Showing posts with label Chicago White Sox. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicago White Sox. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

White Sox going young in center field (and other news)

It's looking as if Jacob May has won the job as the starting center fielder for the White Sox.

Charlie Tilson is still in a walking boot for the next three weeks and may not be back until late May, and the Sox on Monday traded Peter Bourjos to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations.

Subtracting Tilson from the equation, here are the offensive numbers the three contenders for center field have put up in the spring:

May: .339/.361/.525, 2 BB, 12 K, 4 for 5 in stolen bases, 61 plate appearances
Bourjos: .313/.340/.521, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 for 1 in stolen bases, 50 plate appearances
Leury Garcia: .339/.355/.424, 2 BB, 9 K, 2 for 4 in stolen bases, 64 plate appearances

May is the best of the three defensively, and he nosed out the other contenders with his performance at the plate, as well. I can't say I disagree with giving him the chance. He's 25 years old, the team is rebuilding, why not find out what you have with him?

Most of the prospect guys say May is a fourth outfielder, and that might very well be all he is. But you don't know until you give him some big-league time and see how he responds.

However, I was surprised they decided to move Bourjos. He seemed like a good veteran insurance policy at a position where the Sox have painfully little depth. At the very least, I was expecting him to make the club as a fourth outfielder.

Instead, the Sox are apparently going with the cringeworthy Garcia. They like his "versatility," but as I've said before, sure, he plays five positions, but he plays them all poorly, so who cares?

If May does poorly and Tilson doesn't recover from his injury, we could be looking at a starting Sox outfielder of Melky Cabrera, Leury Garcia and Avisail Garcia. That's the kind of defensive lineup that will lose you a lot of games, which might be the goal for this season anyway.

Rodon diagnosed with bursitis

Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon will begin a two-week throwing program after being diagnosed with bursitis (inflammation) in his left bicep tendon, according to a CSN Chicago report.

Rodon will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list.

In his absence, potential stopgap measures for the rotation include right-handers Dylan Covey and (gulp!) Anthony Swarzak.

This is another area where the Sox don't have much depth while they wait for more heralded pitching prospects to become big-league ready.

If Rodon is hurt and Jose Quintana gets traded, it will make what already is shaping up as a difficult season even more challenging.

A.J. Pierzynski
Pierzynski retires, takes broadcasting job

Former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski announced his retirement Tuesday. He will join FOX as a full-time baseball analyst.

Pierzynski will serve as both a color commentator and studio analyst for FOX, while also making regular appearances on FS1's MLB Whiparound.

"With Opening Day right around the corner, this is always a great time of year," Pierzynski said in a statement from FOX Sports. "I’m really looking forward to what should be a very exciting MLB season and to being a part of the FOX Sports team again."

Pierzynski previously worked with FOX during the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 MLB postseasons.

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Pierzynski's. Despite his bad reputation with some folks, he's a smart guy and knows the game inside and out. I'm looking forward to hearing his insights on the FOX broadcasts.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Suspicions confirmed: Carlos Rodon isn't 100 percent healthy

Carlos Rodon
White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon has only pitched in one Cactus League game this month. Granted, he pitched well -- he gave up nothing over four innings against the Los Angeles Angels on March 19. But it was hard not to notice the reduced velocity. The fastball, normally 93 to 95, was sitting at 90 to 91.

The Sox have been "taking it slow" with Rodon all spring. They said he suffered from arm fatigue at times last season, and they were looking to keep him healthy and strong for 32 starts in 2017. That talk was a little bit of a red flag for me, but you could at least see the logic -- it's a long spring because of the World Baseball Classic, and then it's a long season. Don't tax a young arm too early.

But then the talk started about Rodon not pitching until the second series of the season. That's when I started to get concerned. If Rodon is healthy, there's no reason for him not to start the second game behind Jose Quintana and then take his regular turn every five games. Why are they being so cautious and pushing back his starts?

Well, here's why: Rodon is going for an MRI on his left bicep after being scratched from his scheduled start Friday. He isn't healthy. The truth finally has been revealed.

It stinks, because Rodon is a big part of both the present and future for the Sox, and accordingly, they need to make sure they are taking good care of his prized left arm. Shut him down, if need be. Rodon is likely to start the season on the disabled list. Understandably so. Don't let him pitch again until he's good and ready.

Oh, and by the way, Quintana's getting the ball on April 3. Duh.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Jose Quintana: Still with the White Sox, but hasn't been named Opening Day starter

Jose Quintana
CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes tweeted Wednesday that the White Sox still have not made a decision on their Opening Day starting pitcher. Manager Rick Renteria wants folks to "give him a few more days."

This is unusual, because if you take a look at the Sox's roster, there is no debate about who should be starting the home opener. Jose Quintana is a proven All-Star left-hander, easily one of the top 20 pitchers in the game, and probably top 15. Then, the Sox have four other guys in the rotation. There is substantial drop-off from Quintana to Carlos Rodon and Miguel Gonzalez, and then another drop-off to James Shields and Derek Holland.

So what's the delay in naming Quintana the starter for the first game? There must be something blowing in the wind on the trade market. The only reason for Renteria to start any other pitcher besides Quintana on April 3 would be because Quintana is no longer on the team.

Jeff Passan, Yahoo's MLB columnist, weighed in on Quintana's situation Wednesday, but there's nothing more to his report than the same things we've been reading from the Sox beat reporters all spring: "White Sox scouts are everywhere. They are willing to deal Quintana, but only for the right price, etc., etc. etc."

