By White Sox Joe –
The Padres’ top prospect went 4-for-4 with 5 RBIs in Sunday’s Spring Training game against the White Sox. Should we give a shit?
If you have been on Twitter for a while, I’m sure you are familiar with the angry portion of fans. Every fan base has one. These are the fans who call for massive changes, lash out at underperforming players, or just generally overreact. If one tries hard enough, there is usually something to be angry about. But, there is no bigger signature of the angry portion of our fan base than the person who rampages every time Fernando Tatis Jr. does something good. I’m fine with most takes from the angry portion of our fan base because they often provide entertainment. However, Tatis Jr.-related rage is ridiculous, and if you frequently express anger about Tatis Jr. or the trade that sent him along with Erik Johnson to San Diego for James Shields, shut the hell up.
In June 2016, the White Sox had one of the weakest farm systems in baseball. Most organizational rankings had them right around #25. Tatis Jr. was not on MLB Pipeline’s top 30 White Sox prospects, meaning he was not even considered to be an important part of a thin farm system. We cannot fault the front office for not having a crystal ball. If his breakout was predictable at all, he would have been all over prospect rankings at the time of the trade. Does anyone remember Erik Johnson? He was considered to be a bigger asset that went to the Padres than Tatis Jr. In addition, the Sox were in “win now” mode when they made that trade. Sure, Shields was no ace, but he appeared to make the back end of the extremely top-heavy rotation stronger. If winning now was the goal, which it was, this trade made sense; it just didn’t work out. As for Tatis Jr. becoming a top 10 prospect and Shields shitting the bed, sometimes, teams just get unlucky, and there is nothing that can be done about that. Don’t put this on the front office.
Let’s explore the alternate universe where everything is the same except the Shields trade never happened. Erik Johnson never pans out, Tatis Jr. blossoms into a top prospect, and poor San Diego holds onto Shields and his awful production, eating the remainder of his 4-year, $75 million contract (I just barfed in my mouth thinking about how 34-year old James Shields got that offer). In 2016, the White Sox, instead of finishing 78-84 and missing the playoffs, finish 82-80 and miss the playoffs. This 4-game difference is just large enough to cause Kenny Williams to insist that the Sox are close enough to contention to scrape together a playoff team via free agency and trading the few notable prospects they have for scrappy veterans. Williams convinces Reinsdorf that his plan will work, and the rebuild does not happen. As of March 2018, Tatis Jr. and Alec Hansen are the White Sox’ only top 100 prospects. Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, and Dylan Cease never entered the organization. The White Sox remain in purgatory, where they are rarely awful but never good enough to make the playoffs. Sure, Tatis Jr. remains in the system, but he is not enough to push the mediocre White Sox into the playoffs. Depth is key for a farm system, and the White Sox would have had almost none.
Let’s be thankful for what we have. I am optimistic about the depth in the minors and cannot wait for the Sox to be playoff contenders again. It has been too long. During the Chris Sale trade, the first major move of the rebuild, I was studying abroad in Japan, and I was asleep due to the time zone difference. When I woke up and saw the news, I could hardly contain my excitement. I had been praying that they would rebuild, and I got exactly what I wanted. I look forward to seeing our prospects develop and take over the majors. However, this whole process is going to be much less pleasant if every time Tatis Jr. lifts a finger, the angry portion of our fan base flips a shit.