Monday, February 29, 2016

Ian Desmond signs with Texas Rangers, will move from shortstop to left field

Ian Desmond
The last remaining free agent who turned down a qualifying offer earlier this offseason finally has a job.

Former Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond agreed to a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers worth $8 million over the weekend.

Settling for this deal probably is not one of the finer moments of Desmond's career. He will be making only slightly more than half the salary he would have been making had he accepted Washington's $15.8 million qualifying offer. In addition, the Rangers already have a shortstop -- Elvis Andrus -- so that means Desmond will be moved to left field.

For Texas, it's a good deal -- other than the fact that they have to surrender a draft pick to the Nationals for just one year of Desmond. But, the Rangers have a hole in left field with Josh Hamilton (left knee injury) expected to be out until at least May. That means Desmond will have at least a month's worth of games to show he can handle the position.

It's not unreasonable to think Desmond is a candidate for a bounce-back offensive season. He's coming off a down year in Washington, one that saw him hit .233/.290/.384 with 19 home runs, 27 doubles and 62 RBIs.

However, from 2012-14, Desmond posted a combined slash line of .275/.326/.462 while averaging 23 home runs, 32 doubles and 81 RBIs. He won National League Silver Slugger awards at shortstop in each of those three seasons.

If he approaches those numbers in 2016, this is a nice bargain for the Rangers.

Meanwhile, Desmond will try to rebuild his value after he "bet on himself," passing up the seven-year, $107 million offer the Nationals made to him two years ago.

As fans, we never feel sorry for millionaire ballplayers, nor should we, but Desmond should probably fire the agent who told him to pass on that deal -- if he hasn't already.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Thursday, February 25, 2016

White Sox vice chairman Eddie Einhorn dies

White Sox vice chairman Eddie Einhorn died Tuesday night in New Jersey from complications following a stroke, according to a team news release. He was 80.

Einhorn has served as the team's vice chairman for the past 25 years. Before that, he was the team's president and chief operating officer from 1981-90.

Einhorn was the founder and chairman of TVS Television Network, a leader of sports programming in the 1970s. He is credited with helping the growth of college basketball on television and was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011 for his role in catapulting the sport into national prominence.

"Eddie was a creative whirlwind whose ideas -- many of them far ahead of their time -- changed the landscape of sports, and sports on television, forever," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in the release. "He was a man of many interests, projects, ideas and opinions, and we all will miss him dearly. It is exceedingly rare in this day and age to have enjoyed a friendship and a working partnership that lasted our lifetimes. We celebrated many great moments together."

The White Sox will honor Einhorn by wearing a sleeve patch during the regular season.

OK, so Dexter Fowler is actually rejoining the Cubs

What the hell is going on with Baltimore?

Yesterday, it looked like Dexter Fowler was the new Orioles right fielder. Today, he has signed a one-year deal to remain with the Cubs.

Fowler’s deal with the Cubs will guarantee him $13 million and could be worth a total of $17 million if both sides pick up a mutual option for 2017, according to an ESPN report. Fowler will make $8 million this season and has a $5 million buyout if he does not receive the $9 million second-year option.

Earlier reports said Fowler had agreed to a three-year, $33 million contract with Baltimore, but reports indicate talks broke down when the Orioles did not grant Fowler's request for an opt-out clause.

Um, OK.

Meanwhile, the Orioles also restructured an agreement with pitcher Yovani Gallardo. The two sides initially agreed to a three-year, $35 million deal, but concerns about the pitcher's shoulder arose during a medical examination.

Gallardo still is signing with the Orioles, but he's going there on a two-year deal worth $22 million that includes an option for a third year, according to an ESPN report.

Hopefully that sets the record straight. I don't think I'm going to write anything more about the Orioles this week. Wait five minutes and the story could change again.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Orioles put Gallardo deal on hold, agree on terms with Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler
Remember what we said about the Baltimore Orioles signing pitcher Yovani Gallardo? Never mind, at least for now. That deal is on hold after questions about the veteran right-hander's health emerged during a team physical.

This isn't the first time Baltimore has uncovered issues with a free-agent pitcher during a medical examination. Remember Grant Balfour? The Orioles spiked a deal they had with him in 2013 over a problem they found during a physical. Balfour ended up signing with Tampa Bay, and never pitched well during his time with the Rays. He ended up being released before the completion of his two-year contract.

With the Gallardo deal possibly unraveling, the Orioles added to their offense on Tuesday, agreeing to terms on a three-year, $33 million contract with outfielder Dexter Fowler.

Fowler, 29, hit .250/.346/.411 with 17 home runs and 46 RBIs in 156 games with the Cubs last year. He figures to bat leadoff for Orioles, as he did in Chicago, but with Adam Jones anchoring center field in Baltimore, Fowler is destined for a move to a corner outfield spot.

Fowler's free agency didn't seem to generate a lot of interest because of a qualifying offer. The Cubs offered him the one-year, $15.8 million deal, which Fowler declined. As a result, the Orioles now owe the Cubs a draft pick.

Orioles surrender draft pick, sign Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
One significant signing from the weekend I neglected to mention: The Baltimore Orioles signed pitcher Yovani Gallardo to a three-year deal worth a reported $35 million.