The teams mentioned as possible suitors are ones that we've been hearing all along -- the Atlanta Braves, the Houston Astros, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Passan correctly notes the market for front-end pitching is bleak beyond Quintana. He says sources tell him that Milwaukee's Junior Guerra, who enjoyed a breakout season as a 31-year-old rookie (!) in 2016, is the next-best starting pitcher who might be available after Quintana.

And, the market might not be much stronger when we get to the middle of the season. Perhaps Oakland's Sonny Gray gets healthy and rebuilds his value. Perhaps not. Perhaps the Tampa Bay Rays fall out of the race and become more willing to deal Chris Archer. Perhaps not. Even if the Toronto Blue Jays falter, Quintana still would be a more attractive options for a contender than Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano.

The Sox are biding their time, hoping to get the deal they want, and gambling a little bit that Quintana will remain both healthy and effective until they make a move. The club's inability to commit to Quintana as the Opening Day starter makes it clear to me that there's something going on, but somewhat amazingly in this day and age, whatever is going on has been kept under the radar -- even from well-connected national baseball reporters such as Passan.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

White Sox sign Tim Anderson to contract extension

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson has not played in the past few spring games because of "personal reasons."

Turns out he and his agent were busy negotiating a long-term contract with the Sox. I guess that would be a "personal reason," huh?

Anderson on Tuesday agreed to terms on an extension that guarantees him $25 million over the next six years, and could pay him $50.5 million. The deal includes two club options for 2023 and 2024 that total $26.5 million with a $1 million buyout. The two club options cover Anderson's first two years of free agency eligibility.

This is the largest contract ever handed out to a player with less than one year of MLB service time, which demonstrates how much confidence the Sox have in Anderson and how integral he is to their rebuilding plans.

Anderson hit .283/.306/.432 with nine home runs, 30 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 431 plate appearances as a rookie in 2016. He also answered some questions about his defense, producing six Defensive Runs Saved and a 6.3 Ultimate Zone Rating, according to fangraphs.com.

Here is the breakdown of Anderson's salary:

2017: $850,000
2018: $1,000,000
2019: $1,400,000
2020: $4,000,000
2021: $7,250,000
2022: $9,500,000

*If the two club options are activated:

2023: $12,500,000
2024: $14,000,000

Thursday, March 16, 2017

About that second left-hander in the White Sox bullpen ...

Cory Luebke
The White Sox made their second round of spring cuts Wednesday afternoon.

Pitchers Chris Beck, Tyler Danish, Brad Goldberg and Giovanni Soto were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte, along with outfielder Willy Garcia. Catcher Alfredo Gonzalez was optioned to Double-A Birmingham. Pitchers Aaron Bummer and Blake Smith were reassigned to minor league camp.

We said at the start of camp that the Sox were looking for a second left-hander in their bullpen to complement Dan Jennings, and it looked as if Soto might be one of the top contenders -- if not the leading contender.

Turns out the Sox don't think that much of Soto. He's been optioned after making only two Cactus League appearances.

So, who is left in the mix for that other left-handed spot? Matt Purke hasn't allowed a run this spring over four appearances and 4.2 innings pitched. Brian Clark is getting an extended look -- he's appeared in seven games and fared reasonably well -- a 2.70 ERA in 6.2 innings. But, Clark has walked four, which is a bit of a red flag.

Jace Fry, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, has worked in six games with a 4.15 ERA in 4.1 innings. But again, four walks -- that's a high total. A surprise contender has emerged in veteran reclamation project Cory Luebke. The 32-year-old has 1.35 ERA in five games and 6.2 innings pitched this spring.

Luebke has struck out five and walked two, and the big key for him is proving he has regained his control. Once upon a time, in 2011, Luebke was a big leaguer. He had a 3.29 ERA in 46 games (17 starts) for the San Diego Padres. But multiple Tommy John surgeries kept him out of the majors from 2013 to 2015.

He resurfaced with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016, and he was terrible -- a 9.35 ERA in nine games. He walked 11 in 8.2 innings. To make the Sox, he'll have to continue to avoid walks and show that he isn't susceptible to meltdown-style innings. Luebke has starting experience, so in theory, he could be the second left-hander *and* the long reliever.

Or perhaps the Sox will decide to go with only one left-hander and keep right-hander Michael Ynoa, who is out of options, on the roster.

Under that scenario, the Sox could use right-hander Zach Putnam is certain situations against tough left-handed hitters. Putnam's split-finger pitch tends to be tough on lefties, and when healthy in 2016, he held left-handed hitters to a .546 OPS. (Righties had a .694 OPS).

Knowing that Putnam is an option, perhaps it isn't essential the Sox keep a second left-handed reliever, if they decide they don't want to keep Luebke or give Purke another kick at the can.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lucas Giolito reminds us why he needs more time in Triple-A

Many White Sox fans were excited about the first three starts pitching prospect Lucas Giolito made in the Cactus League, and who can blame them? Giolito allowed only two solo home runs in nine innings across those three outings, and each performance was better than the one preceding it.

Until Tuesday.

In his fourth spring start, Giolito didn't make it out of the first inning in a 7-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners. He recorded only two outs, while allowing four runs on four hits. He had two walks, one that loaded the bases and another on four pitches that forced in a run. His fastball command was terrible, and he did not produce a single swing-and-miss among the 30 pitches he threw. His velocity was down, and he couldn't throw his curve ball for a strike either.

"It’s hard to pinpoint one issue," Giolito told CSNChicago.com. "I didn’t really execute anything I was trying to do today. As a starting pitcher, you want to work efficiently, you want to throw low pitch count innings, work through a game and I threw, what, 30 pitches. Didn’t get out of the first inning. Just didn’t do my job."

