last season, and Danny Mendick. Both have proven to be capable backups—albeit in a small sample size for Burger. If the White Sox wanted to get creative in order to slightly improve their infield without spending any money, Moncada could slide over to second base, which would open a spot for Burger to play third base. However, if that is the plan for the Sox, fans should brace themselves for another season without a World Series ring.
There is absolutely no doubt as to who the opening day shortstop in will be in 2022. Tim Anderson is a star at this point in his career, and his clutch gene is a big reason why the Sox were able to win the division in the first place. Once again, if the Sox stay within the organization, Danny Mendick should be the primary backup at shortstop. There is no need to address shortstop on this team.
Two of the three outfield spots are locks going into 2022. Eloy Jiménez should be penciled in as the starting left fielder, and the same goes for Luis Robert in center field. Adam Engel got the bulk of the starts in right field last year and played well, but his career renaissance looks to be unsustainable. With his blazing speed and solid glove, he profiles more as a fourth outfielder than a starter. The Sox could keep Andrew Vaughn in the outfield, but it is becoming increasingly likely that the Sox will sign a free agent outfielder to fill the void. There are plenty of big bats on the free agent market. If the White Sox are willing to spend, they should take long looks at Michael Conforto, Avisail Garcia, Nick Castellanos, and Eddie Rosario. If they are looking to grab a cheaper outfielder, Mark Canha and Odubel Herrera would both make a lot of sense. There is no denying that apart from second base, the biggest void in the lineup is the one in right field.
After a strong showing last year, Gavin Sheets seems to have locked down the DH role for 2022. The team could always give the eclectic Yermin Mercedes another look, but that looks less likely every single day. Expect Andrew Vaughn to continue to get reps at DH along with Sheets in a platoon situation. While the Sox could use an upgrade at DH, it is nowhere near a priority now. They are best served staying put at DH.
Now that Carlos Rodón is a free agent, the White Sox need to be careful not to dig themselves into a hole. The team did not offer Rodón a qualifying offer, which means that the team could lose him for nothing if they don’t re-sign him. Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito will return to the top of the rotation, and Dylan Cease figures to have a spot secured for 2022. The question then becomes how to fill the other two spots in the rotation. Michael Kopech has proven to be a capable starter, but it seems as if the Sox like him more as a bullpen piece. If the White Sox don’t sign Rodón, they should go after two starting pitchers to round out the rotation. One of these should be an experienced arm who is capable of eating innings and the other should be a guy who, at a minimum, can be a strong third starter. The Sox should target Zack Greinke and Marcus Stroman if they want a strong rotation to carry into the postseason. Garrett Crochet is also a name to keep an eye on. Though he has been a dominant reliever so far through his young career, he was drafted in the first round to be a starting pitcher. Don’t be surprised to see him in the rotation if he has a solid showing in Spring Training.
Fresh off his American League Reliever of the Year campaign, Liam Hendriks will return as the White Sox closer. Craig Kimbrel, for the time being, will be the team’s top setup option, though expect them to look for trade partners before the season begins. Ryan Tepera is a free agent, and the team should try to bring him back to secure the back end of the bullpen. The Sox have a reliable ‘pen, but you can never have too many arms. Going after a bounce-back candidate like Brad Hand could prove to be very rewarding for the White Sox.
All in all, the White Sox are in the middle of their competitive window and should do whatever they can to bring a World Series title to South Side in 2022. Spending on a top-tier second basemen or right fielder along with a reliable starting pitcher should be enough to give this team a strong push towards the World Series. This off-season may move slower due to the impending expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement, but that should not stop the White Sox from going all-in on building a championship roster.