Gallardo rejected a qualifying offer from his previous club -- the Texas Rangers -- so that means the Orioles had to surrender a draft pick to sign him.

No doubt, that's why Gallardo stayed on the market for this long. Despite a rising WHIP and a declining strikeout rate, Gallardo has made 30 or more starts for seven consecutive seasons. There's value in that. He won 13 games and posted a 3.42 ERA for the Rangers in 2015.

There's no question Baltimore needed to address its starting rotation, which finished next-to-last in ERA and third-to-last in innings pitched last season. The Orioles had one of the weakest starting staffs in the American League by any measure, and then they lost Wei-Yin Chen to the Miami Marlins in free agency.

The Orioles now add Gallardo to a projected rotation that includes Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman.

Is it enough? I say no, because Gallardo represents more of the same. He's a middle-of-the-rotation guy on a staff that's already fill of middle-of-the-rotation guys. Who can the Orioles trust to be the ace? They simply don't have one.

Baltimore has a good offense, and I'm sure that would be the reason for optimism for them and their fans. Problem is, they play in a division that is full of good offenses. The Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox are certainly going to score a lot of runs. The New York Yankees are likely going to score a lot of runs. Only the Tampa Bay Rays figure to struggle offensively among AL East teams.

The Orioles are going to have to score a lot to overcome their pitching issues, and it's going to be a tall order to outslug lineups such as those in Toronto and Boston.

As for impact on the White Sox, the Orioles surrendering their pick moves the South Siders up from No. 28 to No. 27 in the draft order, so there's that.

Monday, February 22, 2016

White Sox sign Jimmy Rollins to minor-league deal

Jimmy Rollins
We all thought the White Sox were content to go into the season with Tyler Saladino as their starting shortstop. That was last week.

The Sox moved Monday to create competition at shortstop, signing veteran Jimmy Rollins to a minor-league contract.

Rollins, 37, is coming off a poor season with the Los Angeles Dodgers that saw him post a .224/.285/.358 slash line with 13 home runs, 12 stolen bases and 41 RBIs in 144 games.

That said, Rollins was a 4.0 WAR player as recently as 2014, when he batted .243/.323/.394 with 17 home runs, 28 stolen bases and 55 RBIs for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Is Rollins a bounce-back candidate in 2016? Or are his poor 2015 statistics a sign that he is succumbing to old age? Nobody has a definitive answer to those questions, so the Sox have nothing to lose by giving Rollins a minor-league deal and taking a look at him this spring.

Rollins will reportedly earn $2 million if he makes the club.'s Ken Rosenthal is reporting Rollins rejected offers from two teams that offered him more guaranteed money and a super-utility job. The veteran switch-hitter apparently believes he's still an everyday shortstop, and he was willing to take a minor-league deal with the Sox for the chance to prove it.

"We envision Jimmy contributing both on and off the field," GM Rick Hahn said in a team statement. "He provides us with another quality infield option with the potential to play a variety of roles, as well as another significant positive presence inside our clubhouse."

In other words, get ready to read a deluge of stories about Rollins mentoring top shortstop prospect Tim Anderson.

Best-case scenario: Rollins makes the club and gives the Sox a decent year at a low cost while keeping the seat warm for Anderson. Worst-case scenario: He looks terrible in spring, gets cut and the team is none the worse for wear.

There's not a lot of upside here, but there's also not a lot of risk.

Friday, February 19, 2016

White Sox closer David Robertson says his 2015 performance was 'terrible'

David Robertson
White Sox closer David Robertson reported to spring training Friday and opened camp with some interesting remarks about his 2015 performance.

“Last season is gone,” Robertson told the Chicago Tribune's Colleen Kane. “I felt like last season I pitched terrible. I had a lot of horrible outings. I let some situations slide by and made some mental errors out there and threw some pitches that I should not have thrown and I cost us a lot of games.

“I look around and come in and see the starters’ faces when they have thrown eight innings and I blew it there in the ninth. I hope this year I’m on top of my game and get the job done for these guys.”

Robertson was 34 for 41 in save opportunities last year, finishing with a 3.41 ERA. He posted 86 strikeouts against 13 walks.

I would not characterize his performance last year as "terrible," especially since he had a career-best 6.62 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a career-best 0.932 WHIP. His 2.52 FIP was the third-best of his eight-year career.

Moreover, nine of the 27 runs Robertson gave up last season came in a "terrible" stretch of three outings between Sept. 14 and 19, when the Sox had long since been eliminated from pennant contention. Those were poor performances, but they weren't exactly crushing to the team's hopes.

One thing I will criticize Robertson for: He gave up too many home runs last year -- seven of them in 63.1 IP. That's a high rate for a closer and a high total for a pitcher with Robertson's swing-and-miss stuff. Every pitcher gives up home runs sometimes, but Robertson needs to find a way to give up fewer.

I do give Robertson full credit for looking at himself and saying "I need to be better" with the Sox coming off a disappointing 76-86 season. Every player can and should do that, but I think he's being a little too hard on himself with the "terrible" comment.