The poor outing has caused some to wonder whether Giolito has hit the inevitable dead-arm period that all pitchers experience during spring ball. Possibly, but the more likely scenario is the fact that Giolito is a 22-year-old kid still struggling to find consistency. As much as we'd all like him to be ready for the big leagues, he is not. If you watched the outing Tuesday -- and I did -- it was a prime example of why this prospect needs more time pitching in the minor leagues.

Giolito will be in Triple-A Charlotte when the season begins, and rightfully so.

This is why I get a little confused when my fellow Sox fans tell me they are "excited to watch the kids" this season. Well, if all goes well, maybe a few of these guys will be called up for the second half of the season, or in September when the rosters expand.

But for the most part, if you want to "watch the kids" the Sox have acquired, I'd suggest spending your summer in Charlotte or Birmingham. The Sox would be doing these prospects a disservice if they didn't send them down to the minor leagues.

Patience is required, from the organization and fans alike.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson will start the season on the DL

Peter Bourjos
I've been saying it all spring: I get the feeling that Peter Bourjos is going to be the Opening Day center fielder for the White Sox. And I get the feeling that position is going to be the biggest problem for the Sox in 2017.

The player Sox brass wanted to win the job, Charlie Tilson, has been sidelined since Feb. 19 with a stress reaction in his right foot. The injury wasn't initially thought to be serious, but a follow-up MRI on Monday revealed swelling. Tilson will miss at least the next three weeks, and that means he will be on the 15-day disabled list when the season starts April 3.

That makes the veteran Bourjos the top candidate for center field, even though he is in camp as a nonroster invitee. The Sox have two spots open on their 40-man roster, and it appears that one of them is his to lose at this point.

Bourjos, 29, hit .251/.292/.389 in 383 plate appearances with the Philadelphia Phillies last year. He can handle center field defensively, but there's a reason he's on a minor-league deal: He's not a good hitter; his career on-base percentage is .300, and his OBP has hovered in the .290s for each of the past three seasons.

To his credit, Bourjos has had a good spring; he's 10-for 27, which pencils out to a .370 batting average. It should come as no surprise, however, that he has yet to draw a walk. But right now, he looks as if he's the best option for the position as a veteran stopgap.

Other options in camp include a pair of 25-year-olds -- Jacob May and Adam Engel. Both are good enough defensively to play center field, but both have uneven offensive track records.

May has had the better spring, posting a .333/.375/.433 slash line in 32 plate appearances. Engel has struggled to .130/.310/.130 in 30 plate appearances.

Engel hit .242/.298/.369 in 161 plate appearances at Triple-A Charlotte last year, while May hit .266/.309/.352 in 321 trips to the plate.

Based upon last season and what we've seen so far in camp, May seems the better bet to win a roster spot than Engel. But, there still are three weeks until Opening Day, and things can change.

Monday, March 13, 2017

White Sox score 14 runs in ninth inning to beat Dodgers

Leury Garcia
Let's be honest: Most spring training games are not worth much analysis. However, it gets your attention when a team scores 14 runs in one inning.

While most of the world was sleeping late Sunday night, the White Sox entered the ninth inning trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3-1. They ended up winning the game, 15-5, after one of the most bizarre half-innings I've ever heard on the radio. (The game was not televised.)

The Sox batted around twice -- sending 18 men to the plate -- and scored 14 runs on only seven hits. A few highlights:

  • Luis Alexander Basabe, an outfielder who was acquired in the Chris Sale deal, had a two-run single to put the Sox ahead, 5-3.
  • Yoan Moncada, the team's top prospect, had a two-run double. Previously in the game, he had struck out in four consecutive plate appearances.
  • Longtime minor-leaguer Jason Bourgeois had five RBIs in the inning. He had a two-run single in his first AB of the rally, and he capped the Sox's scoring with a three-run homer. 
  • The Dodgers committed four errors, walked three men and hit two batters. So, the Sox were gifted nine baserunners, in addition to the seven hits they had.
The Dodgers probably could not have done any worse in that inning if they had just gone out there and lit themselves on fire. Sure, it was a collection of Double-A and Triple-A players on the field, but no professional team should be giving up that many runs in one inning.

That rally capped an interesting Sunday for the Sox, who also lost, 10-8, to the Texas Rangers in the other half of a split-squad day. In that game, the Sox scored all eight of their runs in the sixth inning.

So, to recap, the Sox had 18 offensive innings Sunday. They scored 23 runs, but they did it in the most bizarre fashion possible -- a 14-run inning, an 8-run inning, an inning with a single run scored, plus 15 innings with no runs at all.

I have to admit, I'm getting a little worried that Leury Garcia is going to make the team. He's got a slash line of .419/.500/.919 in 30 spring plate appearances. He had four hits against Texas on Sunday. But he also made two egregious mistakes on the basepaths, and at shortstop, he butchered a rundown play that allowed the Rangers to score a gift run.

I'm getting a little tired of hearing about Garcia's "versatility" being an asset. Sure, he plays multiple positions, but he plays them all poorly, so who cares? And, yes, he has speed, but he makes dumb outs on the bases, so who cares?

We know that Garcia feasts on Triple-A pitching -- he hit .313 at Charlotte in 2016 -- and that's what he's doing in this spring camp. Here's to hoping the Sox are not fooled. This is a player who makes mental mistake after mental mistake and does not belong on the roster. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

White Sox release infielder Brett Lawrie

Brett Lawrie
In a surprise move Friday, the White Sox requested waivers on infielder Brett Lawrie for the purpose of granting him his unconditional release.

