Showing posts with label Alex Rios. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alex Rios. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

White Sox give fans an Opening Day to forget

Opening Day of the baseball season is supposed to be about new beginnings and new hope. Unfortunately for the White Sox and their fans, Opening Day 2015 proved to be way too reminiscent of 2014.

The Kansas City Royals won 13 of 19 meetings against the White Sox on their way to the American League pennant last season, and they continued their mastery of the South Siders on Monday with an easy 10-1 victory.

You would like to think with all the acquisitions the Sox made over the offseason things would be different now, but at least for one day, the faces have changed but the results remained the same.

Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija pitched poorly in his Sox debut. His fastball command was erratic at best. His offspeed pitches weren't working at all, and the result was five Kansas City runs on six hits over six-plus innings. Samardzija walked three and hit two batters, and he struck out just one. There wasn't anything good to say about his outing, other than the fact that the Sox were still in the game -- down 4-1 -- when he left the mound in the seventh inning. It could have been worse.

Relievers Dan Jennings and Kyle Drabek also struggled. By the time that seventh inning was over, Kansas City held a 9-1 lead. A 3-run homer by Alex Rios (off Drabek) was the highlight of the frame for the Royals, but in many ways, all five of those runs were gifts.

First off, Samardzija and Jennings each walked a batter to give the Royals two baserunners with nobody out. But it looked like Jennings had a chance to get out of the inning, as he got Lorenzo Cain to ground out and struck out Eric Hosmer. But with runners on second and third and two outs, Sox manager Robin Ventura needlessly ordered an intentional walk of Kendrys Morales.

Ventura wanted the left-handed Jennings to face the left-handed hitting Alex Gordon, but as we discussed when Jennings was acquired, he's not a lefty specialist. He actually gets right-handed hitters out at a better clip than lefties, so giving the Royals a third walk and a third baserunner in the inning was foolish move.

Still, Jennings made the pitch he needed to make to get out of the inning, but a weak grounder by Gordon somehow eluded both Alexei Ramirez and Micah Johnson and squirted into center field for a two-run single and a 6-1 Kansas City lead. It was a play Johnson should have made, but the play is at least partially Ramirez's fault because he jumped in front of the Sox rookie and perhaps screened him from seeing the ball.

The inning should have been over with the Royals still leading 4-1. Instead, it continued and Rios hit his home run to end any doubt on how this afternoon would end.

The Sox looked bad in all aspects, and it was hard not to feel like there wasn't some carryover from a poor ending to spring training. The South Siders had lost their last two exhibition games, a 10-2 drubbing against Arizona and a silly 10-2 loss to the Triple-A Charlotte Knights. Ventura had warned his team that enough was enough, and that the sloppy play needed to end.

That warning went unheeded, and similar results ensued in the opener in Kansas City. There were three silver linings from this game. 1) Jose Abreu homered, ending needless worries about his lack of power during spring training; 2) Johnson got his first big-league hit out of the way; and 3) it only counts as one loss and there's another game on Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Adam Eaton looks like a solution to two long-standing White Sox problems

The White Sox have sputtered as a team over the past six weeks, but center fielder Adam Eaton has continued to establish himself as a major league player.

Judging by the attendance figures and a relative lack of media coverage, few in Chicago have noticed that Eaton has been one of the best players in the American League since the All-Star break.

In Tuesday's 7-5 Sox win in Kansas City, Eaton went 4 for 5 with a double, a triple, two runs scored and a brilliant diving catch on a sinking liner off the bat of Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. The performance raised Eaton's season batting average to .303.

But, the thing that stands out most about Eaton is his improvement throughout the year. His first-half numbers weren't bad by any means, but he's taken it to a new level since mid-July. Check out these splits:

First half: .270/.340/.372
Second half: .365/.418/.462

His season splits now stand at .303/.367/.403. This is arguably the best performance we've seen from a Sox leadoff hitter in the past 10 years, and it's definitely the best production the Sox have gotten from a leadoff hitter since Scott Podsednik surprised everyone with a resurgent year in 2009.

