The Chicago White Sox have had an interesting offseason so far. They have seen some of their veteran core depart in free agency, but have managed to bring in some players to replace them. After a sorely disappointing 2022 campaign that saw them finish with an 81-81 record and miss the playoffs entirely, it's clear that things need to change in Chicago.
The White Sox haven't had a lot of wiggle room, as they don't have a lot of money to spend, and they had some key free agents hitting the market. Still, if some key players for the Sox can improve their play after a down year in 2022, there's a lot of reasons to expect them to make a run for the American League Central in 2023.
For the most part, the White Sox work in free agency is likely done with, which makes it a good time to look back at what they have done and see how good or bad things have gone for them. So let's take a look at everything Chicago has done in free agency and hand out a final grade for their work so far.
Grading the White Sox MLB free agency
The White Sox entered the offseason with some clear needs. They needed to shore up their lineup, particularly in the middle infield, and they needed some pitching in both their starting rotation and their bullpen. For the most part, though, their additions have been few and far between this offseason.
The two biggest additions have been Andrew Benintendi and Mike Clevinger. Both guys have a lot of upside, but neither is going to immediately make Chicago a World Series contender. And there are holes in both deals that could end up coming back to bite the White Sox down the line.
Benintendi's deal is more recent and much bigger than Clevinger's as he signed a five-year, $75 million deal to head to Chicago. Benintendi continued to prove that he is still the strong contact-hitting outfielder he was earlier in his career with the Boston Red Sox, and earned an All-Star berth last season despite hitting just five home runs on the season.
Benintendi is a good hitter, and even though his fit with the team isn't precisely what they needed, they addressed their need for more solid hitters despite now having a bit of a crowded outfield. And after seeing massive deals get handed out without the blink of an eye this offseason, the money associated with this deal isn't bad either.
The same can't necessarily be said about Clevinger, who earned a one-year, $12 million contract despite coming off arguably the worst season of his career. Clevinger was an ace prior to getting Tommy John surgery, but he ended up missing the entire 2021 season, and didn't look like himself last season. His 4.33 ERA was pretty high, and considering his recent surgery, there has to be some concern regarding his play moving forward.
Clevinger does fill a need as a backend starter in the rotation, and his ceiling is higher than a guy like Johnny Cueto, who appears set to leave the Sox after a successful 2022 season. But to hand out $12 million for Clevinger felt a bit excessive, even if it was done with the intent of filling a big area of need for the White Sox.
Of course, we'd also be remiss to not mention the loss of Jose Abreu, who quickly signed with the Houston Astros at the beginning of free agency. Abreu never seemed likely to return to Chicago, and the three-year, $58.5 million deal he got from Houston was certainly out of their price range. But Abreu was the White Sox best hitter last season, and losing him is going to be a big loss for Chicago.
Final Grade: C-
Again, neither deal for Benintendi or Clevinger really moves the needle for the Sox here, which hurts their chances or reemerging as the team to beat in the AL Central over the Cleveland Guardians. Granted, they didn't have a lot to work with, but it's still been a fairly underwhelming free agency period for them.
The departure of Abreu stands out more than the additions the team has made, which is never a good sign. Chicago still has holes left unfilled, such as a gaping one at second base, and while they could re-sign some of their other veteran free agents, it feels like they would benefit greatly from swinging a big deal on the trade market. That could end up happening, but for now, the White Sox get a less than excellent mark for their free agent work this offseason.