Lawrie, who signed a one-year deal worth $3.5 million in December, was projected to be the team's starting second baseman. However, he hasn't played in a game since last July 21 because of a mysterious left leg injury that was reportedly caused by the use of orthotics.

The 27-year-old did not appear in any of the Sox's first seven spring training games this past week after informing the team Feb. 24 that he still wasn't feeling 100 percent ready to play.

Lawrie hit .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs in 384 plate appearances last season, and played serviceable defense, but the Sox have other options at second base and apparently decided that they don't have the patience to wait around to see if Lawrie gets healthy.

 Most likely, Tyler Saladino is going to be the Opening Day second baseman. Saladino hit .282/.315/.409 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs in 319 plate appearances last season. The offensive numbers are similar to Lawrie's, and just about everyone agrees that Saladino is the superior defensive player. The Sox have other utility infield options with Yolmer Sanchez and Leury Garcia, and most people think top prospect Yoan Moncada is going to be called up to be the Sox's second baseman by midseason anyway.

The front office must believe that some combination of Saladino/Sanchez/Garcia can hold down second base until Moncada is ready, and it's hard to argue with that thinking.

Cutting ties with Lawrie now also saves the Sox a bit of money. Arbitration contracts are not guaranteed until Opening Day. The Sox are only on the hook for 30 days' termination pay, or about one-sixth of Lawrie's salary. That's about $574,000.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The White Sox's big pitching prospects have all made their first spring starts ...

As of Wednesday morning, the White Sox have played five spring training games. They've gone 2-2-1, and each of the four big pitching prospects in the organization has made one start.

Here are the results for each man:

Carson Fulmer: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K 
Lucas Giolito: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR 
Reynaldo Lopez: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 HR 
Michael Kopech: 1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR

Isn't it interesting that the guy who is ranked the lowest on the prospect lists and is getting the least amount of hype did the best?

Fulmer started Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers and struck three consecutive batters out swinging in his two scoreless innings.

It's foolish to draw any sort of conclusion on anybody from one spring start, but Fulmer's performance was at least enough to remind people that, hey, he's still around. And he might be closer to making the major leagues than the three newcomers to the organization that were acquired this offseason.

Giolito faced the Cubs and gave up a solo home run to Addison Russell on a four-seam fastball that wasn't very well located. He was somewhat fortunate to escape damage in the first inning, when a diving stop by second baseman Yoan Moncada produced a 4-6-3 double play that helped Giolito work out of a first-and-second, no-outs jam. The Cubs had seven of their nine regulars in the lineup, and Giolito was able to avoid getting lit up and post a respectable line -- so at least there's that.

Kopech and Lopez did get lit up, which stinks, but isn't necessarily a sign of bad things to come. Kopech was on the verge of getting out of the first inning with only one run allowed, but he made a bad mistake on an 0-2 pitch, giving up a 3-run homer to Seattle's Mitch Haniger. Tough start. We'll see how the 20-year-old responds next time out.

Lopez? Well, now we know he's a true White Sox. He gave up a two-run homer to Ryan Raburn in his outing against the Cincinnati Reds. As we've noted before, Raburn has basically built a career out of beating up on Sox pitching. I'll probably throw a party the day Raburn retires.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

White Sox to retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56

White Sox players celebrate Mark Buehrle's perfect game in 2009.
The White Sox on Thursday announced that they will retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56 jersey in a ceremony June 24 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Buehrle spent 12 seasons with the Sox and collected 161 of his 214 career victories with the South Siders.

The former 38th-round draft pick made four All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, tossed two no-hitters -- including a perfect game -- and was a key member of the Sox's World Series-winning rotation in 2005.

"Mark Buehrle is one of the most accomplished pitchers in franchise history," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Mark carried himself with class and professionalism throughout his career, and his popularity with staff, teammates and Sox fans is very well deserved. Although a very humble person, he certainly showed a flair for the dramatic on the mound, from a no-hitter to an unforgettable perfect game to a World Series title. A standout on the field and a standup teammate in the clubhouse, it is our honor to retire Mark Buehrle’s No. 56 and to welcome him into the legendary class of all-time White Sox greats."

Buehrle is one of my all-time favorite Sox players. His jersey hangs in my closet. There are so many good memories of his career that it's hard to pick a favorite, but I'll do it anyway.

I've been to hundreds of Sox games in my 40 years on the planet, but I've only seen one no-hitter in person. It was Buehrle's, on April 18, 2007, against the Texas Rangers. He faced the minimum 27 batters in the 6-0 win. He walked only one -- Sammy Sosa -- and he promptly picked Sosa off first base.

I saved my ticket stub from that game and all the clippings from the newspaper the following morning. Those materials are now framed and hung on a wall in my living room. It's a game I'll never forget the rest of my life.

Buehrle provided so many other great moments for the Sox and their fans -- getting the save in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series after pitching seven innings as the starter in Game 2; the 12-strikeout performance against the Seattle Mariners in a game that lasted only 1 hour, 39 minutes; the one-hitter against Tampa Bay in his first full season as a starter; the famous flip-between-the-legs play on Opening Day 2010 -- I could go on like this for hours.

But instead, let's just celebrate Buehrle's career by watching all the outs from his 27-up, 27-down masterpiece against Tampa Bay on July 23, 2009. This is a clinic in how to pitch. Only six of the 27 outs were strikeouts, but just notice the weak contact on most of the other 21 outs. Aside from the spectacular catch by Dewayne Wise in the top of the ninth inning, it's just routine play after routine play for Sox fielders. Enjoy:



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

David Robertson trade rumors begin anew

David Robertson
The rumors about a potential trade in which the White Sox would send closer David Robertson to the Washington Nationals just won't go away.

