Showing posts with label Rick Hahn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rick Hahn. Show all posts

Friday, October 21, 2016

White Sox name Chris Getz director of player development

What was rumored is now official: The White Sox on Friday named former second baseman Chris Getz director of player development.

Getz, 33, has spent the past two seasons as a baseball operations assistant with the Kansas City Royals. He replaces Nick Capra, who was recently named the Sox's new third-base coach.

Getz appeared in 117 games for the Sox in 2008-09. He played for the Royals from 2010-13 and finished his career with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014. He posted a .250/.309/.307 slash line with three home runs in 459 career games. He did steal 89 bases, so there is that.

“We are pleased to add Chris’ intellect, background and energy to our front office,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement. “He is extremely well-regarded throughout the game, and we believe he is going to have a positive impact on the quality of play from rookie ball through Chicago.”

We can only hope that Getz is a better director of player development than he was a second baseman, and hey, he might be. We'll give him a chance to prove himself, although on the surface this looks like yet another example of the Sox giving a job to former player.

With that cynicism in mind, we might as well play our traditional, derisive "Welcome Back" song for Getz.

"Who'd have thought they'd lead ya
(Who'd have thought they'd lead ya)
Back here where we need ya
(Back here where we need ya)"

Monday, October 3, 2016

White Sox introduce Rick Renteria as manager at uninspiring press conference

Rick Renteria (center)
Sunday wasn't your typical Game 162. At the last home game of the season, win or lose, White Sox players usually come out of the dugout and interact with the fans before everyone leaves the stadium for the final time.

That didn't happen after Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins. It seemed like something was up. Sure enough, Robin Ventura announced immediately after the game he would not be returning as manager for the 2017 season. He called his departure "a personal decision," and added that he believes the organization would benefit from a change in the manager's chair.

"I enjoy this place," Ventura said. "I love this place. At the end, it probably needs a new voice … and I have to be big enough to understand that and go down and voice that."

Fair enough. I agree with Ventura on that, but here's the thing: The Sox turned around Monday and hired bench coach Rick Renteria as their new manager at a press conference that didn't exactly get me fired up for the 2017 season.

Is Renteria really "a new voice" considering that he's been around all year as a coach during this disappointing 78-84 campaign?

Here's a few other takeaways from what we've heard these past couple days:

1. It seems as if Ventura fired himself: General manager Rick Hahn said Monday that Ventura approached team brass about a month ago, saying it would be best for him to step aside at the end of the season. It was at that point that the wheels went in motion for Renteria to take charge. OK, so why was it leaked to the press last week that Ventura could return if he wanted?

If everyone is on the same page, as Sox brass claims, then this should have been handled much more smoothly. It's concerning that the first person to realize the Sox needed a managerial change seemed to be the manager himself. If this is actually how it all went down, then Ventura essentially fired himself. Give him kudos for being the only person in the organization with the courage to take decisive action. The higher-ups in the front office either aren't on the same page, or don't have the wherewithal to make changes when necessary.

The lack of leadership here is alarming.

2. It's disappointing the Sox did not conduct an outside search: Renteria is not an unreasonable choice. He has previous manager experience with the Cubs, and as Hahn notes, he has some other selling points -- a good reputation around the game, a good work ethic, a track record of developing young players, an ability to communicate with both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking players, etc. Hahn said if Renteria were to hit the open market, he would be a candidate for other open managerial jobs. I do not disagree.

However, how can the Sox be so certain Renteria is the best man for the job when they haven't interviewed anyone else? You don't know what could happen in the next 7-10 days, or in the next month, with comings and goings around the league, or changes as a result of what happens in the playoffs. There's no way of knowing who might or might not be available without asking questions, and having a thorough search and interview process. The Sox just aren't doing that for reasons I don't fully understand.

I would be more comfortable with the Renteria hire if he had emerged as the top candidate after an interview process involving multiple people.

3. Neither Hahn nor Renteria tipped their hand about the Sox's offseason direction: Hahn was asked directly during the press conference about roster changes and whether Renteria would be given a good enough team to compete immediately. He declined to answer, again reiterating that everything is on the table, and that he would not be telegraphing the organization's plans before he starts making whatever offseason transactions he's going to make.