If I were trying to come up with an example of terrible relief pitching, I think I would cite Ronald Belisario's 2014 campaign with the Sox well before I'd point to anything Robertson has ever done.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Spring training lookahead: Five White Sox players to watch

Avisail Garcia
As pitchers and catchers report to spring training, let's take a look at five White Sox players who will be worth watching as the Cactus League schedule unfolds:

1. Avisail Garcia, RF -- The Sox considered replacing Garcia over the offseason. They were linked to two major outfield free agents in Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes before apparently deciding the price was too high. As it stands now, the 24-year-old Garcia is getting another kick at the can, and it's likely make-or-break time for him. He's trimmed down since last season, so expect to read stories about him "being in the best shape of his life." He also will try a new batting stance this spring after a recent three-day session with hitting coach Todd Steverson. Even with the acquisition of Todd Frazier to bat cleanup, the Sox need Garcia to become a run producer in the fifth or sixth spot in the lineup. If he's still the 6-foot-4, 240-pound punch-and-judy hitter we've seen in the past, the Sox will need to move on from him.

2. Tim Anderson, SS -- The team's No. 1 prospect is a long shot to make the roster. Barring an acquisition from outside the organization, good-glove, no-hit Tyler Saladino is likely to be the Sox's shortstop on Opening Day. However, he's likely just keeping the seat warm for Anderson, who figures to get extensive playing time this spring. Many fans have read the glowing reports on him, but those who watch spring training games will get to see him play more frequently for the first time. It will be interesting to see how close he is to ready. Anderson improved in all facets of his game last season, and there's not much question he's eventually going to get a shot with the big club. But will he live up to his star potential and become a core player, or will he be just another guy?

3. Adam LaRoche, 1B/DH -- Like it or not -- and chances are you don't like it -- the Sox are stuck with LaRoche, so they have to pray he rebounds from the worst full season of his career, which saw him hit .207 with only 12 home runs. LaRoche has 10 seasons of 20 or more home runs in his career. That's the player the Sox thought they were getting when they signed him before the start of the 2015 season, and they need him to be that guy -- there is no other left-handed power threat on the roster. But at age 36, last year's woes could be a sign that LaRoche is simply washed up. Everyone will feel much better going into the year if LaRoche has a productive spring and provides some hope that he still can be a presence in the middle of the lineup.

4. Mat Latos, SP -- We've already stated a couple times on this blog that Latos could be a bargain at $3 million this year for the Sox. He was one of the top 50 pitchers in the sport before he hurt his knee, and if he returns to that form, the Sox will have a legitimate, playoff-caliber starting rotation. Of course, that's a big 'if,' given that Latos has been hurt the past two years. When watching him this spring, don't worry so much about results. Check to see if his velocity is back. Pitchers tend to see their velocity dip when they have a lower-body injury. Despite his veteran status, Latos is only 28, so you would think time would be on his side in terms of injury recovery. It's not like he's in his mid-30s and at the end of his baseball life.

5. Carson Fulmer, SP -- General manager Rick Hahn has gone out of his way to put the brakes on high expectations for the Sox's 2015 first-round draft pick. Fulmer is not a candidate to make the team. He likely needs a full season in the minors, and he wasn't as advanced coming out of college as Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon were. When the season begins, Fulmer is likely going to be at Double-A Birmingham. That said, he is a high-end pitching prospect, and it will be exciting to see how he fares in his first big-league spring training.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mat Latos vs. Jeff Samardzija: a side-by-side comparison

The White Sox created competition at the back end of their starting rotation last week with the signing of veteran right-hander Mat Latos.

We already know Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon will be the top three starting pitchers on the roster. That leaves Latos, John Danks, Erik Johnson and Jacob Turner to compete for the last two spots.

Being a cynic, I'll go ahead and assume Danks' place in the rotation is safe. He's the longest-tenured player on the Sox. He is the highest paid player on the roster, and money talks when it comes to the decisions the Sox make.

That would mean the Sox would have four of the same five starting pitchers they had in the rotation last year, with Latos, Johnson and Turner competing for the spot vacated by Jeff Samardzija.

If Latos is healthy, I think he gets the job. For the sake of argument, let's assume that's the case.

Will Latos be an upgrade over Samardzija? Let's do a side-by-side comparison with last year's numbers:

Category Latos Samardzija
W-L record 4-10 11-13
ERA 4.95 4.96
FIP 3.72 4.23
WHIP 1.307 1.294
H/9 9.3 9.6
HR/9 1.0 1.2
BB/9 2.5 2.1
K/9 7.7 6.9
K/BB 3.13 3.33

Clearly, these numbers are not impressive for either pitcher, both of whom suffered through the worst seasons of their respective careers.

But a couple things to note: Latos has the excuse of not being healthy. He made only 21 starts all year. Samardzija made all 32 of his starts.

People have excused Samardzija's poor season on the grounds that he had poor defense behind him with the White Sox. I can't disagree with that point, but isn't it interesting that Samardzija's FIP (fielder independent pitcher) was worse than Latos's?

The numbers suggest that Samardzija was responsible for many of his own problems.