The Nationals need a closer, having lost Mark Melancon to the San Francisco Giants in free agency over the offseason. Washington has yet to sign or trade for a suitable replacement, so Robertson does make some sense for them. (I personally think Shawn Kelley might be a better option for the Nationals than a post-peak Robertson, but shhhhh, don't tell them that.)

Reports indicate the Nationals have agreed on a two-year, $21 million deal with catcher Matt Wieters. That move has rekindled the Robertson discussions, because Washington now has three catchers, and the Sox have a hole at that position.

Is anyone prepared to argue that the Sox are set with the catching tandem of Omar Narvaez and Geovany Soto? Nope, me neither. They could use another guy there, because Narvaez only has 34 games of big-league experience, and the 34-year-old Soto comes with health concerns.

The Sox need a catcher. The Nationals have one to deal. The Nationals need a closer. The Sox have one to deal. Yes, you can see the potential fit.

But here's my question: Would either of the two catchers Washington has to deal be a fit for the Sox? With the addition of Wieters, one of Derek Norris or Jose Lobaton needs to go.

Let's cross Lobaton off the list immediately. He's a 32-year-old journeyman. He's been a backup for six of the seven seasons he's been in the majors, including the past three. Acquiring him would be like acquiring a somewhat healthier, somewhat younger version of Soto. That's a waste of time.

What about Norris? This Sporting News report suggests the Sox might "demand" the Nationals include him in any deal for Robertson.

Hmmmm.

Norris is 28, so he's got a few more years left in him than players such as Soto and Lobaton. And he's closer to the top of the list than the bottom when it comes to pitch framing. That said, why would the Sox "demand" a five-year veteran who hit .186 last season be included in a deal for Robertson?

The Sox's stated goal is to stockpile young talent. They are specifically looking to trade veteran assets for younger players. Granted, the declining Robertson is not a good enough trade piece to fetch an elite prospect from another organization, but if he is dealt, I would prefer to see a younger player with some upside coming back to the Sox. If such a trade is not available at the moment, that's fine. Keep Robertson for now. Hopefully he has a good first half, and maybe his value is higher in July.

I would be disappointed in a Robertson-for-Norris deal. If a trade such as that happens, it would suggest the Sox were just trying to get out from underneath the $25 million Robertson is owed over the next two years. Personally, I'd rather keep Robertson than see him traded for nothing more than salary relief and another mediocre veteran.

The modest, short-term upgrade at catcher isn't worth it to me. Bring some young talent back in the trade, or don't bother.

Monday, February 20, 2017

White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson is injured -- again

White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson will miss the next 10 days because of a stress reaction in his right foot, according to reports.

Tilson is the leading candidate to be the team's starting center fielder, but his hold on that job is tenuous at best. A torn left hamstring on Aug. 2 ended Tilson's 2016 season prematurely, and probably the most important thing for him this spring is proving that he's 100 percent healthy.

Although this injury is being termed "minor," no injury is really minor for a young player who is trying to hold down a roster spot and establish himself at the big-league level.

“It started very minimal, and I tried to work through it a little bit, and by the time I addressed [trainer] Herm [Schneider], thankfully I caught it before it was anything that would keep me out for too long,” Tilson said. “It’s a minor thing, and it will give my other leg a chance to get stronger in the meantime, and hopefully we’ll turn this negative into a positive.”

Center field is not a position where the Sox are blessed with great depth. Well, they do have options, but none of them seem as though they are good options.

If Tilson continues to be plagued by injuries, veteran minor-league free agent Peter Bourjos likely becomes the front-runner to be the Opening Day center fielder. Bourjos is the kind of player who would only start on a bad, rebuilding team, which, of course, is what the Sox are expected to be.

Other internal options would include prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May, neither of whom has played in the major leagues.

Ideally, Tilson gets it together health-wise, and the Sox are able to take an extended look at what he can do this spring.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jimmy Rollins says White Sox clubhouse was in 'disarray' last year

Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins doesn't collect paychecks from the White Sox anymore, which affords him the opportunity to speak honestly about his time on the South Side of Chicago.

Here's a link. Listen for yourself.

Rollins is asked about the bizarre tale of Adam LaRoche, who retired in spring training last year after Sox management decided his teenage son would no longer be allowed in the clubhouse.

The incident divided the team and led to high-profile players such as Chris Sale and Adam Eaton clashing with the front office.

"It was a clubhouse in disarray after that point," Rollins says on the video. "Although we did great (at the start of the season). It’s always a little players versus the front office, but I think just because of the way it was handled -- a lot of the guys that were outspoken are no longer there. They’re in better places if you ask me, but they’re no longer there."

Rollins also used the word "chaos" to describe the situation in Chicago, which gets to the point of why some of us aren't as optimistic about the rebuilding plan that is underway with the Sox. The same front office that was in place during last year's "chaos" and "disarray" is the same front office being entrusted with the future of the organization.

Does that make you comfortable? I'd be more comfortable if the failures of last season had resulted in a change in leadership beyond just the manager's office.

Rollins correctly notes that the outspoken players -- Sale and Eaton -- are no longer with the Sox. Isn't it interesting that they still are the only two key players from last season to be traded? The good soldiers who keep their mouths shut and just play ball -- Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Jose Quintana -- they all are still here.

I'm not going to argue that there is any conspiracy at work here. I think the Sox would deal Quintana tomorrow if the right offer came up.

