Column: White Sox opt for retreads over rebuild, while the Cubs are giving prospects an early shot

Baseball took a back seat to the NFL during draft week as new Bears quarterback Caleb Williams took over the city.

But the game marched on and some interesting developments occurred while the rest of the world focused on football’s future stars and busts. Here are three takeaways from this week in baseball.

1. Tale of two teams

Pete Crow-Armstrong and Tommy Pham have nothing in common besides being major-league outfielders who play on different sides of town.

But Crow-Armstrong, 22, and Pham, 36, are perfect representatives for their respective teams as the Cubs and White Sox navigate their way through the first month of the 162-game schedule.

Crow-Armstrong was called up from Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday to replace injured star Cody Bellinger, while Pham was recalled to the White Sox on Friday to inject some life into an offense collectively hitting under .200, also known as the Mendoza line.

Something’s wrong with this picture, and it’s not too difficult to figure out what it is.

The Cubs, off to a 17-9 start and expected to be contenders all season, have given opportunities in April to prospects Crow-Armstrong, Ben Brown, Matt Mervis, Luke Little, Hayden Wesneski, Alexander Canario and others.

The Sox, off to a 4-22 start and trying to avoid becoming the worst team in modern major-league history, have given opportunities to the likes of Pham and 34-year-old outfielder Robbie Grossman. On Friday, they designated outfielder Kevin Pillar, 35, for assignment.

It’s not so much a rebuild as a wayward home for journeymen. At least Pham was honest about his reasons for signing, explaining Friday it was all about “economics” and that the Sox’s offer was better than the San Diego Padres’ when factoring in California’s taxes.

Sox manager Pedro Grifol insisted Pham has “an obsessiveness to win,” which would suggest the South Side would be the last place he would want to come. Next up is 33-year-old Mike Clevinger, who will soon return to the Sox rotation after declining his option in November and being left unwanted on the free-agent market all winter. Clevinger has yet to address the media, so we’ll have to wait to hear his reasons for returning.

Either way, instead of seeing what they have in their farm system, the Sox officially have punted on the rest of the season. Nick Nastrini was sent back to Charlotte after one bad start. There’s no room for him to figure things out and no margin for error.

Retreads over rebuild.

The Sox began Saturday on pace to lose 137 games, which would eclipse the modern-day record of 120 losses by the 1962 New York Mets. The all-time record is 134 losses by the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who won 20 games. The Sox should at least exceed that win total.

The empty seats at Sox Park all summer should be seen as a message to Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who has remained out of sight and out of touch. Whether he’ll pay attention is another question.

The Cubs already know what they have in their system and feel comfortable letting prospects get their feet wet while still trying to win games without key injured players, including ace Justin Steele, outfielders Seiya Suzuki and Bellinger and relievers Julian Merryweather and Drew Smyly.

“Something (manager Craig Counsell) said in the offseason made a lot of sense — the health of the organization is in a strong place,” second baseman Nico Hoerner said. “I think that’s truly tested when a lot of things go wrong as far as injuries or challenging parts of the year.

“It speaks to our depth, it speaks to the quality of what we’re doing at the higher levels of the minor leagues, to get contributions right away from guys like Wes, Keegan Thompson and Brown, guys that have impacted us in a huge way. It’s been really cool to see them respond.”

It’s maddening for Sox fans to watch journeymen play for a team that’s already out of contention. It’s encouraging for Cubs fans to watch kids such as Crow-Armstrong, Brown, Little & Co. experience big moments, even if some are basically placeholders for injured veterans.

It’s a Bizarro baseball world in Chicago and we’re just living in it.

2. Hall of Fame conundrum

Justin Verlander’s continued excellence with the Houston Astros at age 41 prompted a question Thursday in the Wrigley Field press box.

Other than Verlander, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, are there any current starters bound for the Baseball Hall of Fame?

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The unanimous answer was “no,” unless you count the unicorn, Shohei Ohtani.

Chris Sale and Jacob deGrom could have had a chance before being derailed by numerous injuries. Reigning American League Cy Young award winner Gerrit Cole has 145 wins and a 3.17 ERA in 11 seasons, but he’s 33 and currently is rehabbing from nerve inflammation in his right elbow. He would need to stay healthy and dominant for the next five or six years to be considered a probable Hall of Famer.

Heading into Saturday, only seven pitchers had six starts and averaged six or more innings per start, led by Aaron Nola’s 39 1/3 innings with the Philadelphia Phillies.

“Five and dive” was once a term meant to distinguish mediocre starters from the frontline guys. Now if a starter averages five innings, he’s looking for a nine-figure contract.

Without real aces on the mound, baseball is losing its way. Sad but true.

3. Risky business

Milwaukee Brewers left-hander Wade Miley, one of the more likable players, is a cautionary tale for teams gambling on paying veteran starters with an injury-filled track record.

Miley, 38, revealed Friday that he would need season-ending Tommy John surgery after pitching seven innings over two starts.

The Cubs claimed Miley off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds after the 2021 season. Then 35, he missed spring training with elbow inflammation, made three starts in May and one in June before a shoulder strain put him out until September, when the Cubs were out of contention. He earned $10 million with the Cubs in 2022, mostly while rehabbing. He pitched 37 innings over nine appearances, including eight starts.

After the Cubs declined his option and paid the $1 million buyout, Miley returned to Milwaukee, where he rebounded, going 9-4 with a 3.14 ERA in 23 starts. He declined his $10 million option in November, but a month later re-signed with a guaranteed one-year, $8.5 million deal with a $12 million option in 2025.

“My son said I had to play for the Brewers or retire,” Miley told “So that was it.”

If he retires, Miley will have made $60.7 million in his career, according to Tough job but a decent way to make a living.