Renteria was asked whether there is any direction the front office could be taking that would make him uncomfortable managing the team. He did not take the bait, saying that his job as manager is to get the best out of the players he is given, whether it's a veteran group or a younger team. It was an artful dodge by Renteria, to say the least, and no doubt that will endear him to Sox brass.

Taking a guess, I'm expecting the Sox to go for it 2017. I could be wrong. I've been famously wrong before. But owner Jerry Reinsdorf has never had a long-term rebuild in his playbook, and I can't imagine he would change now at age 80. Not to mention, if the Sox were going to start a full-blown rebuild, shouldn't that process have begun at midseason this year? I believe so. The Sox opted to stand pat, so until I see otherwise, I'm anticipating they are going to add to the core that's in place this offseason with the hopes of righting the ship next season. We'll see.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Let's speculate some more about Robin Ventura's future

Robin Ventura
Before we go any further, let's put away our visceral fan anger about yesterday's rumor that Robin Ventura will return as White Sox manager next year if he wants.

As most of you know, I'm a journalist by trade, so I'm taking off my fan hat and putting on my journalist hat here. My journalist brain has three questions in response to this news: Who leaked this rumor? Why did they leak this rumor? And why did they leak it now?

Of course, I'm not a beat writer. I don't have the opportunity or the means to investigate, but as a blogger, I'm free to speculate, so speculate I will.

My first thought was this leak is perhaps yet another sign of a rift in the Sox front office about the future direction of the team. Around the trade deadline, we heard talk that general manager Rick Hahn was looking to make significant changes, but that he was not allowed to do so by either owner Jerry Reinsdorf and/or senior vice president Ken Williams.

If the front office wasn't in lockstep on trade deadline moves, could it be possible they are not in lockstep on Ventura's future? For the sake of argument, let's say Reinsdorf and Williams want Ventura to stay (pure speculation, again, no basis in fact here), while Hahn does not. Under that scenario, maybe Hahn goes to the press and leaks that Ventura is likely to stay, in hopes of provoking a visceral anti-Ventura sentiment among the fan base.

As expected, the fan anger and backlash over the past 24 hours has been quite overwhelming, and that can be used as a powerful argument for a front office person who wants Ventura gone. You can say, "Hey, this is proof we need a change here. Everyone is fed up with the status quo. We're not selling any tickets for 2017 if Ventura stays. He's had his chances. It's time to move on."

Maybe I'm reaching, but it's a theory.

Here's another theory: The Sox are trying to create a soft landing for Ventura. They floated the "he can come back if he wants" thing, already knowing he isn't going to come back. Perhaps they want it to look like he's leaving on his own, as opposed to them kicking him to the curb, when in reality the decision has already been made.

That probably sounds a little stupid, and it's definitely passive-aggressive, but that fits the way this White Sox regime does business.

For his part, Ventura refused to answer questions on the topic Wednesday. He wouldn't say that he wants to return, which is different from what we've heard from him in the past. Hahn didn't take questions at all, which makes this even more weird.

It's really hard to figure out why someone in Sox brass would leak this to USA Today and create such a media storm with just five days left in the season. Couldn't it wait until Monday?

As far as USA Today reporter Bob Nightengale's part in this, I was shocked to see him criticize Sox fans so harshly in his column. I don't know if he's acting as a mouthpiece for Sox management, or if he's just out-of-town stupid (keep in mind, he covers all 30 teams, not just the Sox), but I emailed him today to remind him that Ventura has a .426 winning percentage against AL Central opponents over his five years at the helm.

We've chronicled Ventura's weaknesses over and over and over again on this blog. No, it is not all his fault, but some of it is, and he should be held accountable for those failures.

Ask yourself, can you see the Sox winning the World Series with Robin Ventura as their manager? Ever? My answer is a resounding no, and I challenge anybody who would answer yes to find a credible argument to support that position.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

White Sox surprisingly quiet at trade deadline

Rick Hahn
Baseball's trading deadline came and went Monday afternoon, and the White Sox didn't do anything besides the Zach Duke deal they made with the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.

The inactivity is surprising, because GM Rick Hahn previously indicated his frustration with the team being "mired in mediocrity." Such remarks usually signal that changes are coming, but in practice, only one deal was made.

I never expected Hahn to deal any of the Sox's headliners -- Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu -- but I did think he would make another trade or two similar to the Duke move. The "next tier" on the Sox roster features some productive veterans who would have value to other teams, and I figured players such as David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, James Shields or Todd Frazier could be on the move.