If you look at the past decade, you'll see the Sox have had their problems in center field.

Here's the revolving door the organization has had at that position since Aaron Rowand was traded for Jim Thome after the 2005 season:

White Sox center fielders:

2005: Rowand
2006: Brian Anderson, Rob Mackowiak
2007: Darin Erstad, Jerry Owens
2008: Nick Swisher, Anderson, Ken Griffey Jr.
2009: Dewayne Wise, Anderson, Alex Rios
2010: Rios
2011: Rios
2012: Alejandro De Aza
2013: De Aza
2014: Eaton

That's 11 players in 10 years. Swisher and Rios were corner outfielders who were asked to play out of position. Erstad and Griffey Jr. were declining players at the end of their careers. De Aza and Mackowiak couldn't handle the position defensively, and were put in center field for the purpose of getting another left-handed bat in the lineup. Anderson, Owens and Wise stunk and didn't belong out there for any reason.

Eaton is none of those negative things. He has proven he can play the position, and he's proving he can hit major league pitching. Sox GM Rick Hahn can rest easier now knowing he has a 25-year-old player who looks like a long-term solution in center field.

If you look at Sox leadoff hitters from the past 10 years, you'll see that Eaton compares favorably:

2005: Podsednik .290/.351/.349
2006: Podsednik .261/.330/.353
2007: Owens .267/.324/.312
2008: Orlando Cabrera .281/.334/.371
2009: Podsednik .304/.353/.412
2010: Juan Pierre .275/.341/.316
2011: Pierre .279/.329/.327
2012: De Aza .281/.349/.410
2013: De Aza .264/.323/.405
2014: Eaton .303/.367/.403

Eaton's .303 average is second only to Podsednik in 2009. His .367 on-base percentage is easily the best in this group. The .403 slugging percentage ranks fourth on the list, and it's a heckuva lot better than anything the Sox ever got out of punch-and-judy Pierre.

Obviously, the free-agent acquisition of Jose Abreu last offseason was a game-changer for the Sox organization. They now have that middle-of-the-order presence to build a lineup around. But almost as importantly, they solved two major holes -- center field and leadoff hitter -- with the acquisition of one player.

Eaton has established himself as a big part of the White Sox core moving forward.

Monday, July 28, 2014

An unapologetic defense of Adam Dunn

With baseball's non-waiver trade deadline looming, the days of Adam Dunn in a White Sox uniform are likely short. The slugger will probably be shipped to a team in need of a left-handed power bat.

It wasn't that long ago that there was an open debate over which Chicago baseball player had the most disastrous contract: Dunn and his four-year, $56 million pact or Alfonso Soriano and the eight-year, $136 million contract the Cubs handed out.

I don't think it ever merited that much debate. Soriano made more per year on a contract twice as long. And now with the benefit of more hindsight as both contracts are nearly off the books there's this to consider -- the Sox got exactly what they should have expected from Dunn when they signed him.

How would this contract look if Dunn's career performance looked like this the last four years?

Year 1: .229/.363/.435
Year 2: .219/.320/.442
Year 3: .204/.333/.468
Year 4: .159/.292/.277

Coming off a .260/.356/.537 batting line in Washington the year before, this looks like a hitter who lost a chunk of batting average and power but was still a decent hitter the first season. Year 2 is a disappointment with the power still missing and some of the strike zone control now gone along with it. The third year looks like a rebound with the power coming back, even though all of the on-base percentage didn't. The final year looks like the end of the line for a designated hitter who can't make contact, can't hit for power and can't get on base as a result.

Should the Sox or anyone else have expected more from a 31-year-old slugger who even in his prime struggled to make contact? That looks like a completely typical aging pattern for Dunn's type of player.

The only peculiar thing about that career arc is that it's the opposite of how Dunn's year-to-year performance in a Sox uniform played out.

