Cubs, not White Sox, closer to contention

By Steve Shonder

The Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox ended slightly less pathetic seasons than usual, which means there’s hope for next year.

Both teams are undergoing renovations and happen to have keys in place for the long ride. Pitching is going to be the path to salvation on the north and south sides. How they find it will be through different ways.


The Cubs are closer to the playoffs than the White Sox. Yes, the teams finished the season with identical records, but despite lacking a Chris Sale, the Cubs’ pitching is in a much better place, and the Cubs can boast a plethora of solid young hitters.

Jake Arrieta is looking more and more like the ace or No. 2 guy. Arrieta increased the velocity and use of his slider and dramatically increased his ground ball rate and decreased his fly ball rate. Batters hit the ball on the ground 49.2 percent of the time, an increase from 2013’s ground ball rate of 40.4 percent.

Beyond Arrieta, the Cubs can boast young pitchers like Kyle Hendricks and old pitchers like Tsuyoshi Wada, neither of whom are going to be great pitchers but could be good. The answer for the Cubs’ pitching future will be found on the free agent market.

At the top of the list for the Cubs has to be Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields. They need a veteran ace to put them over the top to at least be competitive in the division. The hitting will be there, but the pitching needs to be, also.

The Cubs’ front office has to get the team in a position to compete next year. There won’t be any rational reason to keep Kris Bryant in AAA; Jorge Soler looks like he’s going to hit 30 to 40 home runs; Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro will lead the team. The hitting is there and pitching can be bought. It’s time for a spending spree.

White Sox

The White Sox, on the other hand, aren’t quite as close. They have Sale, Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton. There’s some reinforcements coming from the minors, but Carlos Rodon is not going to single-handedly save this team.

Jose Quintana shored up the rotation behind Sale. The Sox have a solid one-two punch on their pitching staff, but that doesn’t matter when everything else is a crapshoot. John Danks and Hector Noesi aren’t going to be on anyone’s wish list for a playoff roster.

The Sox will need Rodon to develop as quickly as Sale did, which is unlikely because Sale was an anomaly. The front office won’t get to open up Jerry Reinsdorf’s wallet. They’re going to need to develop their young arms on the farm because the high-priced free agents aren’t coming, even with a dramatically slashed payroll.