Showing posts with label Jon Garland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jon Garland. Show all posts

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Random thoughts from the goings-on at SoxFest

Few people spend a whole weekend at SoxFest and come away with zero autographs.

Me, I've been attending the event for the past few years and have never gotten a single signature.

I don't care for standing in line for autographs at all, but I'm not adverse to standing in line to take a picture with a former White Sox player:


Jon Garland was apologetic about forgetting to bring his 2005 World Series ring to SoxFest. I told him my "2005 happened" shirt would make up for it.



SoxFest was as crowded as I've ever seen it Saturday afternoon, so I was stunned to walk past the photo stage and see no line whatsoever to chat with a Hall of Fame player, Tim Raines. That's an opportunity I couldn't pass up as a baseball geek.


Everything they say about Jose Contreras is right: He's one of the nicest people you will ever encounter. He's gracious to fans, much like another former Cuban Sox player, Minnie Minoso. Contreras was hired as a team ambassador for good reason.

Aside from these three pictures, I spent most of my time hanging out in the seminar room, listening, learning and asking questions. A few things I found out:
  1. General manager Rick Hahn said if there's one move left to make this offseason, it would be to add one more relief pitcher to stabilize the bullpen. Hahn said he's looking for the next Anthony Swarzak, who made the Sox's roster last year as a nonroster invitee and ended up being traded for a useful prospect (Ryan Cordell) at midseason. Since Hahn made that comment, the Sox have signed right-hander Bruce Rondon to a minor-league contract. I doubt he's going to pitch like Swarzak did last season, but hey, at this time last year, did any of us think Swarzak would amount to anything?
  2. I asked Hahn how the outfield situation might sort itself out to start the season. Avisail Garcia, of course, is the right fielder. The other two starting spots and the backup outfield spot seem open, with Leury Garcia, Nick Delmonico, Adam Engel, Willy Garcia, Charlie Tilson and Cordell competing. Hahn did not rule out a veteran acquisition when I asked, but the Sox seem content to go with what they have. He noted that Tilson and Cordell missed significant time with injury last year. Both likely need more time at Triple-A, which is good news for the other four men on that list. Interestingly, Hahn said Cordell has been asked about by three different teams during offseason trade talks.
  3. Hahn and Renteria shared some thoughts on relief pitching and bullpen use in response to one of my questions Saturday. Renteria said he tells his relievers not to worry about what inning they are going to be used in. Rather, he wants them to be thinking about getting outs. He doesn't want to place guys in set roles -- a sixth-inning guy, a seventh-inning guy, etc. He did note that he considers himself to be old school in the sense that he wants starting pitchers to go as deep into games as possible. He isn't necessarily going to adhere to the theory that a starter's job is to get through the batting order two times and hand it over to the bullpen. He's aware that batting averages go up the third time through the order, but he's not going make decisions solely upon that. I asked Hahn if the organization in their scouting process is looking for "super relievers," guys who come in and work two or three innings in the middle of game -- the way Cleveland uses Andrew Miller, for example -- or do the Sox just try to stockpile starters, and whoever isn't one of the five best ends up in a bullpen role? Hahn's answer: yes and yes. If they find a guy who they think can be a dominant reliever in the middle of a game, they might draft him and try to develop him as such. But it's also likely that a sixth or seventh starter could end being that guy who works in middle relief.
  4. I asked director of player development Chris Getz about outfield prospect Luis Robert, who will be playing in the U.S. for the first time in his life. I'm wondering what minor-league level he'll start at, and Getz said that decision has yet to be determined. It depends on what Robert shows in spring training, of course, but it remains to be seen how the 20-year-old Cuban adjusts to life in a new country and a new culture. Getz said the organization will err on the side of caution with Robert, meaning if there is a debate over whether to start him in Low-A or High-A, they are going to put him in Low-A. The thinking being, if he destroys Low-A pitching, it's an easy adjustment to move him up to High-A. Better that than having him struggle at High-A and face a possible demotion to Low-A. Also, Getz said the organization sees Robert as a center fielder. 
  5. The optimism was overflowing all weekend long. There was one fan who wondered how the Sox could trade Fernando Tatis Jr. in the James Shields deal, but there wasn't a cross word uttered otherwise. Coaches, players and fans alike seem excited for the second year of the rebuild, and there was a lot of talk about how well the current players and prospects in the system enjoy being around each other. Players have an overwhelmingly positive view of Renteria and his leadership capabilities.  I'm not a big believer in chemistry -- I think you win with talent and execution -- but it doesn't hurt that the players in the Sox organization actually want to be with this team and want to win here. Time will tell whether they have enough talent and the ability to execute in pressure situations.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Dubious definition of a 'key free agent' -- Mike Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey -- in younger years
If you've watched MLB Network's offseason coverage lately -- and if you're reading my blog at this time of year, you probably have -- you may have noticed it has a tracker of "key free agents" running across its bottom crawl.

One by one, each team in MLB's logo is shown, followed by a list of that team's unsigned free agents. The White Sox have only one such unsigned free agent this year, and it never fails to make me smile to see him described as a "key free agent."