Obviously there are circumstances around these numbers to account for. This year might be Dunn's best year with the Sox, despite being three years older. Of course, this is also the first year the Sox have acknowledged Dunn's struggles against left-handed pitchers and have aggressively limited his exposure to them. And if Dunn had really batted .159 with no power in the final year of his contract, there's probably no way he'd have gotten nearly 500 plate appearances to try to right the ship.

The Sox would have benefited in this alternate universe where Dunn's seasons are reversed. The 2011 season, when the team was as close as three games back for the division lead as late as July 30, perhaps unfolds differently if Dunn and Alex Rios aren't both posting disastrous seasons.

Dunn wouldn't have been as good as he actually was in 2012, so maybe that Sox team spends more of the season chasing rather than leading before falling off in the end. In the backwards timeline, Dunn has a resurgent season that probably can't save the 2013 team that is forced to rebuild, but maybe he's dealt for better talent than he's likely to fetch in the real world this week and the Sox avoid the disastrous final year and a half of his contract.

None of that happened because baseball is a funny game that doesn't care about typical aging and performance patterns. As it is, this isn't the end of the road for Dunn's career. He should draw some interest on the trade market, and if he's willing to accept that teams will want to platoon him to keep him away from lefties, he can probably play for several more years, likely making at least $5 million per year doing it.

If the Sox do say goodbye to Dunn this week, they shouldn't feel like they got cheated.

Monday, March 3, 2014

If Gordon Beckham is traded, it probably won't be soon

It's become a White Sox spring training tradition to wonder if Gordon Beckham can fix what's been wrong for him at the plate since the start of the 2010 season.

After posting promising numbers (.270/.347/.460) as a 22-year-old call-up during the 2009 season, Beckham has mostly fallen flat with the bat (.244/.306/.364). Gone is the power he flashed during his debut, and with it his ability to get on base and hit for much average.

Beckham's saving graces have been been his solid defense at second base, and his affordable paychecks that have made him a decent value for his salary while his offense only approaches adequacy.

Here's the problem for the Sox: Because of his glove and contract status, Beckham has value, just not much value to them as they seek to rebuild.

Beckham, and his two relatively cheap years of team control remaining, are probably enticing to a team in need of a second baseman. It makes more sense to kick the tires on him and at least get good glove work at second base than to trade for someone like Brandon Phillips, Rickie Weeks or Dan Uggla, who are all available because they were worse than Beckham last year and have huge, expensive contracts.

He's less useful to the rebuilding Sox because they're not a contender looking to fill a hole with a guy who is minimally useful. He's also less useful because they have at least one guy (Marcus Semien) who might be as good or better, and cheaper, right now. They've got another guy who might be near as good and cheaper right now (Leury Garcia). They've got another guy (Micah Johnson) rocketing through their system at second base, and another guy at the position (Carlos Sanchez) who the Sox hope can overcome a tough year to return to his top-prospect status.

With the cheaper in-house alternatives, the second base situation is similar to the one GM Rick Hahn had on his hands last August after trading Jake Peavy for Avisail Garcia. The Sox still had Alex Rios in right field, but suddenly had a player who was maybe just as good, certainly cheaper, and definitely more likely to be a part of the team's future.

Instead of pulling the trigger right away on a Rios deal in which he had to eat money, Hahn waited it out until the Rangers agreed to take on most of the remaining contract and send the Sox a useful player in return (Leury Garcia).

Here's why Hahn is likely to exercise patience again:
  • Beckham's value will only go up if he hits well to start the year. 
  • If Semien plays a while in Charlotte before a Beckham trade, the Sox limit his service time and maybe get an extra team-controlled year.  
  • It probably wouldn't hurt to make sure Semien doesn't implode like Sanchez a year ago. If he does and the Sox haven't dealt Beckham, the team at least has another option for 2015 depending on how everything else pans out. 
At this moment, it's hard to envision Beckham as part of the Sox's long-term future. While the natural temptation is to rush to turn the page, there's no need to act fast, so the Sox probably won't.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Adam Dunn claims he is considering retirement

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported Tuesday that White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn is thinking of retiring at the end of the season.

