Rebuilding White Sox Trying To Follow Astros' Model

Astros manager A.J. Hinch is impressed with the White Sox's young talent.

Bruce Levine
August 13, 2019 - 4:31 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- As the White Sox welcomed in the Astros for the start of a three-game series that opened with a doubleheader Tuesday afternoon, they could get a close look at a successful model for a rebuild on the other side of the diamond.

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The Astros won the 2017 World Series, capping a teardown-and-rebuild process that started in 2011. Houston suffered through four consecutive losing seasons, the first three of which featured 106, 107 and 111 losses.

The Astros initially built around young stars in second baseman Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa and outfielder George Springer and added the right veterans along the way. They first achieve success in 2015, when they won 86 games and advanced to the American League Division Series in manager A.J. Hinch's first season leading the way.

"When A.J. Hinch got here, he really allowed created change and allowed individuals to be themselves," Springer said. "He encouraged guys to be themselves and not change for anybody. He instilled the idea to play hard but more importantly play hard for each other. He reminded us to enjoy ourselves while working hard. This game is fragile. You never know how long you are going to play it for."

Hinch acknowledged the good fortune he had in taking over at a time when young talent was blossoming in the Astros' system and advancing to the big league level. Hinch sees some similarities for White Sox manager Rick Renteria, who's overseeing a rebuild headlines by shortstop Tim Anderson, third baseman Yoan Moncada and outfielder Eloy Jimenez. 

"I had a fresh start with everyone," Hinch said. "I think Ricky kind of has that going on with the White Sox as well. When I came here, it was a new start for everyone -- the players, for me. We just establish some things and how they would be with me as the manager. When I came here in 2015, the prospects were starting to show up at this level. We were able to talk more about winning. The process becomes what was happening on the field, not a theoretical rebuild."

Astros players had the chance to play and learn at the MLB level during the early part of the rebuild, which is what the White Sox are going through now as well. Chicago entered play Tuesday sitting at 52-64, on track for its seventh straight losing season and third straight non-competitive one since the rebuild began.

"Although we get talked a lot about being an analytically driven franchise, we are still most importantly in the people business," Hinch said. "My job and the organization's are the people with the information, we make sure the culture is one where people wan to come and work together. It hopefully one where people want to learn and get better."

The White Sox look at the Astros as a model of success they'd like to emulate.

"They are certainly one of the best examples of a franchise that has done it well," Renteria said. "The Cubs and Cleveland are good examples of it as well. I hope we are one of those organizations that end up doing the same thing. We still have some youngsters in the minor league system we will be plugging in here in the near future. All clubs know that they need more pitching. In the last few years, they have gone out and gotten some arms that give them depth and some length in games."

Renteria's last point is important. The Astros traded for aces in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in recent seasons. Verlander helped lead them to the championship in 2017, and Cole has been at All-Star each of these past two seasons after being acquired by Houston from Pittsburgh in January 2018.

The White Sox have some talented young pitchers but will need to add their own version of Verlander or Cole. Coincidentally, Cole will become a free at season's end and be the premier pitcher on the open market.

Hinch sees a positive outlook for the White Sox.

"For the White Sox, the development you see in the big leagues is going to shift to a mentality of winning," Hinch said. "We play them only six times a year. But with Ricky and watching his players how they have grown and matured players, you are seeing this leading to something interesting. Eventually, the emphasis will be on winning. As they continue to grow together, I believe you will see the win total get pretty big."

Springer echoed those thoughts.

"They have a lot of young players, but they are really, really talented young players," Springer said. "They must understand that there will be ups and downs for sure. They must play for each other. They will learn to play for the name on their chest, not the name on their back. Guys like Jose Altuve preached that from the start when I got here. He said you are a part of the Houston Astros, not the name Springer. Once you get into a common goal rather than individual statistics, you see different results and happier teammates."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.