Good ol' Mike Pelfrey.

Yep, "Big Pelf" gets a mention, even though he went 3-12 with a 5.93 ERA for a Sox team that went 67-95 in 2017.

Key free agent? Ha! I'm quite sure the fate of the 2018 Sox rests on something other than Pelfrey's future with club, and I can't imagine too many rival teams are lining up to try to "steal" the journeyman right-hander who is entering his age 34 season away from the Sox.

Hey, something's got to keep me entertained during this offseason of very little baseball news, right?

Other additions to SoxFest

The Sox have announced a few additions to the SoxFest lineup. Catcher Welington Castillo, manager Rick Renteria and his coaching staff and former pitchers Jose Contreras and Jon Garland all will be at the Chicago Hilton from Jan. 26 to 28.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The White Sox's alleged 'refusal' to make trades with the Cubs

Jon Garland -- drafted by the Cubs, won a title with the Sox
It's going to be a long summer for White Sox fans. Our team is not good. We've acknowledged it on this blog countless times. The losing has started, as the Sox have dropped five straight after Thursday's 7-6 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

But it's going to be a long summer in other ways, too. For instance, it's only May 12, and I'm already sick of reading articles and hearing radio talk criticizing the Sox for their alleged "refusal" to make trades with the crosstown Cubs.

I'm not going to link to any articles, because this topic doesn't merit more web hits than it's already getting. But if you've been paying attention, you've no doubt heard the discussion.

Let's clear up one thing: Geographical rivals in Major League Baseball rarely trade with each other. The Yankees don't make a lot of deals with the Mets. The Dodgers don't trade much with the Angels. The Orioles and Nationals don't have each other on speed dial. You think the Rangers are going to be talking trade with the Astros anytime soon?

Me neither.

So, it's true the Sox are unlikely to make any deals with the Cubs this year, or any other year, but this is not a unique situation in the game of baseball. So why is the local media making it out as if Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf invented the concept of not making major trades with a close geographic rival?

Your guess is as good as mine. We can only speculate. There are many legitimate criticisms of Reinsdorf and the Sox. We've made some of those criticisms here on this blog, but not making more trades with the Cubs is not a legitimate gripe.

Let's clear up another misconception: At this time, the Sox and Cubs are not a good match as trading partners.

That's right, I said it.

It is true the Sox are interested in dealing starting pitcher Jose Quintana. It is true the Cubs are off to a slow start this season relative to expectation, and lackluster starting pitching has been the main reason for their struggles.

However, many media types are operating under the myth that the Cubs have a "deep farm system." This is false. Of the two Chicago teams, the Sox actually have the higher-ranked farm system -- they are in the top 10, and in some cases the top 5, in a lot of rankings.

The Cubs, in contrast, are ranked in the middle of the pack, because most of their top prospects have now graduated to the big leagues. The North Siders also paid a high price to acquire relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman at last year's trade deadline. The Cubs sent shortstop Gleyber Torres to the Yankees in that deal. Torres is now the top prospect in the New York system, and many believe the Yankees have the best farm system in baseball.

You look at the Cubs, and they have two really good positional prospects -- outfielder Eloy Jimenez and second baseman Ian Happ. But after that, it thins out significantly. To acquire Quintana, the Cubs would have to part with at least one of those two players, and potentially both. Do you think that's a price they want to pay, given that their system is significantly thinner than it was at this same time last year? I doubt it, especially since their tremendous depth was among the reasons they won the 2016 World Series.

You know who else needs a starting pitcher? The Yankees, and as I mentioned, their farm system is regarded by many as the deepest in the game. Don't be surprised if Quintana ends up there midseason. Even though it's lost on the Chicago media, the Sox and Yankees match up much better as trade partners than the Sox and the Cubs. There is no question New York has more trading chips to entice the Sox than any team in baseball, including the Cubs.

I know, I'm destroying the narrative with logic and facts.

You see, there's tremendous risk for both sides when you trade with a close geographic rival. If you make a bad move, or a lopsided move, it can haunt you for years. We still hear talk of how the Sox traded Sammy Sosa to the Cubs -- that trade has been cited this week, in fact. And it was cited to claim the Sox are reluctant to make a move with the Cubs because they were burned on that one, way back in 1992. There's no arguing the Cubs "won" that Sosa deal, steroids stuff aside.

But, let me fill you in on a little secret: Jon Garland was once a first-round draft choice of the Cubs. He also is the proud owner of a White Sox World Series ring. Garland pitched 13 years in the bigs, and he was a two-time 18-game winner with the Sox, including during the 2005 championship season.

The Sox would not have won that championship without Garland, and they would not have had Garland had the Cubs not foolishly traded him to the South Side.

That logic works both ways, but we rarely hear a levelheaded analysis of it. It's much more convenient to accuse Reinsdorf and the Sox of being petty and refusing to deal with the Cubs. That narrative is fiction, and with this blog entry, I've already given it way more discussion than it's worth. So I'll stop right now.