White Sox look to focus on positives in 2016

With some top prospects acquired in trades, club starts rebuilding phase in '17

White Sox look to focus on positives in 2016

CHICAGO -- A number of positive results transpired for the White Sox during the 2016 season.

Jose Quintana became an All-Star for the first time in his steady career, often bordering on spectacular, while the southpaw also notched a career-best 13 wins, a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts over 208 innings.

Chris Sale topped the Majors with six complete games, reaching All-Star status for a fifth straight season, while striking out 233 in a career-high 226 2/3 innings.

Jose Abreu produced at least a .290 average with 25 homers and 100 RBIs for the third straight Major League season since coming from Cuba. Third baseman Todd Frazier reached 40 home runs for the first time in his career and logged 98 RBIs. Adam Eaton played Gold Glove-caliber defense in right field from start to finish.

So how did these strong efforts add up for the White Sox?

Statcast: White Sox longest HRs

The sum of the parts were not close to greater than the individual accomplishments, as the South Siders finished 78-84 and 16 1/2 games back in a fourth-place finish in the American League Central. The managerial situation changed from Robin Ventura to bench coach Rick Renteria after the campaign, and the direction changed via trades of Sale and Eaton after general manager Rick Hahn described his team as "mired in mediocrity" late in the season.

Here's a look at some of the top storylines from 2016, which marked a fourth straight sub-.500 season for the White Sox.

1. Let the rebuild begin
White Sox fans searched for a puff of white smoke coming from Guaranteed Rate Field or any sort of sign to indicate the team's direction. That answer arrived at the Winter Meetings when the White Sox traded Sale to the Red Sox for an elite four-prospect return including infielder Yoan Moncada and hard-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech.

The club then shipped Eaton to the Nationals for right-handers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning. These were trades built for the future, as in 2018 and '19 more so than '17, even if a few of these projected Minor League standouts get to the Majors this season.

Hahn on White Sox trades

"It's a weird feeling. Mixed emotions. You never like parting ways with stalwarts on this roster like Chris Sale and Adam Eaton," Hahn said. "At the same time, it's nice to feel good about the first steps in our plan and the return which we received."

This rebuilding process remains ongoing. More trades are possible in January, during Spring Training, at the non-waiver Trade Deadline or into next offseason.

2. Sale(ing) away
Eaton played an important part of the White Sox offense and defense for three seasons, but with all due respect to the team's catalyst, Sale's departure falls in a category by itself. The White Sox selected Sale 13th overall in the 2010 MLB Draft, promoted him to the bullpen two months later, moved him into the starting rotation in '12 and agreed to a five-year, $32.5 million deal in Spring Training '13.

Sale developed into one of the best pitchers in baseball and in team history. He also emerged as the face of the franchise.

Sale on his time with White Sox

"He was excited about the chance to potentially go win something with Boston, which you have to respect," Hahn said. "We wished him well, but he was very considerate and appreciative for what the organization had done for him."

"You don't know how long you are going to have guys, you just never do," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "But while they are under the Chicago White Sox care, it's important to me that we maximize what they are able to do, and I feel comfortable that certainly happened with Chris Sale."

3. Ventura out; Renteria in
Ventura's final season of a five-year tenure certainly was an eventful one. Adam LaRoche unexpectedly retired during Spring Training over a disagreement with executive vice president Ken Williams on restricted team access for LaRoche's son, Drake, leading to a strong player reaction. Sale had an issue with wearing a throwback jersey on a night he was scheduled to pitch, leading to the destruction of said jerseys and his ensuing five-game suspension, and on the field, the team started strong and then faded immediately thereafter. Ultimately, Ventura's contract ended after the '16 campaign, and he decided not to return.

Renteria on his managing style

Renteria, who dealt with a rebuild as the Cubs manager in '14, served as White Sox bench coach this past season. He's an energetic teacher who should benefit the team at its current construction.

"It goes back to me handling the job with whomever it is that we have available to us and trying to get the most out of those guys that we have," Renteria said.

4. What happened?
Frazier launched a 12th-inning grand slam off of the Rangers' Cesar Ramos on May 9 to give the White Sox an 8-4 victory. At that point, they were 23-10 and held a six-game lead in the division. While the White Sox weren't quite as good as that impressive start, they didn't foresee going 10-26 over the next 36 games. Key injuries and shortcomings on offense stood as a few of the significant problems contributing to the downfall.

Frazier's grand slam to left

5. Anderson arrives
Carlos Lee, Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede would qualify as the last homegrown position players who made a consistent impact. But Tim Anderson, the team's top pick in the 2013 Draft who debuted on June 10, gave the White Sox fans hope that a shortstop had been found for years to come. Anderson fanned 117 times against 13 walks, but he hit .283 with 37 extra-base hits in total and played solid defense.

Must C: White Sox triple play

Bonus: Triple their pleasure
The White Sox turned three triple plays, or make that four if a Cactus League tri-killing is added. One of them came on April 22 at home against the Rangers, of the 9-3-2-6-2-5.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.