Now that the MLB has reached the midsummer classic portion of its schedule, it gives me time to reflect. This period of deep thought has taken me back to a time when the Chicago White Sox and Atlanta Braves had the two best farm systems in MLB.
Both franchises realized in the mid-2010s that it was time to trade talented players on their rosters for prospects. They acquired some of the most coveted young talent in the world. The type of talent that can turn a franchise into the Houston Astros. It has worked out for the Braves who won the World Series in 2021, 101 games in 2022, and currently have a .674 winning percentage.
The White Sox have been eliminated twice in the first round of the playoffs and are currently 16 games below .500. They have won better than 85 games once in the last 10 years — their 93-win 2021 season. A year when the Braves were hovering around .500 at the trade deadline with Ronald Acuña Jr. out with a torn ACL.
Their front office was active in the second half of July, acquiring Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, and Adam Duvall. Injuries hammered the White Sox all season but at the trade deadline, they were only three games out of first place in the American League. They acquired Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera, and César Hernández. Kimbrel was supposed to be the big move, but in the three games that he pitched against the Astros he got shellacked.
The offseason after the Braves championship, Freddie Freeman signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers but they got younger at first base by trading for then inking Matt Olson to a long-term deal. Also, Acuña returned from injury. The White Sox refused to extend a qualifying offer to all-star Carlos Rodón and brought in a 36-year-old Johnny Cueto for one year, $3 million.
They finished .500 in 2022 and would go on to lose Jose Abreu in free agency. With holes in the lineup and starting rotation, they signed Andrew Benintendi to a five-year, $75 million contract who has hit one home run this season. They also bought low on a starting pitcher in alleged abuser Mike Clevinger with a one-year $12 million deal. Clevinger denied allegations of domestic and child abuse through his attorney and the MLB decided not to punish him. He took the mound to Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” for his first start of the season. This while the Braves signed Sean Murphy who won a Gold Glove as a catcher in 2021 and currently has a .999 OPS.
Two teams with supposedly bright futures in 2017, yet one has already won a World Series, and the other has spent $50 million less in 2023 payroll and it shows. For all of the player movement that takes place in baseball, the most money that the White Sox have spent for outside talent is for Benintendi whose career-high OPS was his rookie season with the Boston Red Sox at .835.
Once again, a franchise owned by Jerry Reinsdorf does not capitalize on talent. As ugly as the endings were between the Chicago Bulls and Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau, Jimmy Butler was still on the roster through the 2016-17 season. Their solution to appeasing an unexpected, homegrown star was to make an uninspiring head coach hire in Fred Hoiberg, and eventually trade Butler.
Currently, the Bulls and White Sox are in similar positions. Both teams have talent but are ways away from championship contention. All of this while the Braves — who tanked at the same time as the White Sox — appear to be positioned to be World Series contenders for years to come.
The Braves bolstered their talent after tanking while the White Sox eventually shedded the salary of some high-performing prospects, while making no nine-figure moves to acquire veteran talent. Also, the White Sox currently have the fifth-worst farm system per MLB.com
Both teams had the right idea in the previous decade. They spent time both intentionally making their teams worse in the short run but better in the long. However, the Braves have a World Series and five consecutive NL East championships to show for it. The White Sox have one of the most disappointing teams in recent MLB history.
Congratulations Jerry Reinsdorf, regular creator of more losses than wins.