That said, I don't think it's a coincidence that Sale and Eaton were the first established veterans to be told to pack their bags as part of the rebuilding plan.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Alex Reyes, the best pitching prospect in baseball, is out for the year

Just yesterday, we noted that Baseball Prospectus ranked St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Alex Reyes the top prospect in all of baseball.

Today, one day after the beginning of spring training, Reyes is heading to the operating table with a ruptured ligament in his right elbow. He will have Tommy John surgery and miss the 2017 season.

The 22-year-old was 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 12 games (5 starts) with the Cardinals last season. He struck out 52 batters in 46 big-league innings.

Reyes was expected to compete for the fifth spot in the St. Louis rotation, and some were thinking he would be a candidate for National League Rookie of the Year.

The Cardinals had high hopes for Reyes, and obviously, this is not the sort of news any team wants early in camp. However, St. Louis has a rotation that is mostly set -- Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Mike Leake and Lance Lynn are penciled in for the first four spots.

The Reyes injury leaves Michael Wacha as the leading candidate for the fifth spot. Wacha dealt with shoulder issues in 2016 and went 7-7 with a 5.09 ERA. The Cardinals need him to bounce back, because their other fifth-spot options are not great -- 23-year-old Luke Weaver, who struggled in eight starts last year, and former closer Trevor Rosenthal.

Tying this news back to the White Sox, every time some team has a pitching injury this spring, my reaction is going to be the same: "Hmmmm ... might this team be interested in Jose Quintana?"

So, would the Cardinals be interested in Quintana? Yeah, of course, who wouldn't? However, the Cardinals are not the type of organization that makes knee-jerk moves. They like to fill spots from within, and it seems unlikely they would want to send all their high-level prospects to the Sox for Quintana, even though the fit might be good on paper.

Unless, of course, one of their veterans at the top of the rotation gets hurt. Then they might start to feel desperate.

This situation illustrates the fact that Sox general manager Rick Hahn isn't necessarily wrong for holding on to Quintana going into the season. The market might heat up for him as we go along, because injuries and underperformance might cause certain clubs who think they have enough pitching right now to realize they don't.

Wait long enough, and you might have 10 suitors for Quintana instead of three or four. The gamble in that is the possibility that Quintana himself could get injured. But if Quintana stays healthy, and pitches like he usually does in the first half, there's an opportunity to create a bidding war among clubs at the July trade deadline.

There are potential risks and potential rewards in any strategy. The injury to Reyes is just the latest reminder of how important it is for teams to stockpile pitching.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Baseball Prospectus releases Top 101 prospects list; six White Sox included

As White Sox pitchers and catchers report to Glendale, Arizona, today, any optimism surrounding the team has to do with the future and the Sox's much-improved farm system.

Baseball Prospectus on Monday released its list of Top 101 prospects, and the Sox have six players listed. That's significant, because I can't remember the Sox ever having more than two or three players named.

Here's how BP lines 'em up:

5. Yoan Moncada, INF
10. Lucas Giolito, RHP
30. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
36. Michael Kopech, RHP
89. Zack Collins, C
97. Alec Hansen, RHP

In case you're interested but too lazy to click the link, the four guys ranked ahead of Moncada are St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Alex Reyes, Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi and Philadelphia Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford.

Moncada ranked second (behind Benintendi) in Baseball America's Top 100, which was released Friday. BA was not as high on Giolito, however, ranking him 25th. The publication liked Collins better, ranking him 56th. Lopez (31st) and Kopech (32nd) were in similar territory on BA's list, which did not include Hansen.

Friday, February 3, 2017

White Sox position players: There are roster spots available

Todd Frazier -- still here
As we stated Wednesday, for a rebuilding team, the White Sox's pitching staff looks surprisingly set going into spring training. Position players? That's another story.

Looking over the 40-man roster, you can find about eight position players -- maybe nine -- that would be considered roster locks for Opening Day, and most of them are infielders. I'm assuming the Sox are coming north with 13 position players, so that means there are jobs to be won when the team convenes this month to begin workouts in Glendale, Arizona.
Melky Cabrera -- still here

Let's take a look at how things stand right now, while at the same time acknowledging that more trades are possible between now and April:

Infielders
1. Jose Abreu
2. Todd Frazier
3. Tim Anderson
4. Brett Lawrie
5. Tyler Saladino
6. ?????

The infield might have been considered a weakness for the Sox as recently as two seasons ago, but if this rebuilding club has a strong point, this is probably it. The Sox are set with Abreu at first base, Lawrie at second base, Anderson at shortstop and Frazier at third base. Saladino is a solid utility player. His glove won't hurt you at any of the four positions, and his bat is league-average.

Abreu and Frazier combined for 65 home runs and 198 RBIs last year at the corners. Anderson is an emerging young talent, and Lawrie is a league-average player who should be serviceable if he can stay healthy.

The hope is Lawrie will eventually be replaced by Yoan Moncada, the highly regarded prospect who was the Sox's marquee acquisition in the Chris Sale trade. It's unlikely we'll see Moncada make the team out of camp, but it's possible he'll make his Sox debut sometime in 2017.

Others in the mix for a roster spot include Matt Davidson and Carlos Sanchez. If Davidson hits during spring training, he'll probably make the club and get some starts at third, first and designated hitter. Davidson is entering his age 26 season, so I'm thinking the Sox want to find out once and for all what they have with him, if anything.

If Davidson stinks it up in Arizona, that might open the door for Sanchez to make the club, although he'd be redundant on the roster with Saladino, and he's not as good in the utility role as Saladino is.