Now, let's compare career statistics:

Category Latos Samardzija
W-L record 64-55 47-61
ERA 3.51 4.09
FIP 3.44 3.84
WHIP 1.183 1.278
H/9 8.0 8.5
HR/9 0.8 1.0
BB/9 2.7 3.0
K/9 8.1 8.2
K/BB 3.04 2.76

Latos is the superior pitcher in every category but one: strikeouts per nine innings. And the difference there is minimal.

Which pitcher would you bet on as a bounce-back candidate in 2016? There's a strong case for Latos.

And, remember, Samardzija signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the San Francisco Giants. Latos comes to the Sox on a one-year deal worth $3 million.

I'd say the Giants are taking the far bigger gamble on Samardzija than the Sox are taking on Latos.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

White Sox release 2016 broadcast schedule

The White Sox have released their 2016 broadcast schedule, and here's a link.

Comcast SportsNet will air 107 games, including Opening Night on April 4 at Oakland (9:05 p.m.) and the home opener April 8 vs. Cleveland (3:10 p.m.)

WGN will air 35 games, and WPWR will broadcast 20 games.

I had assumed ESPN had forgotten about the existence of the Sox, but the "worldwide leader" plans to show the South Siders three times in 2016: April 6 at Oakland (9:05 p.m.), (surprise, surprise) May 4 vs. Boston (7:10 p.m.) and May 30 at the Mets (12:10 p.m.).

Only 48 days until Opening Night ...

Monday, February 15, 2016

USA Today projects White Sox as 90-win team

Spring training starts this week, so it's the time of year where various publications start to make preseason predictions.

I'm used to seeing the White Sox picked to finish in fourth or fifth place, so it gets your attention when somebody chooses the South Siders to place first in the AL Central.

USA Today Sports released its projected win totals Monday, and look who it has sitting atop the deepest division in baseball:

1. White Sox 90-72
2. Kansas City 84-78
3. Cleveland 83-79
4. Detroit 82-80
5. Minnesota 80-82

The publication has the White Sox, Boston and Houston as AL division champions with Toronto and Texas as the two wild-card teams. The projected NL division winners are the Cubs, San Francisco and Washington, with St. Louis as a wild card and Los Angeles and Pittsburgh tied for the second wild-card spot.

The USA Today writer referred to the AL Central as "hell" for both prognosticators and the five teams involved. All five teams are described as having a chance to win the division, and, well, any of these teams could also finish last. It's a balanced, tough division.

That's much different than the narrative we get here in Chicago, where Sox fans are told their team has no chance, and that we should go stand in the corner because we stink.

I personally believe Kansas City is a clear favorite in the division, but I think the other four teams are extremely close. It is going to be an exciting year in the AL Central, because there are no bad teams.

And, really, most everyone in the American League enters the season with some hope. The USA Today projections have Oakland with an AL-worst 66 wins, but every other team in the league is projected to win at least 77. There aren't going to be many easy series in the American League this year.

Contrast that with the National League, where 40 percent of the league (Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Colorado and San Diego) has quit on the season before it has even started.

USA Today projects Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Colorado to lose 100 games or more. Milwaukee is projected to lose 98 games, Atlanta 95 losses and San Diego 89 losses.

Remember last year, when the top three records in baseball were all in the NL Central? St. Louis won 100, Pittsburgh 98 and the Cubs 97, and people thought it was this awesome division. Well, sort of. Those are impressive win totals, but it's easier to rack up 95-plus wins when so many teams in the same league are basically conceding and playing for draft picks. Six of the seven 90-loss teams in 2015 resided in the National League. It might be much the same this year.

The USA Today projections have the Cubs with 101 wins and the Cardinals with 97. I don't doubt that we'll see some gaudy win totals in the NL again, but keep in mind, the AL looks like the deeper league. So, 90 to 95 wins in the AL this year might be more impressive than 95 to 100 wins in the NL.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Report: 'Ship has sailed' on Ian Desmond-to-the-White Sox rumor

Ian Desmond
Today's blog was going to address the possibility of free-agent shortstop Ian Desmond signing with the White Sox, but according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, a team official has said "that ship has sailed."

I was a little surprised when I heard the Desmond rumors, anyway. The top position player prospect in the Sox's system is a shortstop -- Tim Anderson -- and it's possible we'll see him on the South Side of Chicago before 2016 is over. Tyler Saladino doesn't have much of a bat, but he's good with the glove, and we've received every indication the team is comfortable going with Saladino as a stopgap measure at shortstop until Anderson arrives.

We're less than a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting now, and Desmond still does not have a job. Perhaps the Sox wondered if the veteran would be desperate enough to sign a one-year deal. It wouldn't make sense for the team to offer a multiyear deal, knowing that Anderson is getting close. But what could it hurt to kick the tires on a one-year deal with Desmond? That's probably where this rumor came from. The Sox asked Desmond if he'd be interested in a one-year deal, and he told them no. And with that, the "ship sailed." That would be my speculation here.

