Another dreaded Cubs rebuild comparison. Sorry.
I know 86% of White Sox fans hate frequently revisiting it, but it’s helpful as a barometer. The 2016 Cubs won the World Series approximately five years after they hired Theo Epstein to ignite a nuclear bomb on the organization’s infrastructure and rebuild it all from scratch. While there was no momentous firing or hiring in the White Sox hierarchy, the starting from scratch aspect of the Sox rebuild is very similar.
So rather than rehash parallels I’ve dwelled on in the past, let’s visit a more recent development. You may think this is hyperbole, but what else do we have right now as Sox fans? Lucas Giolito is struggling, Yoan Moncada is struggling, Michael Kopech is struggling in Triple A. I need to find something positive, even if it might be a stretch or premature.
What if Dylan Covey is the White Sox version of the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta?
Arrieta wasn’t a high profile draft pick or young trade acquisition like Kris Bryant or Addison Russell. The Cubs traded a 30 year old pitcher they signed as a free agent with the intent of flipping in a deal for a younger player (Scott Feldman) and a back up catcher (Steve Clevenger) to Baltimore for reliever Pedro Strop and Arrieta. Arrieta’s major league stats at the time the Cubs picked him up were ugly: 1-2, 7.23 ERA with 17 walks in 23.2 innings. He was an expired prospect, a former 5th round draft pick out of Texas Christian University in 2007.
I won’t revisit what happened next because even the casual baseball fan knows the deal. In 2015 and 2016 combined, Arrieta went 40-14 with a 2.44 ERA in 426.1 innings. Had the Cubs not acquired him, they don’t get to the NLCS against the Mets in 2015, and they don’t win the World Series against the Cleveland Indians in 2016.
The Sox definitely saw something they liked in Covey at some point. They picked him in the Rule 5 draft from the Oakland A’s the winter prior to the 2017 season. A prerequisite of the Rule 5 draft is the player must be on the major league roster of the team acquiring him for the entirety of the season, otherwise he is to be offered back to his original team. So, the Sox could hang on to a pitcher who wasn’t MLB ready because they had no illusions of competing in 2017. Covey struggled mightily on the big league club to the tune of an 0-7 record with a 7.71 ERA. Needless to say, after fulfilling the 2017 requirements of the Rule 5 draft, the Sox sent Covey to the minor leagues to start the 2018 season.
Flash forward to present day, the former 2010 1st round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers (one pick after Chris Sale; he did not sign) and 4th round draft pick of the A’s in 2013, Covey is 3-1 with a 2.29 ERA and a 33 to 11 strikeout to walk ratio in 35.1 innings. He is currently outpitching everyone in the Sox rotation, including the former #3 and #38 ranked prospects in all of baseball in Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, respectively.
Every rebuilding team needs to hit on their top prospects. So yes, the Sox need major league success from at least six or seven guys on a list that includes Kopech, Moncada, Lopez, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Zack Collins, Dane Dunning, Dylan Cease, Alec Hansen, and Blake Rutherford. But they also need to hit on under the radar guys too, like Jace Fry, Kevan Smith, Daniel Palka (a left handed Carlos Quentin?!), Aaron Bummer, and Covey.
Ya, I know. I said it was premature. So what. We need a sleeper to root for, both to keep us sane this year and to give us something to dream on moving forward. Covey may be that guy.
Covey vs. Sale, Game 7 of the 2021 ALCS. He already beat Sale once this year. Let an old guy have his dream.
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