This offseason, Sox to let top prospects develop

Club unlikely to be overly active in free-agent market

This offseason, Sox to let top prospects develop

CHICAGO -- The White Sox quickly became one of the major focal points during the 2016 Winter Meetings by trading Chris Sale, one of the game's top starters, to Boston, and Adam Eaton, one of the game's best leadoff hitters, to the Nationals.

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Through that process, general manager Rick Hahn brought back second baseman Yoan Moncada and right-handers Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning. They stood at the forefront of their burgeoning rebuild, almost instantly boosting a somewhat dormant farm system into baseball's upper echelon.

Don't look for this upcoming White Sox offseason to be quite as noteworthy or have as much fanfare, whether it's through free agency or trades. The White Sox are allowing the players from this top-rated system to develop and work toward the goal of winning multiple World Series championships.

Giolito's stellar performance

Free agents: RHP Mike Pelfrey, C Geovany Soto.

Arbitration-eligible: 1B Jose Abreu, RF Avisail Garcia, LHP Carlos Rodon, INF Yolmer Sanchez, RHP Jake Petricka, RHP Zach Putnam, RHP Al Alburquerque, RHP Danny Farquhar, OF/INF Leury Garcia.

Biggest potential FA loss
Pelfrey and Soto stand as the only White Sox free agents, and neither seem to factor into the club's long-term picture. But they both were major clubhouse influences on the younger players in 2017.

Potential FA targets
Hahn has talked about the team being more than willing to spend in potentially completing the rebuild when the time is right. It's unlikely that this offseason is the right time, but it doesn't mean the White Sox won't explore all options.

The bullpen was taken apart by trades and injuries during the season's second half, so the South Siders will be looking for relief. They also need to fill out the rotation and take some innings pressure off young hurlers like Giolito and Lopez, who are moving into their first full big league seasons. Adam Engel is a talented glove-first center fielder, so the White Sox also might shop for a veteran left-handed hitter who can share that spot.

Engel's nice running catch

It's difficult to pinpoint exact players on their list, with the White Sox organizational meetings taking place next week. But the targets figure to be a veteran or two who can be signed and potentially eventually flipped or a player who fits long term into this rebuild.

Wild card scenario
There's little chance the White Sox shift even slightly from their rebuild plan and go after short-term fits who could help them contend in 2018. But the White Sox have two key pieces in Abreu and Garcia, top-notch players in and out of the clubhouse, whom they have control over for two more seasons.

If Hahn decides to trade one or both, then those vacancies might open up the pursuit for short-term fits on the open market. The White Sox have not pushed any of their prospects to the Majors before they were ready, and trading Abreu and/or Garcia won't change that mindset.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for 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.