Instead, the gang is still all here, with the noted exception of Duke.

This has created a significant meltdown among an outraged fan base that is hungry for change. I share in the frustration, but not the outrage. You just have to put the emotions away and think logically here.

I watched MLB Network for most of the afternoon Monday, and much of the speculation centered around Sale. I'm sure the Sox received offers, and I'm sure they listened. But never for one second did I think the Sox would actually pull the trigger.

Why? Well, it because all the trade packages being offered seemed to center solely around prospects. The experts kept talking about Boston offering four top prospects for Sale, with 21-year-old Yoan Moncada being the centerpiece of the deal.

I'm sure Moncada is a fine prospect. He might even be a future star. But, you're not going to give up a five-time All-Star such as Sale in exchange for a package of ifs and maybes, with the centerpiece of the trade being a 21-year-old kid who has played a grand total of 32 games above A-ball. For a guy such as Sale -- and Quintana, for that matter -- you need at least one position player who is going to help you at the major league level right away.

I just don't think that deal is out there at midseason, because contenders are not willing to subtract from their current 25-man roster at this time of year. They are looking to add to what they already have. Once the offseason arrives, teams are more willing to part with major leaguers in a deal, because they have time to acquire somebody else to fill whatever hole(s) they create by making a trade. Those adjustments are much harder to make in-season.

Provided Sale and Quintana stay healthy the rest of the season (always a gamble with pitching), the Sox will be in position to get a better haul later than they would right now.

The free-agent starting pitching crop is very weak this offseason, which would only make Sale and Quintana more valuable in a deal, should the Sox choose the nuclear option and blow the team up this offseason.

I was very surprised there was so few rumors surrounding the Robertson-Cabrera-Shields-Frazier tier of the Sox roster. I feel like similar players from other teams were traded for reasonable prospects, so there should have been some market for these guys. But given the lack of rumors, maybe there wasn't.

No trade at all is better than a bad trade, and if the Sox couldn't get someone who might legitimately be able to help them in the future, there's no reason to dump players just for the sake of dumping. That's an emotional reaction that fans call for, but front offices can't afford to think that way.

There's always the possibility of trading any or all of these guys this offseason. That said, it's fair to say management is on the clock now to do *something* between now and the start of the 2017 season.

You can't come out and say that it's "unacceptable" to be "mired in mediocrity," then serve up another year of the status quo. Things don't necessarily have to change now, but they have to change soon. One thing we all agree on is the current results aren't nearly good enough.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Rick Hahn: White Sox are 'mired in mediocrity'

Rick Hahn
Remember when we thought the White Sox would be better in 2016 than they were last season? That was fun while it lasted, huh?

Well, guess what? The Sox are 46-49 after 95 games. At this same point last season, they were 45-50. So, all that moving and shaking over the last calendar year has resulted in a net gain of one lousy win. Hooray!

Before Thursday night's 2-1 rain-shortened loss to the Detroit Tigers, Sox general manager Rick Hahn admitted the plan is not working.

“We looked to get ourselves right as quickly as possible,” Hahn told members of the media scrum. “There was a spurt this season where it looked like it worked. As we sit here today, we’ve been wrestling with being a couple games over, a couple games under .500 for the last few weeks.

“We’re mired in mediocrity. That’s not the goal, that’s not acceptable, that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish for the long term.”

So, there you have it: The first sign that the Sox might be looking at a change in direction at the Aug. 1 trading deadline. The team is 10.5 games out of first place in the AL Central, and 7.5 games back in the wild-card race. There isn't much hope left for 2016, and Hahn acknowledged the team has ruled out any deals that would involve trading prospects for short-term rentals.

Hahn noted several times that the Sox are "open-minded" about their options. He did not rule out a complete teardown, although he commented that trading All-Star pitchers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana "might be extreme."

The Sox are not the most transparent organization in the world -- and I don't care that they're not -- so we're left to speculate about what this might mean. My speculation is they'll keep Sale. Shortstop Tim Anderson also is off limits in a trade. Quintana is unlikely to be dealt, but could be had if the right offer comes along. Everyone else is on the block, with David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Zach Duke and Melky Cabrera among the most likely candidates to be traded.

Here's what I fail to understand: The Sox allowed this season to slip away without firing the manager or anyone else on the coaching staff. Maybe the 23-10 start to the season created false hope, but the 23-39 mark since then is ridiculous. There's no way this team should have played that poorly over a stretch of 62 games.