Also, Desmond rejected a qualifying offer from his most recent club -- the Washington Nationals -- and accordingly, the Sox would have to forfeit the No. 28 pick in the draft in order to sign him. Sox GM Rick Hahn spoke about the value of that pick at SoxFest. I don't think he would part with it lightly, and I think Desmond would have to be willing to come real cheap for Hahn to make the deal.

Even though Desmond is a better player than Saladino, without question, the circumstances surrounding the situation seem to point toward there being no match between Desmond and the Sox.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ozzie Guillen to manage again -- in Venezuela

Ozzie Guillen
Every now and then, you hear somebody ask either White Sox manager Robin Ventura or GM Rick Hahn if they think Ozzie Guillen will manage in the major leagues again.

Their answers are usually some combination of "yes" and "I hope so."

I'm a little more skeptical. Guillen, who managed the Sox to their only World Series title in the last 99 years in 2005, left the organization on bad terms after the 2011 season. He feuded publicly with then-GM Ken Williams, apparently failing to realize the GM wins the overwhelming majority of the time in GM-manager power struggles.

Then, Guillen managed the Miami Marlins in 2012, where he praised Fidel Castro, went 69-93 and got fired after one season.

Even though Guillen has proven himself as a manager, I would be surprised if another major league team gives him a shot. With the way the media culture is today, front offices like to control the message they put out to the public, and it's just impossible to muzzle Ozzie Guillen. He's the type of man who is not afraid to let you know what he thinks, and he'll give you an honest answer to any question -- even if it's not what the questioner or the public wants to hear.

I don't necessarily think that's a bad trait to have, but teams just don't want someone with that type of personality to be the face of their franchise anymore.

It's different in Venezuela, where Guillen is a national hero, and he's getting another shot to manage in his native land. Guillen was hired Wednesday to manage the La Guaira Sharks of the Venezuelan Winter League next offseason.

The La Guaira team president and vice president said in a statement that hiring Guillen, "has been an aspiration of ours since we acquired the team in 2004."

I'm sure a lot of people will be happy to see Guillen back working in the game, even if it is just the Venezuelan league. But will it lead to something more down the line? You never know, but I doubt it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Former White Sox pitcher Freddy Garcia retires

Former White Sox pitcher Freddy Garcia is retiring after 21 years in professional baseball -- 15 of them in MLB.

Garcia, 39, spent the last two years in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League playing for the Tigres de Aragua. He made his final start Sunday.

Garcia finishes with a career 156-108 record and a 4.15 ERA in 376 major league games. Fifty-five of his wins were recorded during the five seasons (2004-06, 2009-10) he spent in a White Sox uniform, and of course, his signature moment was earning a 1-0 win in the clinching game of the 2005 World Series.

Let's celebrate Garcia's career by taking a look back at highlights of that game. This was a clinic on how to pitch:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Mat Latos, White Sox agree to one-year deal

Mat Latos
The White Sox moved to increase their starting pitching depth Tuesday, agreeing with veteran right-hander Mat Latos on a one-year, $3 million contract.

Latos, 28, is a three-time 14-game winner who has been limited to just 40 combined appearances over the past two seasons because of knee injuries.

In 2015, he appeared in 24 games (21 starts) with the Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels, going 4-10 with a 4.95 ERA.

The Sox will hope Latos regains the form he showed from 2010 to 2013. He made at least 31 starts and pitched at least 180 innings in each of those four seasons, going 51-35 with a 3.27 ERA during that time frame.

For his career, Latos is 64-55 with a 3.51 ERA in 177 games, 174 of them starts.

I asked White Sox GM Rick Hahn about starting pitching depth at SoxFest. The projected five include ace Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, Erik Johnson and John Danks. I noted that Johnson still doesn't have many big league innings under his belt, and 30 starts and 200 innings also will be a new experience for Rodon -- despite all the promise he has shown.

So, I wanted to know from Hahn who else the Sox had to fill in when one of the younger guys needs to skip a start, or if there's a doubleheader, or if there's an injury. Hahn cited Jacob Turner and Chris Beck as guys who would be positioned to get the nod as sixth or seventh starters.

Frankly, I didn't like that answer. Apparently, Hahn also saw that as a weakness, so he's taking what I think is a low-risk gamble on Latos. The health is a big question mark, but it's worth noting that Latos has had knee problems -- not arm problems -- and he could be the No. 3 or No. 4 starter on the Sox roster if he returns to form.

If he still isn't healthy, or struggles for other reasons, it's only a one-year deal at a bargain rate. It's not something that's going to financially hinder the Sox from making other moves.

Also, this could be a precursor to another move, because the Sox now have six starting pitchers on the roster. But I think they would want Latos to prove he's healthy before trading away any of their other guys.

At minimum, this gives the Sox more options, and when it comes to pitching, more options is a good thing.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Blue Jays stock up on former White Sox pitchers

David Aardsma
David Aardsma still plays baseball for a living. Can you believe that?

It was a slow news weekend around MLB, so I was just going through the recent transactions to see if I could find anything interesting. Sure enough, I saw Aardsma's name on there.

He signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, and will report to big league spring training.

Aardsma was terrible nine years ago when he was young and healthy with the White Sox. He compiled a 6.40 ERA in 25 appearances with the South Siders in 2007. He's since played for five different teams, and has a 4.27 career ERA in 331 appearances.

