By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Before the regular season has even started for the White Sox, their group has grown tired of hearing they won’t compete in 2017.
Team management dealt key players in Chris Sale and Adam Eaton the offseason to start a rebuild and has since been clear that other veterans are available for the right price. It’s followed that White Sox players have heard prognosticators near and far tab them as one of the worst teams in baseball, but the competitors refuse to buy into the negative rhetoric.
The White Sox have 162 games to prove those individuals wrong, though many of them understand they will be helping other teams compete before Chicago has completed its rebuild that currently has the goal of adding controllable young talent.
“I have had some conversations with veteran players,” general manager Rick Hahn said Monday before the White Sox hosted the Tigers in their opener at Guaranteed Rate Field. “Some of them have expressed a very strong desire to stay here. We were fully comfortable with the idea for a while this would be the group (to start the season). We realize we are closer to the beginning of the process rather than the end. Opening Day is just one milestone in that process.”
In the meantime, these players are learning under the guidance of new manager Rick Renteria. And what exactly is Renteria ball?
“It will be about a group of men who will prepare very well together,” Renteria said. “We are going to hustle. We are going to give you some energy.We are going to try and play fundamentally in a particular way. I don’t know if it’s my way or baseball’s way. This is about doing things in a certain way. They as a group embraced things. They talk about it all of the time. We are happy they are ready to put into practice. The object is to play as clean of baseball as we can.”
How competitive the White Sox will be largely depends on the trading timetable of ace left-hander Jose Quintana and other valuable veterans. Many, including the oddsmakers, believe they’ll be challenged to win 70 games.
Hahn and his front office have felt they were close to trading Quintana and others in late December and in early January, but those deals were kiboshed by opposing front offices late in discussions. More recently, Hahn insists the White Sox haven’t had extensive talks about trading such players.
“Front office wise, we all start out as fans,” Hahn said. “So we have that same default mindset of wanting things to be done quickly. We also want it to be done right. The trick is we at least have been privy to offers that have been there. We can sleep well at night knowing there is not anything we turned down that we look back at in retrospect and kick ourselves. These are not clear formulas. We have not heard anything in months that we thought was even close to what we should do. We have to be strong and keep that long-term focus. That is where the fruit of these labors will pay off. Patience and waiting for the time that is right hopefully will pay off.”
A player squarely caught in the middle of this rebuild is closer David Robertson, who has two years and $25 million left on his contract.
“This is one of those years they are calling a rebuilding,” Robertson said. “That said, we have a lot of talent in the room. You can never count any team out in the big leagues. As of now, we are all even. This is day one for us. If we begin with some series wins, you never know what can happen. We might be in the postseason.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.