The Sox were willing to shake up the roster, with John Danks, Mat Latos and Jimmy Rollins all being shown the door. Anderson was called up from the minors. The Sox traded for James Shields. They signed Justin Morneau. They recently recalled top prospect Carson Fulmer. They've been willing to address problems on the roster, but that hasn't improved results. There's no question the team is playing below its talent level at present, and it's been that way for more than two months. Why isn't anyone that's part of the dugout brain trust accountable for that?

I'm reluctant to let Hahn and Ken Williams undertake a new rebuilding project. They've turned almost the entire roster over since the midpoint of the 2013 season -- Sale, Quintana and Nate Jones are the only players left from that time -- but the results still are disappointing.

There's a lot of folks who want to trade Sale and Quintana, but I'm opposed to that line of thinking for two reasons: 1) I don't trust this front office to get the appropriate return, and 2) Right now, you'd be shopping them only to contending teams, and contenders are only willing to give up prospects during the middle of the season. If you're going to trade one or both of the crown jewels of your organization, I think you need to get at least one, if not two, major league players in return -- not just prospects.

Teams that are in the hunt typically are not willing to subtract players from their 25-man roster at this time of year. If the Sox do want to make a move with their top pitchers, they might be better served to wait until the offseason when every team in baseball could conceivably be in the market for Sale or Quintana. At that point in time, the Sox might be better positioned to maximize their return.

Right now, the vultures are circling, looking to pick at the carcass of the 2016 Sox. Hahn needs to exercise patience here. If he is going to move, he better make sure he gets exactly what he wants. These decisions are too important to the future of the Sox organization to rush.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

James Shields booed off the field in White Sox debut

James Shields
I was skeptical last week when the White Sox acquired right-handed pitcher James Shields from the San Diego Padres in exchange for pitcher Erik Johnson and shortstop prospect Fernando Tatis Jr.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not concerned about losing Johnson, who is a marginal pitcher at best. And the 17-year-old Tatis Jr. is years away from potentially making an impact at the major-league level.

Rather, I just don't believe in Shields. This is a 34-year-old pitcher with a high-mileage arm and declining velocity, and he's making the transition from a pitcher-friendly NL park in San Diego to a hitter-friendly AL park in U.S. Cellular Field.

Heh, heh, what could go wrong?

Well, plenty, unfortunately.

Shields absorbed a severe beating in his Sox debut Wednesday night, an 11-4 loss to the Washington Nationals. The NL East leaders roughed up Shields for seven runs on eight hits over two-plus innings. Shields struck out two and walked two -- and gave up three home runs.

By the time the Nationals completed their first trip through the batting order, they had hit three homers and scored six runs. Shields needed 79 pitches to complete two innings. He was removed to a chorus of boos after giving up a leadoff hit in the top of the third inning.

Gack.

If Erik Johnson had pitched this game, he likely also would have given up three home runs, but he probably would have had the courtesy to space them out over five innings. Not so with Shields. He got the struggling Sox blown out of the game before they even had a chance to bat.

This game got so bad that outfielder J.B. Shuck pitched the ninth inning for the Sox. He was more effective than Shields, allowing one run on one hit during his inning of work.

I'm not sure what that says, but dating back to his last start in San Diego, Shields has allowed 17 runs over his last 4.2 innings. And, if he does not exercise an out clause in his contract after this season, the Sox are stuck with him through the 2018 season.

Oh, boy. This is the sort of trade that could get Rick Hahn fired if Shields doesn't turn it around.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

White Sox designate John Danks for assignnment

The White Sox on Tuesday announced their intention to designate veteran left-hander John Danks for assignment.

Danks is 0-4 with a 7.25 ERA in four starts this season, and as we've chronicled previously on this blog, he is the one guy who seems to be holding the Sox back this season. The South Siders enter Wednesday's game against Boston with a 19-8 record, which means they are 19-4 when Danks doesn't pitch.

General manager Rick Hahn indicated right-hander Erik Johnson will be recalled from Triple-A Charlotte to take Danks' spot in the starting rotation. Johnson will start Thursday's game against Boston.

