Tag Archives: Rick Hahn

Mike Moustakas Could Be A Last Minute Fit

By Cat Garcia

While fans prepare for warmer weather and Opening Day festivities, ball players have begun to welcome a new season by get back into the groove of everyday play.

But not everyone is hearing the crack of bats at Spring Training camps just yet.

From Jake Arrieta to Lucas Duda, there are still a handful of free agents left to be signed before Opening Day, and while the White Sox may not be looking to add a big name or contract to the fold just yet, there have been some interesting rumblings as we head into the first live action games of the year.

MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported earlier this week that an MLB executive noted third baseman Mike Moustakas may still have a good chance of landing with the White Sox.

In a vacuum, a reunion with the Royals would seem to be the most likely outcome for Moustakas. But the Royals have commited to starting fresh with a young core after winning their first World Series title in 30 years with Moustakas, Hosmer, Cain, etc — all of which have not be resigned yet or have moved on.

Moustakas had a strong season in 2017, hitting a career high 38 home runs in Kauffman Stadium. Moustakas also batted .272/.314/.521 while sporting a 114 wRC+. Not bad for a third baseman who is about to enter his age 30 season.

The question now is simple. Are the White Sox uncomfortable enough with running out Matt Davidson and Co. everyday that they feel the need to sign a player such as Moustakas? After all, White Sox GM Rick Hahn was calculated enough to make it clear to folks pestering him with Manny Machado questions all winter that they were going to do what was best for their long term plan. Would that be to sign Moustakas to a one-year deal, and go after Machado in free agency next offseason?

Considering Moustakas made just $8.7 million with the Royals in 2017 and is likely sitting at home waiting for his phone to ring, he could come at a bargain for the White Sox to add last minute, one that wouldn’t really jeopardize their financial plan for the future, but make the 2018 team considerably more solid on all fronts.

Signing Moustakas for a year and even potentially flipping him at the trade deadline to finish out the season with Davidson or perhaps even a call up for Jake Burger could also be a route the White Sox are looking to take. They would be able to upgrade at third base for a while and cash in on prospects, should Moustakas have as successful of a season has he did with the Royals in 2017.

Going into the season, the dust seems to have settled on which players will be starting at each position, and though it won’t be a brilliant crop on all accounts, it’s passable for a likely non-contending season that’s fresh on the heels of a rebuild. But when it comes to third base, it’s been a bit hazy for several seasons now.

Davidson is obviously the leading candidate for the starting role, but considering he hit just .220/.260/.452 last season, the idea of him taking of the bulk of the playing time isn’t exactly ideal — even in this landscape. Davidson feels more suited to a bench role, where he can hone his best tool — his power — when the situational need arises. But there is no real reason to be running out a player who owned a very characteristic 37 percent strikeout rate in 443 plate appearances last season. Perhaps a possible last minute upgrade to the hot corner has been Hahn’s creative thinking at work all along, or perhaps this is simply a case of “Hey, we need a third baseman and you haven’t been signed yet”.

Whether there will be any truth behind the speculation that Moustakas could land with the White Sox remains to be seen for now, but the main takeaway is that should a transaction come together in the next few weeks, it wouldn’t jeopardize the White Sox’s long term plans to be more active on the free agent market next offseason, but would lock in a solid starting third baseman for the coming season.

Anderson Ready for 2018

To say that 2017 was a tumultuous season for White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson would be a bit of an understatement. After starting his career under much trepidation as to whether or not the late-bloomer would stick at shortstop, he came into 2017 with something to prove—that all of that trepidation was simply unwarranted.

But, in an unexpected turn of events, the then 23 year-old Anderson suffered the tragic loss of his best friend, Brandon Moss. who was gunned down in early May in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

“He was very close to me. More so, a brother. We’re talking seven years of a great relationship. He’s my baby’s God-Dad. I was his a daughter’s God-Dad. It was that type of bond.” Anderson told the media in May.

We often lose sight of the fact that baseball is just a game and, for people such as Anderson, a job. Off-the-field incidents are carried into the fabric of everyday life which, for Anderson, was during the start of arguably the most important year of his young, budding career.

Anderson’s numbers suffered as a result of the tragedy. During the first half of the season, Anderson hit a paltry .240/.263/.369 and committed a record 28 errors on the season. The second-highest fielding error total for the White Sox belonged to Avisail Garcia, who committed only 9 errors in 2017.