We all know there's no way that's going to happen, so let me pause for a moment while you finish chuckling at the absurdity of it all ....

OK, now that you're done, I'll point out that Dunn has one year left on his contract with the Sox, and that contract is worth $15 million. That means Dunn has 15 million good reasons to come back and play next year, no matter how bad the Sox are going to be.

The 33-year-old Dunn has a legitimate shot at 500 home runs. He needs just 64 more. But, he claims neither money nor milestones will cause him to continue playing.

“I’m not coming back just to come back for money or because I have one year left (on his contract),” Dunn told Fox Sports on Tuesday. “I’m not coming back to chase home run numbers or whatever. If I end up with 499 and I’m not having fun, see ya -- 499 it is.”

I don't buy it. I think Dunn is speaking out of frustration. The Sox are 56-81 this year, far worse than even the biggest pessimist could have imagined. Dunn's buddy, Jake Peavy, got traded to a contending Boston team midseason. Other veterans, like Alex Rios, Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain, were also moved to clubs that are in the hunt.

You can bet your life the Sox tried to trade Dunn as well, but found no takers. Dunn is stuck on a losing team with an increasingly young roster, and he's jealous of Peavy and others who were traded to teams that are in a more favorable situation. More than anything, that is the source of Dunn's torment.

Count Sox manager Robin Ventura among the people who believe Dunn will play next year.

“I don’t see him not playing (next season). I’ve heard a lot of guys say that, and they still play," Ventura told Fox Sports. "“It’s tough. For (veterans) like that, it’s hard to go through. You’re frustrated. Sometimes, it’s you. Sometimes, it’s the way the team is playing. But it doesn’t guarantee anything for next season. He has been around long enough to know next year could be different. It can be better than it is right now."

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see Dunn retire. I'd love for the Sox to have $15 million more to spend on someone or something else. But that just isn't going to happen. If I had to take a guess, I'd say the Sox and Dunn are mutually stuck with each other through 2014.

See you next spring in Glendale, Adam. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Nelson Cruz suspension is more interesting than the A-Rod circus

Major League Baseball finally lowered the boom on some cheaters Monday, suspending 13 players for their connection to Biogenesis, a now-shuttered Miami clinic that provided performance-enhancing drugs to baseball players and other athletes.

The suspended are (in alphabetical order): Philadelphia pitcher Antonio Bastardo, San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera, New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz (pictured), minor league pitcher Fautino De Los Santos, minor league pitcher Sergio Escalona, minor league outfielder Fernando Martinez, minor league catcher Jesus Montero, free agent pitcher Jordan Norberto, Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta, minor league outfielder Cesar Puello, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and minor league utility player Jordany Valdespin.

Twelve of the 13 players received 50-game suspensions. The notable exception being Rodriguez, who was suspended 211 games for being a repeat offender, reportedly recruiting other players to the Biogenesis clinic and impeding MLB's investigation into the matter.

Twelve of the 13 players accepted their punishment. The notable exception being Rodriguez, who filed an appeal that will allow him to continue playing until a judgment is made. Rodriguez, who just returned from a hip injury, went 1-for-4 in his season debut Monday night -- an 8-1 loss to the White Sox.

As expected, a media circus surrounded Rodriguez. My reaction to him is basically, "Who cares?" The guy is a liar and a cheater. His appeal is going to be denied. He's going to be suspended for the 2014 season, and we'll probably never seen him in a big league uniform after that. The Yankees are a fourth-place team in the rugged AL East, and the 38-year-old Rodriguez's return to the lineup figures to have little effect, if any, on the playoff race. It does not look like New York will be making the postseason this year.