“(Danks) was an important part of some very good White Sox teams,” Hahn told CSNChicago's Dan Hayes. “This is about putting us in the best position to win ballgames going forward. We feel we have a pretty special thing going on in this clubhouse right now. We have the opportunity to build off some of the momentum we already have created for ourselves, and we wanted to put ourselves in the best position to win games going forward.”

There's no question Danks has been a momentum killer during his starts in the early going this year. His appearances have put a stop to a five-game winning streak and a six-game winning streak already. The struggles are part of a longer-term trend since Danks underwent shoulder surgery in August 2012.

He has never been the same pitcher since returning in 2013. In 88 post-surgery starts, he has gone 22-44 with a 4.84 ERA. As a team, the Sox are 32-56 in those 88 games. He's just too big of a liability for a team that is off to a good start and has every intention of trying to win this year.

Letting Danks go will not be cheap. The club is eating the remaining $11.75 million on Danks' contract, which comes as a surprise to many longtime Sox observers, who are used to seeing owner Jerry Reinsdorf insist on getting a return on his investment.

For myself and other Sox fans, the move is refreshing, because it shows the Sox are serious about winning and willing to address problems quickly. In the past, we've seen this organization stick with high-priced players despite poor performance. (Why was Adam Dunn batting third in 2011 when his batting average was well below .200?)

In the past, we've seen this organization stick with struggling players (Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo, Gordon Beckham) long after it became apparent they were never going to be solid, everyday contributors.

Whether the Sox have an internal solution for the No. 5 starter spot remains to be seen. But both the numbers and the eye test show that Danks is no longer capable of pitching at the major-league level. I commend the Sox for recognizing that and moving on.

Monday, March 21, 2016

White Sox option Erik Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte; Carson Fulmer opening eyes

Erik Johnson
The White Sox will have one right-handed pitcher in their Opening Day starting rotation. It just won't be Erik Johnson.

The Sox optioned Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte on Monday as one of three roster moves. Pitcher Tyler Danish and infielder Steve Lombardozzi also were assigned to minor league camp.

Johnson's demotion is a sign the club sees Mat Latos as its fifth starter going into the season, although Latos is yet to pitch in a game this spring. As for Johnson, he did nothing to distinguish himself in two starts, allowing nine runs on 10 hits in six innings.

The other rotation candidate, Jacob Turner, has made three Cactus League starts, but he has looked shaky -- allowing nine earned runs on 13 hits over 7.2 innings. He allowed two runs and lasted just two innings in a struggling performance against the Oakland A's on Sunday.

Latos seems to be the leader by default for that rotation spot.

Meanwhile, Carson Fulmer continued to impress Sunday with 3.1 scoreless innings and four strikeouts against the A's. It caught my attention on the Sox broadcast Saturday when pitching coach Don Cooper said Fulmer is further along in his development now than Carlos Rodon was at this same time last year.

Cooper reiterated the point when Scott Merkin of MLB.com asked him if Fulmer could contribute to the 2016 Sox.

"Absolutely. Why not?" Cooper said. "I believe at this point, right now, compared to last year, he's slightly ahead of where [Carlos] Rodon was."

Manager Robin Ventura also praised Fulmer in a story filed by CSNChicago.com's Dan Hayes.

“He’s jumped up there pretty high,” Ventura said. “Coop’s excited about what he’s been doing down here, making some adjustments and really putting himself on the radar for a couple of needs that might arise. He could probably fill both of those. Just an impressive young guy and is very mature and is learning very quickly as he goes along.”

This is a change from what we heard at SoxFest, when Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn tried to tamp down high fan expectations for Fulmer.

The 2015 first-round draft pick is not going to come north with the Sox, but his recent performances and the latest comments from team brass suggest his stay in the minors might not be a long one.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Austin Jackson agrees to one-year contract with White Sox

Austin Jackson
The White Sox moved to bolster their outfield depth Sunday, signing veteran Austin Jackson to a one-year contract worth $5 million.

Jackson, 29, posted a slash line of .267/.311/.385 with 9 home runs, 48 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 136 games split between the Seattle Mariners and Cubs last year. He's a career .273 hitter, but I don't think offense is the reason the Sox acquired him.

The projected outfield of Melky Cabrera in left field, Adam Eaton in center and Avisail Garcia in right is a subpar one defensively. Jackson will be the best fielding outfielder on the roster the minute he walks through the door. Jackson has produced 49 Defensive Runs Saved in six seasons in center and has a career Ultimate Zone Rating of 11.8 there, according to fangraphs.com.

