Let me get on a soapbox for a moment about "rivalry games."
Maybe in 1997, when interleague play began, they were, but now, almost 20 years later? Just like any other series, in my view. Kind of old hat, actually, and some of these "rivalries" for teams not in the same city or region (Mariners/Padres and Diamondbacks/Astros, for example) are kind of contrived.
If it were up to me? One series a year between the "rivalry" teams, alternated between parks, would be enough.
Instead, we get four games a year split between the two parks two out of every three years, and a pair of three-game series in the other year (as happened between the Cubs and Sox last year).
Anyway... now, on to the Sox, who the Cubs will face this afternoon at Sloan Park.
The Sox have both stood pat and made significant changes. Many expected them to sign an outfielder, as their outfield is just okay, not great. But Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia return.
Instead, the Sox revamped half of their infield by trading for Todd Frazier to play third base and Brett Lawrie to play second. We should thank Rick Hahn for liberating Frazier from the Reds, because it means the Cubs have to face him only four times instead of 19 (he's hit 11 career HR in 66 games against the Cubs). Lawrie has played mostly third base in the big leagues, but was originally drafted as a second baseman. His problem has been staying healthy. Last year was his first big-league season playing more than 125 games. He's a year younger than Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward, was a top-100 prospect three straight years (2009-10-11) and still could put together a good career.
Just how Jimmy Rollins fits into the Sox infield mix is unclear. He's in camp on a minor-league deal. Manager Robin Ventura recently said Rollins will make the 25-man roster.
The Sox also revamped their catching, dumping both Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto and replacing them with former Tigers backstop Alex Avila and ex-Cub Dioner Navarro. Those two guys could hit pretty well at the Cell, but catching defense... could be another story.
The Sox' rotation remains pretty much as it was last year, except they hope Carlos Rodon, now with experience, will step up and be the guy they drafted one spot ahead of Kyle Schwarber. Mat Latos has been added, and who knows? He's been good, but was dumped by three different teams last year, not the best recommendation. The Sox need production out of rookie Erik Johnson, who starts Saturday against the Cubs.
David Robertson had seven blown saves last year. He'll have to do better for the Sox to be competitive. Otherwise their bullpen returns pretty much intact. Nate Jones could be of some help as a setup man after missing much of 2014 and 2015 with Tommy John surgery.
If it all works, the Sox could be good. As an outside observer, it seems that it never really "all works" for them.
The Sox will also have a new TV announcer, Jason Benetti, who will do most of the home games with Steve Stone while Hawk Harrelson does primarily road games. Benetti comes to Chicago highly praised for his work on ESPN and Fox Sports.
The Sox and Cubs will play what amounts to a four-game series in July, all night games: July 25-26 at the Cell, July 27-28 at Wrigley Field.