Anderson eventually sought help through the work of counselling and the mentorship of the White Sox organization and, by the second half of the season, the team began to see a break-out. Anderson was batting a much healthier .276/.292/.440 with 10 stolen bases and 8 home runs in the second half, and he was clearly on the road to recovery. He was out to prove that the Anderson that showed flashes brilliance during the 2016 season was not far in his rearview mirror.

“They’ve been there for me since that happened, it’s just a great group of guys and an awesome coaching staff and front office, you know they supported me,” Anderson said of the White Sox organization. “They know I’ve been through a lot, it’s just great to have them in my corner and be there for me.”

If the end of the season wasn’t enough to convince you that Anderson was on the path to getting back to his everyday self, seeing the 24 year-old at SoxFest this past weekend certainly reaffirmed any doubts one might have. Rejuvenated, showing off his signature infectious smile, and voicing his enthusiasm for the coming season, Anderson gave off the vibes of a brand new person; strengthened by the trials he’d faced so early in his major league career.

“It’s just, I’m excited about the season, you know,” Anderson said, gazing into the distance as though he was already envisioning the warm breezy nights that are soon to be on deck at Guaranteed Rate Field. “I’m going to go and do what I’m supposed to do and just the ultimate goal is to have fun. I wasn’t having fun last year, it was tough. It flushed me, but you know, I’m back and I feel great.”

“Tim Anderson’s not a finished product, “ General Manager Rick Hahn said during media sessions on Friday afternoon. “Carlos Rodon is not a finished product, despite being in the big leagues for a couple years. It’s part of the reason Ricky [Renteria] and the coaching staff is perfectly suited for this process. They’re all teachers, they all have roots in player development.

“I already knew that,” Anderson said of Hahn’s remark, accompanied by a confident smirk. “I know that the sky’s the limit for me, man. I do everything the right way and treat people the right way so it’s just a matter of time. Just keep working, just keep going. Things will happen, it’s going to be a great season, we got a great group of guys and we’re ready.”

Anderson’s struggles last season were certainly not vain. He understands that in a quickly changing landscape for this team that had been ushering in new young players nearly every week last season, with more to arrive this season, he will be taking on the role of a leader and mentor in 2018. And he’s welcoming that new and exciting challenge with open arms.

“That’s something I’ve definitely thought about,” Anderson said of becoming a clubhouse leader. “You know it’s a new year, I feel great. Man, it’s gonna be great.” Anderson said, as though he was realizing the depths of his excitement right before our eyes. “I’m doing more things, I’m opening up, talking more, so it’s gonna be great to see you know how this year goes with me being vocal and being that leader. I’m excited about it and I’m ready to lead these guys.”

Those comments are a far cry from the lowlights baseball saw from Anderson in 2017. Anderson’s story of success in 2018 will stretch far beyond the numbers and flashy plays on the diamond. His ability to persevere in the face of adversity and tragedy will help him become an example not just to his teammates, present and future, but to many onlookers and fans of the White Sox’s cornerstone “grinder” culture. The moto is that “Ricky’s boys never quit”, and Anderson has quickly become the poster child of that sentiment.

Rick Hahn cautions “There’s a fair amount of work ahead”

The theme of the weekend at Sox Fest 2018 was slightly different than it has been the last few seasons—stay patient and trust the process. Instead of hype over plug-and-play types acquired in a string of deals that have “won the offseason” in the past, the mantra here is about building from the ground up for a strong foundation for the future.

Patience can be hard to preach to a fanbase that’s been hungry for a championship; an ideal that’s fallen through the cracks year after year leading to a jaded and disheartened fanbase. But, in this instance, the journey could be as rewarding as the destination itself.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in the last year-plus,” White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn said to the media Friday afternoon at SoxFest. “We feel we’re much closer than we were when we started this process to being able to field a team that can contend for championships on an annual basis, but we also know there’s a fair amount of work ahead of us,” Hahn continued. In a way, that is almost a refreshing sentiment to hear, simply because of it’s candor.

“I think when we preach patience at this point, to an extent we’re saying it to ourselves,” Hahn said of the team’s rebuilding efforts. “There’s going to be a temptation. All of you that are going to be in Glendale for the first few weeks of Spring Training are going to see players that are going to get you excited, and people are going to want to see them at the big league level, just like a year ago when they wanted to see Moncada start at the big league level, and Giolito and Lopez. But we have to be patient with their development.”