He's pitched in only 77 games total over the past five seasons after having Tommy John surgery in 2011. Last year, he had a 4.70 ERA in 33 relief appearances with Atlanta.

This year, he'll try to stick in Toronto.

He'll be joined in Jays camp by former Sox starting pitcher Gavin Floyd, who signed a one-year, $1 million contract with Toronto on Monday.

Unlike Aardsma, Floyd did some good things on the South Side, winning 10 or more games for five consecutive years from 2008 to 2012. His best year was 2008, when he went 17-8 with a 3.84 ERA for the Sox's last division winner.

Floyd blew out his elbow in May 2013, and the Sox let him walk the following offseason. He pitched for Atlanta in 2014, then for Cleveland last year. Both of his last two seasons ended with elbow fractures, so that's three straight years of elbow problems for Floyd.

I'd say he's a long shot to make an impact in Toronto this year.

So, the perpetually mediocre (at best) Aardsma has a contract, and the oft-injured Floyd has a contract. Meanwhile, former Sox reliever Matt Thornton, who was actually decent last season, sits by the phone and waits.

Baseball is a strange business sometimes.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Los Angeles Times report shoots down Andre Ethier rumor

Following up on the Andre Ethier-to-the-White Sox rumors, the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin made it seem unlikely there will be a deal between the Sox and the Dodgers.

 According to Shaikin's report:

"[Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew] Friedman declined to say whether he was in trade discussions with the Chicago White Sox. However, there is little traction in talks between the teams, according to a person familiar with the matter but not authorized to discuss it publicly. The White Sox approached the Dodgers about Yasiel Puig -- apparently in the hope that fellow Cuban Jose Abreu might bring out the best in Puig -- and the Dodgers instead tried to interest the White Sox in Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford."

The Sox would certainly have no interest in Crawford, and it sounds like their interest in Ethier is lukewarm at best.

This news comes as no surprise. White Sox rumors that are floated only by Chicago-based reporters tend to not get much traction.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rumor mill links Andre Ethier to White Sox

Andre Ethier
The rumor started with a report by The Score's Bruce Levine, and continued with speculation from's Phil Rogers.

Yeah, I know. I should probably stop right there. But the reports from Levine and Rogers have led White Sox fans to ponder whether Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier would be a good fit on the South Side.

On Thursday, USA Today's Bob Nightengale threw some cold water on the rumor, tweeting that there are no signs of a potential match between the Sox and the Dodgers.

My speculation would lean toward agreeing with Nightengale, but speculation is just speculation, so let's talk a little bit about Ethier's situation.

Ethier has a contract that would scare off teams. He's owed $18 million in 2016 and $17.5 million in 2017, and he has a vesting option for $17.5 million with a $2.5 million buyout for 2018. That's a lot of money owed.

The Dodgers likely are motivated to get out from underneath that contract for a couple reasons. First off, they are looking to trim their payroll. Secondly, they have way too many outfielders: Ethier, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Scott Van Slyke, Alex Guerrero, Enrique Hernandez and former Sox outfielder Trayce Thompson. That's eight outfielders. You only need five. Lastly, Ethier will gain his 10-and-5 rights in April, which means he will become much more difficult to trade once the spring is over.

Ideally, the Dodgers would want to get rid of Crawford, but much like Adam LaRoche on the Sox, his contract and recent poor performance makes him an immovable object. The highest-paid guy on that list of Dodgers outfielders who still has value is Ethier.

What skill does Ethier bring? Well, he hits right-handed pitching.

Here are his 2015 splits:
vs. RHP: .306/.383/.517
vs. LHP: .200/.229/.244

All 14 of his home runs, all seven of his triples and 18 of his 20 doubles came against right-handed pitching last year. He obviously can't hit lefties worth a damn, so he's a platoon player at this stage of his career -- he turns 34 in April.

You can see where this could be a potential fit for the Sox. Their only lefty middle-of-the-order bat is, well, LaRoche, and it's not unreasonable to think he's just washed up at this point.

That said, Ethier makes an awful lot of money for a platoon player. The Sox should not be giving up any top prospects for a high-priced platoon outfielder -- especially given that the Dodgers need to act to address their outfield logjam. Los Angeles doesn't have that much leverage here.

If Sox GM Rick Hahn can get the Dodgers to eat some money and take nothing more than middle-tier prospects for Ethier, then he should consider doing this deal. But if the Dodgers want a top prospect, or if they want the Sox to take on all the contract, then Hahn should pass.

I'm guessing that right now the Dodgers are wanting both salary relief and a good prospect in return for Ethier, and that's why Nightengale is reporting there is no potential match with the Sox. That's simply not a move the Sox should make at the moment.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Howie Kendrick, Jean Segura, Carlos Quentin, Mark Buehrle, etc.

Howie Kendrick
Shifting the focus from SoxFest and its aftermath, let's take a look at some of the other news and notes from around baseball the past few days.

Kendrick returns to Dodgers on two-year deal; Segura to Diamondbacks

Veteran second baseman Howie Kendrick signed a two-year, $20 million contract to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, a deal that figures to be a bargain for the Dodgers.