Accordingly, Sox GM Rick Hahn has indicated Jackson will spend most of his time in center field.

“Most of, if not all of, Austin’s time will come in center,” Hahn told beat writers, including Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. “Obviously, a high quality defensive player out there and a lot of his value comes from having him in that spot. As I talked about with Adam Eaton at the end of last season and a couple times over the offseason and once again this afternoon, we also view Adam as a very fine defensive center fielder. He was one of the three finalists for the Gold Glove in 2014 out there and we think we’re stronger certainly from a defensive standpoint when we have both Adam and Austin out there in that same outfield. Adam’s expressed a willingness to do whatever we feel makes the most sense on a given day to win a ballgame whether that’s playing center field for Adam or DHing or being on one of the corners.”

Eaton remains the third-best position player on the Sox's roster -- behind only Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier -- so there is no chance he'll be displaced in the lineup by Jackson. If the plan is to play Jackson in center field and move Eaton to a corner outfield spot, that creates a logjam for Cabrera, Garcia and incumbent DH Adam LaRoche. Only two of those three players can be in the lineup if Jackson is in there.

Against left-handed pitching, LaRoche is certainly the odd man out -- the veteran hit just .157 with a .383 OPS against lefties last year.

Meanwhile, Jackson has been a solid bat against left-handed pitching over the past two seasons:

vs. LHP: .290/.345/.408
vs. RHP: .248/.293/.344

It seems like a pretty obvious move that Jackson plays center field against lefties, Eaton moves to right field, the weak-fielding Garcia is relegated to DH duties, and LaRoche goes to the bench.

The more interesting question is what the Sox will do against right-handed pitching. The splits show Jackson is not a good hitter against righties, but will his strong defense be enough for him to be in the lineup every day regardless? We'll assume the highly paid LaRoche will DH against righties, like it or not.

That leaves either the veteran Cabrera or Garcia as the odd man out. Would the Sox allow the 24-year-old Garcia to wither away on the bench? Will they send him to Triple-A Charlotte? Or might they give up on him entirely and trade him? It's a story to follow as the spring moves along.

With Jackson's addition to the 40-man roster, third baseman Mike Olt has been designated for assignment. No surprise there.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hopefully, John Danks has to earn his spot in the White Sox rotation this year

John Danks
Even though it's only spring training, it was nice to hear baseball on the radio Thursday afternoon. The White Sox lost, 6-1, to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The result wasn't satisfactory, but all the usual caveats about spring training being meaningless in the won-loss column apply.

The Sox were limited to just three hits, and starting pitcher John Danks gave up three runs on four hits over two innings. He walked the first batter he saw, then gave up three singles to put the Sox down 2-0 after the first inning. He also gave up a long solo home run to Alex Guerrero in the second inning.

Let me say this about Danks: I hope his spot in the starting rotation isn't secure. His ERAs over the past three years have been 4.75, 4.74 and 4.71, respectively. He's been consistent, give him that, but he's been consistently below par. In each of the past two seasons, his WHIP has been higher than 1.4 (1.441 in 2014, 1.413 in 2015).

Nothing he has done recently should be good enough to guarantee him a spot in the rotation. He should have to compete for one, and unlike previous seasons, the Sox do have other options. We know Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon will be in the rotation, assuming good health. But the other two spots should be up for grabs among Danks, Mat Latos, Erik Johnson and Jacob Turner.

If two of those three other pitchers are more impressive this spring than Danks, then they should be in the rotation, and Danks should go to the bullpen. If Danks outpitches all of them this spring, then he can keep his spot. But I don't think it should be just handed to him.

Earlier this winter at SoxFest, a fan asked GM Rick Hahn whether designated hitter Adam LaRoche was going to keep his spot in the lineup based on his veteran status and $13 million salary. Hahn insisted the Sox do not have any "scholarship players," that LaRoche would have to earn his spot, and that manager Robin Ventura has been told to play the best players regardless of who is making the most money.

I don't know if I believe it when the Sox say they will send a high-priced player to the margins if that player is not producing. Like LaRoche, Danks is set to make big bucks in this, the final year of his contract. In fact, Danks will be the highest paid player on the team at $15.75 million.