The more interesting story is down in Texas. Cruz, 33, leads the second-place Rangers with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs. He is clearly the best run producer in a lineup that is struggling to score runs. Texas entered play Tuesday with a 63-50 record, two games back of Oakland in the AL West. Losing Cruz is a huge blow to the Rangers' pennant hopes. This is a guy who has been batting third or fourth in the lineup all year, an impactful player still in the prime of his career who plays for a contending team.

At the trade deadline, it was assumed Texas would acquire a corner outfielder in anticipation of Cruz being suspended, much like Detroit went out and acquired Jose Iglesias to play shortstop in place of the suspended Peralta. Instead, the Rangers stood pat, leading many to assume Cruz was going to appeal his suspension and play out the season.

On Monday, Cruz accepted his punishment and began serving his suspension. Some have called Cruz "selfish" for deciding to serve his suspension now, arguing that the "team-first move" would have been to appeal the suspension, play out the year, presumably help the Rangers win, then drop the appeal and serve the suspension next year when the games "mean less."

Do a Twitter search for "Cruz selfish" and you'll see plenty of people making this argument. From where I'm sitting, that's hogwash. Cruz is obviously guilty of using PEDs. If he was innocent, wouldn't he appeal? Obviously, he knows he did it, and he knows the evidence is stacked against him. Morally, isn't it the right thing to do to accept your punishment when you've done wrong?

If Cruz did something selfish, it was taking the PEDs in the first place. Putting himself in position to be suspended, that's how he hurt the Rangers. I don't see anything wrong with accepting the consequences for breaking the rules.

A-Rod, narcissist that he is, refuses to admit that he's done wrong and refuses to see the damage he's done to the game of baseball. Isn't that part of the reason we as fans are booing the crap out of him each and every time he steps to home plate? I believe so.

The other storyline around Cruz, of course, is that Texas still needs a right fielder for the pennant drive. Hey Rangers fans, I hear Alex Rios is available.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Does trade value really increase or decrease based upon one game?

White Sox right fielder Alex Rios had a helluva game Tuesday night. He went 6 for 6 with two RBIs, two stolen bases and a run scored as Chicago routed the Detroit Tigers, 11-4.

Rios is the first Sox player to collect six hits in a game since Lance Johnson in 1995. He also became the first player to total four hits in a single game against Detroit ace Justin Verlander

This morning, I read articles and heard several comments about how Rios "increased his trade value" with the performance.


So what happens if Rios goes 0 for 5 in Wednesday's game? Does that mean his trade value goes back down? And if so, by how much?

Rios has been in the American League for 10 years. I would guess most scouts are well-acquainted with his capabilities. Teams that are interested in acquiring an outfielder in a midseason deal no doubt have been watching Rios for weeks. Are scouts really going to make a recommendation based upon one game?

I just don't buy the idea that a player's trade value is subject to day-to-day fluctuations. I think teams make evaluations by looking at long-term trends, not one-game snapshots.

Am I right or am I wrong?

Friday, July 5, 2013

White Sox call up Josh Phegley; Jordan Danks optioned

The White Sox made two roster moves before embarking on a brief three-game weekend road trip to Tampa Bay.

Catcher Josh Phegley, 25, has been called up from Triple-A Charlotte, while backup catcher Hector Gimenez was designated for assignment.

Phegley, the 38th overall pick in the 2009 draft, was hitting .316 with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs for the Knights. He was chosen to play in the July 14 Futures Game in New York and the July 17 Triple-A All-Star Game. Instead, he'll be the new starting catcher for the White Sox.

This move relegates Tyler Flowers (pictured) to the bench. The Sox had hoped Flowers would fill the shoes of veteran A.J. Pierzynski, who signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers last offseason. Instead, Flowers has struggled both offensively and defensively. He is batting a measly .208 with eight home runs and 22 RBIs in 65 games. He also has seven passed balls and has thrown out just 25 percent of baserunners who have attempted to steal against him.

Flowers will probably play a little more frequently than Gimenez as a backup, but it's unlikely he'll be in the lineup anymore than twice a week moving forward. It is possible Phegley will see time at DH on days he's not catching, at least until veteran 1B/DH Paul Konerko comes off the disabled list after the All-Star break.