Kendrick turned down a qualifying offer that would have paid him $15.8 million for the 2016 season, and apparently could not find another team that was interested in coughing up a draft pick in order to sign him.

This move makes the Dodgers better, because Kendrick is a better solution at second base than a platoon of Chase Utley and Enrique Hernandez. Moreover, it keeps Kendrick away from the NL West rival Arizona Diamondbacks, who have needs in the middle infield and seemed to be a logical destination for Kendrick.

Apparently, the Diamondbacks didn't want to part with the 39th pick in the draft, which they would have surrendered to the Dodgers had they signed Kendrick. Instead, they traded pitcher Chase Anderson, infielder Aaron Hill and minor leaguer Isan Diaz to the Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop Jean Segura and pitcher Tyler Wagner.

Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart said the club is "seeking a little bit more offense" with this trade. OK, let's compare Kendrick and Segura.

Kendrick: .295/.336/.409, 9 HRs, 54 RBIs, 6 SBs
Segura: .257/.281/.336, 6 HRs, 50 RBIs, 25 SBs

Kendrick: .293/.336/.409
Segura: .266/.301/.360

If you were "seeking a little bit more offense," which player would you add? Kendrick, right? It's a slam dunk.

So, instead of surrendering the 39th pick in the draft to sign Kendrick and keep him away from the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks surrendered a major league pitcher (Anderson) and a good prospect (Diaz) to trade for Segura, who is clearly a lesser player than Kendrick.

This is a fail for Arizona.

Quentin comes out of retirement, signs with Twins

Former White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin, 33, will attempt a comeback with the Minnesota Twins. He signed a minor league deal Tuesday that would pay him $750,000 if he is added to the 40-man roster.

Quentin enjoyed his best season in 2008 with the White Sox, when he totaled 36 home runs and 100 RBIs. Injuries have plagued his career -- he hasn't played more than 86 games in a season since 2011. He last played in the majors with San Diego in 2014 and announced his retirement after Atlanta released him in April 2015.

Buehrle not signing a contract, not retiring either

Former White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle, currently a free agent, says he's “not planning to sign, but not officially retiring," acccording to reports.

The 37-year-old lefty finished last season with a 3.81 ERA with the Toronto Blue Jays and probably could help a team as a veteran at the back of the rotation.

If some team has an injury to a significant member of its starting staff during spring training, I wouldn't be surprised if that team gives Buehrle a call.

Will anyone sign Thornton?

Continuing with this theme of former White Sox, they say left-handers can pitch forever. That being the case, how come relief pitcher Matt Thornton can't find a job?

Sure, he's 39 years old and not as overpowering as he used to be, but he held left-handed hitters to a .198/.205/.279 slash line and compiled a 2.18 ERA with the Washington Nationals last year.

Hard to believe some team can't use that.

Olivo gets minor league deal with Giants

Former White Sox catcher Miguel Olivo, 37, has signed a minor league deal with San Francisco. Olivo spent 2015 in the Mexican League, exiled after the Dodgers released him in 2014 for biting off a chunk of Alex Guerrero's ear during a dugout brawl at Triple-A Albuquerque.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Garage Sale fun at SoxFest 2016

Where do you go when you want a box of baseballs signed by Jerry Owens? How about a box of baseball signed by Andre Rienzo? Maybe a signed picture of Alex Cintron?

Well, you go to the SoxFest Garage Sale, of course!

I would never waste any of my hard-earned money on those items, but it is kind of fun to go through the rack of discounted jerseys of (mostly bad) former players.

Take this gem for example:

Can't believe that one didn't fly off the rack.

They have some current player jerseys, too, and I couldn't resist taking a photo with the jersey of my favorite cult hero/relief pitcher.

HEY HEY HEY! It's Fat Albers!

This one had to be at the bottom of the barrel, though:

Believe it or not, this was the second Ray Olmedo jersey I saw for sale at SoxFest. One of the booth vendors had one, and the guy wanted $100 for it. My friend, Brian, who took each of these three photos, asked the vendor if he was willing to barter on the Olmedo jersey. The guy said he was already bartering, and that he had knocked the price down from $150. He then added that since people don't like triple-figure prices, the Olmedo jersey could be ours for $99.

Shockingly, both Brian and I took a pass on that "deal." The vendor was trying to claim that the patches on the sleeve of the Olmedo jersey made it worth more. The jersey had the tribute to Kevin Hickey patch on there, and some other patch that I've already forgotten about.

Unfortunately for that vendor, we were not enticed, because the only thing worse than buying an Emilio Bonifacio jersey is buying an Olmedo jersey. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Thoughts on what I saw and heard at SoxFest 2016

Me with White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton
Some people were expecting pitchforks and torches at SoxFest 2016 after the team failed to add a major free-agent outfielder this offseason. That really wasn't the case, but it's also worth noting that there didn't seem to be a lot of buzz or excitement about the upcoming season in the air, either.

