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Can the White Sox be fixed?

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After a hot start, the reeling White Sox need to make changes if they're going to compete for a playoff spot.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago, I was asked whether the White Sox could keep up the impressive start. I said that I thought they could stay competitive in the AL Central. That day, they were 2.5 games up on the Indians and were tied with the Orioles and Red Sox for the best record in the American League. Since then, they’ve lost 12 of 16 games and have fallen to a game and a half back of the Royals.

Is there hope for righting this ship, or are the White Sox going to continue flagging until their an afterthought in 2016?

In spite of a few high-profile signings and trades, the White Sox lost 86 games last year because so much of their roster was filled by replacement-level players. Stars like Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, and Adam Eaton couldn’t compensate for the black holes that littered Chicago’s offense:

Position

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

C

.230

.293

.376

.669

2B

.222

.275

.305

.580

3B

.226

.277

.345

.622

SS

.243

.281

.350

.631

DH

.239

.301

.383

.684

Sheesh, no wonder the club finished dead last in scoring last year.

For 2016, the Sox addressed each of these spots. They let Tyler Flowers walk and brought in Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila. At second base, they traded for Brett Lawrie and at third they traded for Todd Frazier. To keep shortstop warm until Tim Anderson could claim it, Chicago signed Jimmy Rollins. And at DH, Adam LaRoche retired, allowing the Sox to shift Avisail Garcia to that spot, and sign Austin Jackson to man center field. The goal was to upgrade at each of these spots.

At least initially, that has worked everywhere except at catcher. Frazier, Lawrie, Garcia, and Rollins all got off to good starts, as did Melky Cabrera. Mat Latos defied the BABIP gods for a while in the rotation as well. Now, regression is happening and these players have reverted back into their normal selves. Again, it’s better than what the Sox had in 2015, but it will not be enough to compete against the Royals and Indians.

The acquisition of James Shields should help some. Shields has lost both velocity and command since joining the Padres in 2015, indicating that something may be wrong with him physically. Or it could just be almost 2200 innings catching up to a 34 year old arm. Still, Shields represents an upgrade over Latos, as he rapidly turns back into a pumpkin. Still, that too is not enough to keep the Sox in the race. That said, there are steps the White Sox can take to stop their slide, if they choose to.

Stop trying to make Avisail Garcia a thing.

Garcia is still just 25, but has never shown any ability to hit for average or control the strike zone, even against right handed pitchers (he’s a lefty) (author's note: the author is an idiot). He has power, but simply has never shown that he can use it in games. The good news is that replacing a DH should not be difficult. I mean, the Brewers don’t really need Chris Carter, and Logan Morrison’s ascent makes Steve Pearce expendable in Tampa Bay. The Yankees could even send Carlos Beltran over (assuming the Sox aren’t on his no-trade list). The Twins refuse to use Oswaldo Arcia, and he could be an upgrade as well. Or, hell, even a random minor league veteran or waiver wire pickup might outperform Garcia at this point.

Promote Tim Anderson.

It’s not that Anderson is a can’t-miss prospect. He’s 23 and hitting .300/.322/.405 at Triple-A, with just eight walks and 56 strikeouts in 246 plate appearances. That plate discipline is especially worrisome, and he doesn’t project to be significantly better than Rollins at this point. But Rollins is simply done. Last year, he hit .224/.285/.358 for the Dodgers, and so far is hitting just .224/.290/.333 for the Sox. His strikeouts are up and he has no power, and he isn’t really an asset on defense anymore either. Anderson may struggle at first, but at least he has the chance to be better than what Rollins is giving right now, both in the short and the long term.

Trade for Jonathan Lucroy.

The enduring difficulty the Sox have had is in finding a backstop who is worth a damn. To be fair, that’s a problem a lot of clubs have, as catchers are by far the worst hitting position in baseball right now. That underscores just how huge an advantage a guy like Lucroy would be for the Sox, however. Lucroy’s hitting .316/.372/.539 with nine homers and his typically excellent defense. Clearly, Lucroy is the best option out there, and will command a huge return. More reasonable options would include Brian McCann, Nick Hundley, and Welington Castillo.

None of these moves guarantees success, but the Sox are clearly trying to win in the next two years before Frazier, Lawrie, and Melky all become free agents. Something has to be done if the Sox are going to salvage what they hoped would be their first year back to the postseason since 2008, or they very well may have to wait to go all in next year.