Based on that figure, I can't shake the feeling that Danks is going to be in the rotation whether he deserves the spot or not. And based upon what I've seen the past three years, he's a good candidate to be replaced. His poor outing Thursday comes with the aforementioned caveats about spring training not mattering, but there have been plenty of times where Danks has failed miserably when it did matter.

Let's hope the Sox take that into account if Danks flounders all spring.

Monday, February 22, 2016

White Sox sign Jimmy Rollins to minor-league deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 12, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ozzie Guillen to manage again -- in Venezuela

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 1, 2016

Thoughts on what I saw and heard at SoxFest 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A question I will ask Rick Hahn and Robin Ventura at SoxFest

As most White Sox fans know, the team has not made the playoffs since 2008. What is the common denominator in these non-playoff years? Well, you can come up with a few things, but the one that stands out to me is poor starts to the season.

2015: 10-16
2014: 14-17
2013: 15-21
2012: 13-17
2011: 11-22
2010: 16-24
2009: 15-22

Seven straight years of poor starts. Seven straight years of digging an early hole in the division. Seven straight years of excuses about how "early" it is. Seven straight years of no October baseball on the South Side.

Hey Rick Hahn and Robin Ventura, have you identified the reasons for these continued bad beginnings, and what can be done to fix it?

We'll see what they say this weekend ...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chris Sale pitches more like himself; Carlos Rodon added to White Sox rotation

And now for some rare good news White Sox fans ...

Chris Sale pitched like the ace he is Tuesday, putting a stop to the Sox's absurd seven-game road losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Sale fired eight innings of two-run ball, allowing just three hits while striking out 11 and walking only one. This was Sale's 19th double-digit strikeout game in just his 91st career start.

We've come to expect this sort of dominance from Sale, but he's been off to a slow start this season after missing most of spring training with a broken foot. In his previous two outings, Sale had allowed 13 earned runs on 16 hits over 8.1 innings. He uncharacteristically walked seven batters over that same stretch.

On Tuesday, Sale did not issue a walk until there were two outs in the eighth, his last inning of work. The command was back, his breaking ball was better on the whole, and his velocity was in the high 90s into the late innings.

It goes without saying, but we'll say it anyway: The Sox need Sale to pitch like this regularly if they have any hope of getting back into contention in the AL Central race.

Rodon moves into rotation

The White Sox also announced Tuesday that prized prospect Carlos Rodon will make his second career start Friday in Oakland and will move into the rotation in place of Hector Noesi.

We probably haven't seen the last of Noesi starting games, as the Sox will keep a close eye on Rodon's innings count.

“There is going to be scheduled periods of breaks, there will be times when he is skipped, there will be times when he has more than the regular four or five days off,” GM Rick Hahn said in an ESPN Chicago article. “But the process of transitioning him into a starter will begin Friday in Oakland.”

That works for me. I didn't want Rodon to continue wasting away in a mop-up bullpen role. The kid is a starting pitcher, and I'm glad the Sox are going to let him start.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

White Sox reliever Jake Petricka to start season on DL, Rick Hahn confirms

With just a week remaining before the season starts, the bullpen sits atop my list of worries as a White Sox fan.

The concern grew Monday when general manager Rick Hahn confirmed right-hander Jake Petricka will start the season on the disabled list with a sore elbow.

"We don't foresee this being a long-term problem," Hahn told ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla. "There's a decent chance he'll be activated when his 15-day period is up. However, given the short time between now and Opening Day, it did not make sense to try to rush and jam an outing or two in and force him on to the active roster."

With Petricka down to start the season, I'm still thinking there are two spots open in the Sox bullpen. I'm got David Robertson, Zach Putnam, Zach Duke, Javy Guerra and Dan Jennings as my roster locks.

Neither Matt Albers nor Maikel Cleto have pitched well enough to solidify a spot, but both might make the team now.

However, there are a few other options. Most notably, the Sox claimed Kyle Drabek off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. For what it's worth, Drabek was pitching reasonably well in the Grapefruit League this spring. He had allowed two runs in seven innings with seven strikeouts and three walks.

I figure Drabek, a former first-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies (2006), is going to get into a couple Cactus League games before the Sox break camp. If he fares well, he might make the roster and become pitching coach Don Cooper's reclamation project for the year, much like Hector Noesi was last season.

If the Sox decide they don't want Albers or Cleto, they could keep Drabek and bring Scott Carroll north to pitch in a long relief role. I know people are sick of Carroll (1.04 spring ERA), but he's pitched better than Brad Penny this March. He's also pitched better than Cleto and Albers.