Much of the core the White Sox are moving forward with are extremely young and, as Hahn said, the pure excitement that’s left behind by small triumphs often leads to a strong dose of temptation. Temptation for call ups, for promotions and to make 2018 “the year.” That stems not just from what is seen in the results put forward at Spring Training or in the minor leagues or even the flashes of success the White Sox saw last year, but from the players themselves — who tend to be an enthusiastic and vocal bunch.

“I like when I read quotes from player X saying ‘I feel like I’m ready for the big leagues’, that’s awesome,” Hahn said. “I want that, I want guys regardless of where they are to be enthused and competitive and hungry and almost have a little chip on their shoulder like, ‘I’ll show you I’m ready.’ From our standpoint, whether it was a year ago with Moncada or Giolito or Lopez, you try to articulate the specific reasons why they’re not necessarily in the big leagues, what you’re looking for from them, where they need to show improvement and give them an expectation of generally how you think that’s going to unfold.”

Sometimes we lose sight of what it was like to be in the mindset of someone as young and driven as the faces of this groups are. Tunnel vision can become a powerful driver when paired with motivation and keeping these players on a steady path to sustained major league success is vital not only to the future of this organization, but in each player’s individual careers.

“I think although they might at times be slightly disappointed,” Hahn said. “You know, why wasn’t I the one who got the call up on this day or why didn’t I break with the club, they get it,

“They see enough of it around them and now they can look at examples with Giolito, Lopez and Moncada and see okay we spoke the truth to them and gave them their opportunity when the time was right and mine will come. Again, it’s an odd balance because there is this wonderful level of excitement and people are really diligently following our minor leagues and they’re tracking our guys performance and buying into it, getting excited for it. At the same time we need to be realistic. Michael Kopech is 21 years-old and has thrown fifteen innings at Triple-A. Does he have the ability to contend for Cy Young awards in the future? Absolutely. Is that going to start in 2018? Probably not, given what he’s done.”

That’s high praise for someone who has the small track record Hahn noted, but isn’t an extremely unrealistic expectation of a young hurler such as Kopech. The foundation is being properly built here, which leads to a clearer and more reliable vision of the future. Each of these players has their own “it” factor. These players are not accompanied by blind hopes for success or leaps of faith. They’re accompanied by patience in development and a strong set of tools that simply need to be properly honed. That’s a very different vision for this club than fans saw just a few phases ago.

“There have been past offseasons where we have been excited, we’ve ‘won the winter’ a few times, so to speak,” Hahn said. “We had authentic enthusiasm as we went to camp, that this was a team that had the ability to contend. I think we knew that certain things from a health standpoint or from a performance risk standpoint had to go out way for it to work, which makes you uneasy, where as with this even though we are by no means where we want to be yet, you can see the necessary depth coming together, that will be able to withstand whatever cruelties lay ahead when it’s time to win.”

For a team that is not slated to be taking home a division title and may even find Wild Card hopes a bit of a pipedream in 2018, a sold out SoxFest filled with fans praising Hahn for giving them hope again seems to lend itself to the idea that this team is on the road to something quite big, and that the fun can certainly start even before the celebrating does. All it takes is a little patience.

Dreams of Eloy to Get Sox Fans Through the Winter

It seems it wasn’t long ago that the most common sentiment echoed throughout the Cubs fanbase was, “they’ll never give up Eloy.”

Eloy Jimenez was hitting .329/.369/.532 during his first full season at high-A Myrtle Beach, which earned him the title of the Cubs No. 1 prospect in 2016. Cubs fans were simply enamored.

But as it became apparent that the Cubs wealth of offensive talent was simply brimming over, and as areas of need began to form throughout the rotation, the pipe-dream of Jimenez becoming the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade deal quickly became a reality. The deal the Cubs and White Sox made just a few weeks before the trade deadline has already solidified itself as what is likely one of the best fit trades of the 2017 season. The Cubs placed a rising ace into their rotation, and the White Sox added a young, developing power bat to their farm system.

What the White Sox assumed they were getting was the Jimenez baseball had been marveling at since 2014. Instead, they got something even better.

Jimenez arrived in High-A with the White Sox in July and hit .345/.410/.682—miles higher than he’d hit with any Cubs affiliate. Just like that, the Jimenez Frenzy was spreading wildly on the other side of town.

