So, we are currently running the SB Nation Offseason Simulation, which you can read about and follow over at Royals Review. I am personally operating as the White Sox faux GM and have gone all in to try to make a World Series run in 2022. I also added two young, controllable arms in Touki Toussaint and Angel Zerpa from the Royals (love both of those guys). So, in the process of going for it, I’ve found that the White Sox also have the resources to open their window a bit longer than 2022 as well. Anyway, the point of all of this is to say that the SB Nation Offseason Sim. has me wondering this: what are the current windows like in the AL Central and how do they compare to the Royals theoretical, upcoming window?
We’ll start with the White Sox since that’s who I am operating for in the simulation. When the Royals get Bobby Witt Jr., MJ Melendez, Nick Pratto and company to the big leagues this year, it will open a roughly ~6-year window in which the Royals will have their offensive core in the big leagues. In that time, it will most likely be expected that the Royals make at least a couple of playoff runs, similarly to what we saw in 2014 and 2015. Hopefully this time we’ll be able to squeak out an extra playoff run or two, but the bare minimum ought to be at least a couple of playoff runs. My question is, which AL Central teams will pose the biggest threat to the Royals as the embark on this journey?
Here is a quick look at the core of the White Sox roster heading into 2022, their age on Opening Day, and the year in which that player becomes a free agent:
- Jose Abreu, 35, 2022
- Cesar Hernandez, 31, 2022
- Yasmani Grandal, 33, 2023
- Dallas Keuchel, 34, 2023
- Adam Engel, 30, 2023
- Lucas Giolito, 27, 2023
- Lance Lynn, 34, 2024
- Liam Hendriks, 33, 2024
- Tim Anderson, 28, 2024
- Michael Kopech, 25, 2025
- Yoan Moncada, 26, 2025
- Dylan Cease, 26, 2025
- Eloy Jimenez, 25, 2026
- Aaron Bummer, 28, 2026
- Andrew Vaughn, 24, 2026
- Garrett Crochet, 22, 2026
- Luis Robert, 24, 2027 (this is contract is almost as team friendly as that 5/$7M Salvy signed a while back)
- Gavin Sheets, 26, 2027
- Jake Burger, 25, 2027
Here’s a list of their top prospects that are getting pretty close to the big leagues and could be contributors both in 2022 and the long-term (note, the White Sox currently have no top 100 prospects):
- Zack Collins
- Micker Adolfo
- Yoelqui Cespedes
- Jimmy Lambert
- Jonathan Stiever
That is uhh…that is a bit of a problem. The one thing that the White Sox don’t exactly have going for them right now is an established group of young starting pitchers. Dylan Cease had a fantastic 2021 and appears to be the real deal. Micahel Kopech spent most of the year in the bullpen. Garrett Crochet has spent his entire big league career in the bullpen. Keuchel, Lynn, and Giolito make up most of the rotation and they are either old, expensive, or going to be a free agent by the time the Royals window opens. The White Sox do have Jared Kelley, a prep arm they drafted in 2020 that’s one of their top prospects, but it could be a bit before he establishes himself in the big leagues.
A bigger problem for the Royals is how long the White Sox have their offensive core together for. It’s hard to beat a lineup that consists of Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, and Andrew Vaughn long-term. That is quite the threesome to have for the foreseeable future. Not that the Royals can’t overcome that, obviously, it’s just lethal in its own right.
So, the White Sox window is obviously open for the next few years, but when does the window start to tighten up a bit, and how does that correlate with the Royals window?
I’ll write up an entire article similar to this one for the Royals after I conclude the rest of the ALC, but I think we can make some generalizations based on some obvious pieces of information. Witt Jr., Melendez, and Pratto will be up in 2022. We know the Royals will have about ~6 years with the trio. So, sometime between 2022 and…2028?…the Royals “window” needs to be wide open. As we sit here and look at the White Sox core of players, we can make a few conclusions:
- The 2026 season will be one of the last seasons that the White Sox have the entirety of their offensive core together. After 2026, that team could look VERY different and the Royals should still have their core together for another season or two.
- The White Sox have way more money to spend than Kansas City. Chicago’s luxury tax payroll in 2021 currently sits a little north of $180M, a number the Royals may never meet. Like, ever. This allows Chicago the luxury of fixing holes in their lineup in ways that the Royals can’t.
- A good chunk of the White Sox roster is gone after 2024, when the Royals young core should be establishing themselves as contenders in the AL Central. That could be the best time for the Royals to really attack free agency and push their chips in to the middle, before the 2025 season.
So, there ya go. A brief little look at the Chicago White Sox and how their future could coincide with the Royals’ future. We’ll probably look at the Tigers next, and then like I said, we’ll do the Royals after I conclude the rest of the AL Central. Let me know what you think and if there’s anything we could add to these before we get to the Royals.