CHICAGO — The White Sox still might make a few key additions before the season, so it's difficult to predict what to expect in 2019, other than the much-anticipated debut of top prospect Eloy Jimenez.
But as spring training beckons at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., here are nine questions to get things started:
1. Where's Manny?
Last we heard from Dan Lozano, Manny Machado's agent was ripping a couple of national reporters after an anonymous source revealed the Sox had offered Machado $175 million over seven years. That was about $100 million or so less than what the Machado camp expected, but it's the only offer that has been reported.
Since then, radio silence. The Sox seemingly are a finalist for Machado at the very least, but whether he'll show up at the Ranch one day without warning, a la Dexter Fowler during Cubs spring training in 2016, remains to be seen.
2. If Machado isn't signed, where do the Sox stand in the AL Central?
Probably in third place, a few games under .500. The offseason additions to date -- Ivan Nova, Yonder Alonso, Jon Jay, Kelvin Herrera, Alex Colome and Brandon Guyer -- and the maturation of Yoan Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito should ensure the Sox are not a 100-loss team again.
"If the guys carrying the water are veterans in their free-agent year and they're the ones putting up big numbers and helping us win ballgames, it'd make for an enjoyable summer," general manager Rick Hahn said. "But it means a little bit less toward our long-term health than if it's the young guys taking a step forward and putting themselves in a position to be part of that core of rebuilding."
That said, the AL Central is the worst division in baseball, so how good the Sox can be might depend on whether they can beat up on their division rivals.
3. Can Jimenez stay healthy?
One reason the Cubs were willing to trade one of their top prospects to the Sox was the possibility Jimenez would be injury-prone like former prospect Jorge Soler. Jimenez battled a pectoral injury in spring training last year and suffered a strained left adductor (thigh muscle) in July with Triple-A Charlotte.
"I've been working in the gym to get stronger," Jimenez said at SoxFest. "That's one of my goals this year -- getting healthy and playing the full season."
So why have the injuries piled up? "It just happened," he said. "I've been working hard and I can't control that."
4. Who's the fifth starter?
Dylan Covey and Manny Banuelos will compete this spring for the final spot behind Carlos Rodon, Nova, Lopez and Giolito. Banuelos, a 5-foot-10 left-hander, was once a top prospect whom the Sox acquired in November from the Dodgers after he went 8-5 with a 3.55 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 18 starts at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Top pitching prospect Dylan Cease figures to force his way onto the roster at some point. Once he's up, Cease will stick.
5. Can Moncada reduce his strikeouts?
The switch-hitting Moncada finished with a major-league-worst 217 strikeouts, hitting only two home runs with 57 strikeouts against left-handers. Manager Rick Renteria said the way Moncada was gripping the bat "limited a little bit of coverage on the outer half of the plate," and he lauded the youngster for coming to Glendale after the season to work on his hitting.
"This desire to come down to Arizona as soon as the season was over showed us he understood the things he needs to correct," Renteria said. "This young man has a chance to be an impactful major-league baseball player, who we see as a 23-year-old who doesn't know yet who he is."
One thing we know he's not is a leadoff hitter, at least not yet. Jay's arrival should allow Moncada to figure things out lower in the lineup.
6. Could the Sox adopt the "opener" strategy?
The Rays popularized the strategy of using relievers to open games before inserting the starter, and Hahn said it's something the Sox discussed even before last season.
"Obviously we've seen the success teams have had with it," he said. "You need to have depth. You need to have players with options you can sort of rotate in and out so you always have that fresh arm available."
It doesn't really sound like Renteria's style, but Hahn called it "an arrow in his quiver, something he can do in the right situation." Stay tuned.
7. Can Michael Kopech return by September?
Michael Kopech has begun throwing again after reconstructive elbow surgery in September, but there's no chance the Sox would risk bringing back their prized prospect in 2019, no matter how strong he looks during his rehab.
8. Can Yolmer Sanchez top his self-soaking celebration?
A video of Yolmer Sanchez dumping a Gatorade cooler on his own head after Trayce Thompson's walk-off homer in May quickly went viral, and Sanchez continued the stunt through the season.
Does he ever get tired of hearing about it?
"Not really," Sanchez said. "I enjoy it and the fans like it, so I'm going to keep doing it until I find something better."
As long as Yolmer's around, things will never get dull.
9. Will the Sox acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the Black Sox scandal?
Hahn laughed and said he had no idea when a fan asked if they'll have a "Shoeless" Joe Jackson bobblehead promotion. But Hahn then got serious and added: "There's really not an element of the club's history that we shy away from."
If that's the case, a Black Sox Night would be a cool promotion -- not to mention a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Disco Demolition Night, which occurred on July 12, 1979.