Leury Garcia still is hanging around as a rostered player. I'm not a fan, so I'm hoping he'll be enjoying the sights and sounds of Charlotte, North Carolina, once again this season.

One other thing to watch: There's no obvious choice for a backup first baseman here, so look for non-roster invitees Nick Delmonico and Danny Hayes to get some spring playing time. Injuries limited Hayes to 55 games at Charlotte in 2016, but the left-handed hitter did put up 10 home runs and 42 RBIs in 184 at-bats. Delmonico tore apart Double-A last year, hitting .338 with 10 home runs in 38 games. But he was so-so after a midseason promotion to Charlotte (.246 with 7 home runs in 72 games).

Other non-roster invitees in camp include former Philadelphia third baseman Cody Asche and former San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera.

Outfielders
1. Melky Cabrera
2. Avisail Garcia
3. ??????
4. ??????
5. ??????

Here's where it gets interesting. Cabrera and Garcia are probably going to play left field and right field, respectively, although both are candidates to get some DH time, as well. The starting center fielder and the backup outfield spots are open questions.

At SoxFest, GM Rick Hahn expressed a preference to see Charlie Tilson get an extended look in center field. Tilson was acquired mid-2016 from the Cardinals in the Zach Duke deal, but he suffered a serious groin injury in his Sox debut and was not seen again for the rest of the season.

If he's healthy, he's going to get the first shot in center, but I'm not going so far as to make him a roster lock. Prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May are both on the 40-man roster. A strong spring could put either man in the mix for a roster spot. They are similar players, however -- speedy, good defensively, and questionable with the bat.

Engel has had an interesting past 18 months. He was the 2015 MVP of the Arizona Fall League, but he struggled at the start of the 2016 season in Birmingham. He got demoted to High-A Winston-Salem, but by the end of the year he was at Triple-A Charlotte and ended up getting added to the 40-man roster. Senior Director of Baseball Operations Dan Fabian told me at SoxFest that he believes the trip to Winston-Salem allowed Engel to iron out some issues with his swing. We shall see.

The Sox also will have three busted outfield prospects in camp. Rymer Liriano, who was a waiver claim from the Milwaukee Brewers, and Willy Garcia, who was a waiver claim from the Pittsburgh Pirates, are both on the 40-man roster. Neither man seems like a good bet to do anything, but sometimes rebuilding teams need roster filler.

And, yes, Courtney Hawkins still is hanging around the organization. He's only 23, blah, blah, blah, but the reality is he hit .206/.255/.349 in his second season at Birmingham last year. Injuries have hindered his development, and there's nothing going on with him that suggests progress. Oh well.

Catchers:
1. Omar Narvaez
2. ???????

Narvaez essentially made the 2017 club last year with a respectable performance in 34 games at the big league level. He hit .267/.350/.337 and seemed to be a calming influence for left-hander Carlos Rodon, who enjoyed his best two months of the season with Narvaez behind the plate in August and September.

The Sox invited Geovany Soto to camp, and if the veteran is healthy, he's going to be the second catcher on the roster. That's a big if, however, as knee injuries limited the 34-year-old to 26 games with the Los Angeles Angels last year.

Other rostered catchers include Alfredo Gonzalez and Kevan Smith. Hahn was asked about the catching situation at SoxFest, and perhaps tellingly, he did not mention Smith's name. He talked about Narvaez and Soto, and he praised Gonzalez as a good defensive catcher. So, perhaps those three men are in the mix for the two roster spots, and Smith is headed back to Charlotte.

Position players report to camp Feb. 18. There won't be any shortage of intrigue as they guys work to make the team.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How might the White Sox pitching staff look when the season starts?

Jose Quintana -- still here
White Sox pitchers and catchers will have their first full workouts Feb. 14 in Glendale, Arizona. It's closer than we think, so let's take a look at how the pitching staff might shake out given the current roster construction.

We'll assume there are no trades between now and Opening Day -- a big assumption, because general manager Rick Hahn made it clear at SoxFest that he's still open to making moves before the season starts.

For a rebuilding club, the Sox look surprisingly set on the pitching side of things. The five projected starting pitchers right now are pretty obvious:

1. Jose Quintana
2. Carlos Rodon
3. Miguel Gonzalez
4. James Shields
5. Derek Holland

In anyone gets injured or traded, Rule 5 draft pick Dylan Covey might get the first shot at taking a spot. The other roster contenders would be two of the three players acquired in the Adam Eaton trade -- Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. However, Hahn indicated a preference to have all the recently acquired prospects start the season in the minor leagues, so we probably will not see Giolito or Lopez in Chicago until later in the 2017 season.

I look for prospects Carson Fulmer and Tyler Danish to potentially get some starts during spring training, but both players are ticketed for the Triple-A rotation in Charlotte when the season starts.

Let's assume the Sox will carry 12 pitchers -- most teams do -- so that means there are seven spots in the bullpen. There isn't a lot of mystery with five out of the seven:
David Robertson -- also still here

1. David Robertson
2. Nate Jones
3. Dan Jennings
4. Jake Petricka
5. Zach Putnam
6. ????
7. ????

Contenders for the last two spots include a quartet of right-handers we saw in Chicago in 2016: Tommy Kahnle, Michael Ynoa, Juan Minaya and Chris Beck.

I'm guessing one of the four makes the club, with Kahnle having the inside track. Unlike the rest of that crew, he had a strong finish to 2016 -- a 0.87 ERA over his final 11 appearances with 11 strikeouts in 10.1 IP.