In a second move, outfielder Jordan Danks was optioned to Charlotte and outfielder Blake Tekotte was recalled. Tekotte, 26, was hitting .249 at Charlotte and is not considered a prospect anymore. Danks was 5-for-37 at the plate in limited playing time with the Sox. What would be the point of this move? The Chicago media asked manager Robin Ventura that question:

“We’re just making a different move,” Ventura said. “It’s nothing he’s done. We’ve got to go give him at-bats. It’s not easy sitting around and expecting to do well with one hit every two weeks. That’s the tough part of the game.”

In other words, the team is getting ready to trade right fielder Alex Rios. Somebody will have to play right field once that happens, and that somebody is Danks. So, he needs to go to Charlotte and chip the rust off his bat in preparation for the opportunity that awaits.

Is Danks part of the Sox future plans? I doubt it. He's a backup outfielder in my estimation. But sometimes you need placeholders while you're looking to acquire or develop somebody better.

Welcome to rebuilding, Sox fans. Ain't it fun? 

Friday, June 28, 2013

White Sox ready to make trades, report says

Jon Heyman does not know Alex Rios plays right field for the White Sox. I'll forgive him and give him a link anyway, because the rest of his article on is worth discussion.

Heyman reports Sox GM Rick Hahn is open for business. The entire roster is on the trading block with the exception of two players: ace left-hander Chris Sale and franchise icon Paul Konerko.

Rival GMs say Hahn is taking "a reasonable approach" in terms of where the White Sox stand this year. In other words, Hahn knows his team is screwed, and he knows it is time for change.

The Sox are nine games out of first in the AL Central -- hardly an insurmountable deficit with over half a season to play -- but that 32-43 record doesn't lie. This team is bad. The Sox can't make routine plays in the field, as evidenced by their 55 errors and 34 unearned runs allowed through 75 games. Further, they can't hit, as evidenced by their .242 team batting average and .295 team OBP.

But that doesn't mean the Sox don't have some attractive pieces to trade. At the top of that list is Rios, who brings both power and speed (11 HRs, 13 SBs) and the ability to play anywhere in the outfield. Heyman lists the Yankees, Rangers, Giants and Royals as possible destinations for Rios. The Phillies could also enter the picture if they decide they are buyers.

Shortstop Alexei Ramirez is another player who could be on the move. Ramirez has been the primary culprit in the Sox defensive struggles. He has 13 errors on the season, including six in his last 13 games. Ramirez is a much better fielder than that, and his issues seem to be mental. Perhaps he's having trouble handling the trade rumors swirling around him. That's not something he's dealt with previously in his career. His power is way down; he hasn't homered since the second game of the season. But some team out there could use a .280-hitting shortstop with speed and a track record of playing good defense. The Dodgers and Mets are listed as possible destinations in Heyman's article. I would not rule out the Yankees, either.

Interestingly, Heyman says John Danks is drawing interest from other clubs. That's a little surprising given Danks' hefty contract, and the fact that he's less than a year removed from shoulder surgery. The starting pitcher most likely to be traded has to be Jake Peavy, who is on the DL right now with a broken rib. If he returns to the active roster before the July 31 deadline, he immediately becomes the best starting pitcher available on the market. (Sorry, Matt Garza)

The Sox also have three veteran relievers who are prime trade candidates. Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton and Matt Lindstrom all have manageable, expiring contracts. In other words, they are as good as gone. Hahn is fortunate Crain is having a career year (0.52 ERA, 46 Ks in 34.2 IP). His value might be at a high point, especially if some contending team (Detroit?) sees him as a possible closer.

Indeed, it is about to get interesting on the South Side, and that has nothing to do with the results on the field. The Sox have 87 games to play, and not a single one of them matters. All that is important right now is for Hahn to maximize his return on veteran assets. The process of putting together a better roster for 2014 starts right now.