Some dude named Arcenio Leon, a 28-year-old career minor leaguer, is still hanging around camp, too. The little-known right-hander hasn't given up a run yet this spring in six innings pitched, so he might be an off-the-grid possibility.

It's a little bit nerve-wracking for Sox fans right now, because I'm looking at all these names and feeling like Robertson and Duke are the only two relievers I can trust. Indeed, it would be a plus if Petricka's injury is just a short-term problem, because he's another guy you can feel pretty good about when he's healthy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

White Sox agree with Dayan Viciedo on one-year contract

The White Sox on Monday agreed to a one-year, $4.4 million contract with disappointing outfielder Dayan Viciedo, avoiding arbitration.

This news is about as welcome as a fatal chest wound for many White Sox fans, who have grown tired of Viciedo's wild swings, poor plate discipline and lousy defense in the outfield.

The 25-year-old is coming off his worst season in the major leagues, in which he posted a .231/.281/.405 slash line. All three of those figures are career worsts. Viciedo did total 21 home runs and 58 RBIs, but he also struck out more times (122) than he had hits (121).

It's hard to see how Viciedo fits into the plan for the 2015 White Sox. The outfield is set with Melky Cabrera in left field, Adam Eaton in center and Avisail Garcia in right. There's no room at designated hitter, either, with Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche set to split duties between first base and DH.

Viciedo at this point looks like an overpriced, one-dimensional (to put it charitably) bench player. Accordingly, you would think general manager Rick Hahn will be motivated to try to get Viciedo off his projected 25-man roster.

You also would think the $4.4 million contract would be an impediment to trying to deal Viciedo, but the more I think about it, maybe this will actually help Hahn in his efforts to make a trade. Now that Viciedo's contract for next year is in place, any potential trade partner now knows what the cost will be to acquire this player for the 2015 season. Up until Monday's announcement, any acquiring team would have to worry about Viciedo potentially taking them to arbitration, a process that is notorious for favoring players -- especially when Scott Boras is that player's agent, which is the case with Viciedo.

With cost certainty, maybe it's easier to make a deal. If you're a White Sox fan who wants Viciedo gone, at least you can hope that's the case.

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, February 12, 2014

White Sox infielders, get ready to catch some grounders

We've talked previously on this blog about how White Sox GM Rick Hahn has been targeting groundball specialists to restock his pitching staff.

Here's a good article from Yahoo Sports that discusses his strategy.

The article notes that newly acquired relief pitcher Ronald Belisario has a 60.8 percent groundball rate for his career. That means six out of every 10 balls put in play against Belisario are hit on the ground.

Just in case you were wondering, the league average in 2013 was 44.5 percent. It would be an understatement to say Belisario is an extreme groundball pitcher. Here's how the other pitchers Hahn has acquired this offseason stack up in this category:

Scott Downs: 58.0 percent
Mitchell Boggs: 52.6 percent
Felipe Paulino: 45.6 percent

So, all four of Hahn's major pitching acquisitions this offseason produce groundballs at a higher rate than league average. For the record, traded closer Addison Reed's groundball rate was the worst on the team in 2013 and well below league average at 33 percent.

Yeah, we can see a trend here. Hahn wants pitchers who keep the ball on the ground at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. That means the White Sox infielders had better improve their defense this season.

One of the most disappointing aspects of the 2013 campaign was the poor defense the White Sox played. They had the lowest fielding percentage in the league (.980) and had the second-most errors (121). They allowed 80 unearned runs to score, and that no doubt played a role in their pathetic 24-36 record in one-run games.

By way of comparison, the 2012 Sox committed the fewest errors in the league (70) and had the highest fielding percentage (.988). They allowed only 30 unearned runs to score the entire season. Not coincidentally, the Sox won 22 more games in 2012 than they did in 2013.

What was baffling about the 2013 defensive slump was that presumably good fielders were major contributors to the malaise. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez saw his error total jump from 12 to 22. Second baseman Gordon Beckham committed 12 errors in 103 games after committing just 7 miscues in 149 games the previous season.

There's been a lot of talk about whether Beckham and Ramirez will produce enough offense from the middle infield positions. Personally, I'm more concerned about whether they'll bounce back defensively. For Hahn's plan with the pitching staff to work, they better.