Why would only one of the four make the team? Well, I'm thinking the Sox want a second left-hander in the bullpen. Jennings is the only left-handed roster lock as a relief pitcher. The door is open for waiver claim Giovanni Soto, who last pitched in the majors with Cleveland in 2015. The 25-year-old's left-handedness is an advantage for him as he battles Ynoa, Minaya and Beck for a roster spot.

But what of the non-roster invitees, you ask? Are there any pitchers that could surprise and make the roster out of spring training?

I'd say keep an eye on the non-rostered lefties, a list that includes Matt Purke, Aaron Bummer, Brian Clark, Jace Fry, David Holmberg and Cory Luebke.

Purke is a familiar name to Sox fans, although his 12 big league outings last season were pretty bad. I'll be interested to see what Bummer has after amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler spoke highly of him at SoxFest. Bummer is hard thrower who missed the 2015 season with Tommy John surgery, and he has fewer than 40 professional innings under his belt. It seems unlikely he'll compete for a roster spot given his inexperience, but he might be the most intriguing name in this group.

Clark is more advanced, having thrown 56 innings across 37 games between Birmingham and Charlotte last year. Fry missed the 2016 season with Tommy John surgery, and has thrown only 61 professional innings. Holmberg has worked mostly as a starter in his career. He made 28 starts between Birmingham and Charlotte last year, and has 167 career starts in the minors. Luebke is a 31-year-old former San Diego Padres prospect who underwent two Tommy John surgeries and missed three seasons from 2013-15.

From that list of six, we'll see if any emerge as a worthy challenger. Personally, I wouldn't count on it. Of course, when do you ever count on non-roster invitees?

Non-rostered right-handed pitchers in camp include Blake Smith, who made five September appearances with the Sox last year; 31-year-old veteran Anthony Swarzak, who had 26 relief appearances with the New York Yankees last year; and 20-year-old prospect Spencer Adams, who split time between Winston-Salem and Birmingham in 2016.

And, oh yeah, Michael Kopech and Zack Burdi are going to be in camp as non-roster players. Heard anything about them lately? How's that for burying the lead?

In all seriousness, Kopech is probably ticketed for High-A Winston-Salem when the season starts, while Burdi will be headed to the Charlotte bullpen, in hopes of one day becoming the White Sox closer.

Neither of these two hyped prospects are going to make the club, but they will generate headlines each and every time they take the mound this spring.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Rick Renteria impresses with answers to fan questions at SoxFest

Rick Renteria (center)
I went to SoxFest this past weekend without much enthusiasm toward the rebuilding project that is just beginning on the South Side of Chicago.

Guess what? I'm still not excited, but after listening to new White Sox manager Rick Renteria talk this weekend, I feel a little better knowing he will be the man leading the team through a 2017 season that is almost certainly going to be trying and ugly at times.

Renteria has been talking all week about doing things the "White Sox Way," so I stood up in the seminar room Friday night and asked him to elaborate on what the "White Sox Way" is, and to provide me with some examples of the things he wants to do differently than what we've seen in the past.

First, Renteria praised me for asking a good question, then he gave a detailed, specific and thoughtful response. He talked about the need for players to play with maximum effort  -- back up bases, run hard out of the batter's box, etc. He talked about how it was his responsibility to hold players accountable for actions they take or don't take on the field. He talked about the importance of improving in several small but key areas, a better two-strike approach at the plate, better base running, understanding situations in the field, hitting the ball the other way when the situation calls for it -- all things that seemed to be lacking during the Robin Ventura Era.

The paragraph above is just a Cliff Notes version. Renteria spoke for about five minutes after I asked my question, and he gave similarly detailed responses to other questions posed by fans. It was a welcome change from previous SoxFests.

Some other highlights from the seminar room:

1. General manager Rick Hahn said repeatedly that all the prospects acquired in the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades are expected to start the season in the minor leagues. He added that the Sox still are actively looking to make more moves before the season begins, with the goal of stockpiling as much young talent as possible. Hahn noted that a deal fell apart for him on Christmas Eve, so yeah, all that Jose Quintana-to-the-Yankees stuff around the holidays probably had some validity to it. It just didn't happen.

2. A fan astutely asked Hahn whether he would try to include the declining and overpriced James Shields in a deal with one of his assets. How would that work? Say Hahn wants to trade Quintana. He could go to a team and say, "You guys want Quintana? Well, you gotta take Shields and his high salary as well." Under such a scenario, the Sox would get less return in prospects for Quintana, but they would be off the hook for Shields' bad contract. Hahn said he would not do that under any circumstance, because his goal is to acquire top young talent, and throwing a liability such as Shields into a trade would defeat that purpose. I was happy to hear Hahn say that. We won't have a repeat of the Mark Teahen situation with Shields.

3. Both Friday night and Saturday morning, fans asked Hahn and Renteria about the role sabermetrics play in decision-making. Renteria said there was no shortage of information for he and his coaches to digest, but I was most impressed when he noted that numbers represent outcomes, and while they can be instructive, it's important to stay ahead of the curve by looking at more than just the past. Renteria noted that he has to trust his eyes and his gut, as well, beyond just absorbing the numbers, and there needs to be an understanding of what individual players can and cannot do in certain situations. Good answer.

In summary, Renteria's words, of course, are merely that. He has to produce results on the field, as well, but he gave the die-hard fans at SoxFest reason to believe he might be the right man for the job.

That's no small statement coming from me, because I was skeptical when Renteria was hired, and critical of Sox management for not conducting a more thorough search.

And, hell, I'm still skeptical, but I'm at least a little more open to the direction they are going based upon what I heard from the new manager over the weekend.