It seems like most Sox fans are of the mindset of, "Ehh ... this is probably a .500 team. Whatever." Here are a few other thoughts and tidbits from the weekend:

1. Robin Ventura and Rick Hahn addressed the slow starts the Sox have had the last seven seasons before I was able to step to the microphone to ask a question Friday night. Ventura said there are "different things you can do" to try to prevent the team from getting off to a slow start, such as having the veterans play six or seven innings in spring training games, as opposed to three or four innings. The braintrust also noted that they've been talking about the trend of slow starts ever since last July or August, so it was on their radar well before it was asked about at SoxFest. Ventura also noted the importance of drilling on fundamentals and cleaning up mental mistakes in the field and on the basepaths. You'd like to think he did that last year, too, but it just didn't produce good results.

2. I asked Ventura and Hahn about accountability Friday night, and not in the sense that we typically speak about that topic. Usually when fans talk about accountability, they're talking about the need for someone to be fired when things don't go well. When I spoke, I talked about the need for players to hold each other accountable for bad play, whether that has been happening in the Sox clubhouse, and whether the Sox have a culture where that sort of thing is encouraged. Ventura acknowledged that it is important for players to police each other, and that it's different in the clubhouse now in the post-Paul Konerko era. Konerko was the leader of the team for so long, and other players were in the habit of deferring to him. Last year, he was gone, so now what? Hahn indicated some of his acquisitions have been made with the idea of adding more leadership to the room. He believes newly acquired third baseman Todd Frazier and newly acquired catcher Alex Avila can add that element. Adam LaRoche's name also was brought up during that discussion, but Hahn correctly noted LaRoche didn't have a leg to stand on in holding his teammates accountable last year, because he was suffering through a horrible season himself.

3. First baseman Jose Abreu and center fielder Adam Eaton are really good and accommodating with the fans in the autograph and picture lines. I'm not an autograph person at all, but I did have my picture taken with Eaton (see above). When you approach Eaton, he'll extend his hand and say, "Hi, I'm Adam, good to meet you." That seems like such a small thing, and let's be honest, we already know who he is and he doesn't need to introduce himself, but he doesn't assume that, and he doesn't big-time people. There are other guys who could learn from his example.

4. Ken Harrelson, as you might expect, hogs the microphone way too much when he's moderating a seminar. He stands up there and tells the same stories that we hear all summer long on the broadcasts. Yo Hawk, we really don't need to hear about Sam McDowell and his great stuff again. Let the fans ask questions and let the panelists talk. Frazier had some insightful comments during the "Big League Bats" seminar that also featured Chet Lemon and Melky Cabrera on Friday night. Lemon also was interesting. I would have liked to have heard more from Frazier and Lemon, and less from Hawk and his observations on his "seven decades in the American League." At one point, Harrelson was going on and on about the importance of protection in the lineup. Cabrera was on stage looking at his phone, apparently bored by Hawk's extended soliloquy. Suddenly, Hawk turned around and said, "Isn't that right, Melky?" Cabrera, like a schoolchild not expecting to be called on, looked up and appeared stunned for a moment before saying, "Oh, si, si, si ..." Give Cabrera credit for one thing -- he knows it's a good idea to just agree with whatever Hawk says and move on.

5. Speaking of Frazier, he was asked about his second-half struggles last year. He hit .284 with 25 home runs before the break in 2015, but slumped to .224 with 10 home runs in the second half. Frazier, of course, won the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game last year in Cincinnati, and a fan asked the cliched question about whether that messed up his swing. Frazier said that is a myth, and noted if your swing is screwed up, it should only take a few sessions in the cage to rediscover it. He instead attributed his slow second half to fatigue (he played 157 games last year) and indicated improving endurance has been the focus of his offseason workouts.

6. I asked Hahn and Ventura on Saturday about organizational depth in starting pitching. I pointed out that Erik Johnson doesn't have a lot of big-league innings under his belt, and that Carlos Rodon -- for all his promise -- has yet to have a 30-start, 200-inning season in the majors. The Sox will have to watch their workloads carefully, and of course, the potential for injury and the realities of the MLB schedule make it necessary to have a couple extra guys in the organization who can make spot starts when necessary. Hahn, of course, agreed that you're not going to get through a season using just five starting pitchers, except in the rarest of cases, and he said Jacob Turner and Chris Beck were the guys who would be in line to step in and help. Gulp. That doesn't exactly inspire confidence, so I hope Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks stay healthy all year. And I hope Rodon and Johnson take steps forward in their development.

7. One thing I was disappointed about: There wasn't a lot of opportunity to ask current players questions in the seminar room -- especially the core players. Sale, Eaton and Abreu participated in "kids-only" seminar Saturday morning. Adults were allowed in the room, of course, but only children ages 3 to 14 were allowed to ask questions. I actually thought that was an excellent idea, allowing young Sox fans to interact with the star players on the team. But I would have liked it had there been an opportunity for adult fans to ask baseball-related questions of that core group. Hahn mentioned he had a difficult conversation with Sale last September, where Sale expressed his frustration with the losing the team has experienced over the past three years. I would have loved to have asked Sale about that, but the team didn't have him scheduled for any seminars that weren't "for the kids." Makes you wonder if the organization is nervous about the core players being asked tough questions by the fans.