Moments such as the now popular “The Best” video in which Jimenez calls his own home run quickly became celebrated ones.

“That’s one of those things that just happened,” Jimenez said of the called shot. “Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I feel very confident. I’m feeling good with my body and I say, ‘OK, I’m going to hit a home run tonight, and it happens. I have that kind of confidence in myself.’”

How often does this happen? According to Jimenez, quite often. He just simply refers to it as confidence. Jimenez, however, is aware that there is still work to be done. Instant success without proper progression is never the long term answer.

“I have to work all around,” Jimenez said during his visit to Guaranteed Rate Field in September. “I have to improve all around my game. I don’t think it’s any specific area that I have to improve more than another. I have to keep learning about the game because every day you can learn something different.”

“People are going to want to see Michael Kopech [and] Eloy Jimenez,” General Manager Rick Hahn told WLS. “But we’re going to have to exhibit that same level of patience here over the next 12-18 months so that we can make sure they have similar such success as these first three [players to come up],” Hahn said, referring to Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Yoan Moncada.

Jimenez’s success hasn’t seemed to stop, though. Recently wrapping up his time in the Dominican Winter League, Jimenez says that his busy offseason has just helped him prepare for future long seasons on the South side. “This is just a good way for us to get ready for when the time comes for us to play in the World Series,” Jimenez said. “Probably two or three years ahead. When that time comes we have to be ready for that. We can’t say, ‘I’m tired because I’m playing too much’ or ‘I’m tired because I had 600 at-bats.’ When that time comes we have to get ready, and I think this is a good way for us to be prepared, for when that moment comes.”

If it was possible to build on the totals Jimenez finished his minor league season out with, he certainly went for it.

Check out Jimenez’s numbers in the Dominican League:

AVG OBP SLG HR 2B 3B RBI
.386 .419 .754 4 5 2 20

Despite Jimenez’s proven ability to tear through whatever challenges lay ahead, Rick Hahn is not so certain that he will be ready to join the White Sox in 2018. “It’s possible,” that Jimenez spends all of 2018 in the minors, Hahn said in an interview with 670 The Score, then quickly peppering a new twist on a classic Rick Hahn quote — “But the good ones have a way of changing plans on you.”

What Sox fans must remember is that development isn’t simply lent to success in numbers. Jimenez may look ready to take the majors by storm, but development is non-linear and simply because Jimenez looks to be a natural for success at the plate doesn’t mean the rest of his makeup is refined just yet. Jimenez still believes he needs to elevate his game and, though it can be assumed that this is unanimously agreed upon by White Sox personnel, whether that development continues in the majors or minors, may be a topic of disagreement.

“I truly believe that I can be playing here right now,” Jimenez said in September. “Like I say, God’s plan is perfect. The only thing I can do and handle is to work hard every day and try to do my best and try to learn about the game every day and put me in the best position to force them to make a decision.”

Hahn has spoke about the delay in Moncada’s arrival in the majors and of the similarities the rest of the Sox’s growing pool of prospects’ paths will bear. Though there were other factors involved, the stressed point was that there were simply areas of Moncada’s development that still weren’t quite ready for the the big league stage.

There are certainly things that ballplayers need to work out at the major league level, but until the proverbial “checklist” as Hahn refers to it as is complete, Jimenez and any other prospect for that matter simply isn’t ready to take the next step. That’s something that folks will just have to trust the White Sox developmental staff on.

Is Jose Abreu Part of the White Sox Future?

When looking back at the White Sox’s extremely intriguing 2017 season, it’s hard not to immediately mention Jose Abreu.

Abreu is coming off his fourth season in the majors after being signed in October of 2013 to a six-year, $68 million deal and has had his best season since his rookie year in 2014.

But with Abreu approaching his age-31 season as a right-handed first baseman, questions loom as to whether or not Abreu has much of a future left on the South Side. Abreu currently has two years left on his six-year contract before he will become a free agent and the White Sox window of true contention doesn’t look to be opening up until around 2019 — Abreu’s age 33 season.

“They’re both special cases,” GM Rick Hahn said of Abreu and Avisail Garcia, who is also coming off of a stellar campaign. “And there are very strong arguments for them playing roles in 2020 and beyond. Abreu, obviously you can’t say enough about the season he had on the field, but [also] his importance in the role he plays in our clubhouse.”

As of September 29th, Abreu is hitting .306/.356/.556 with 33 home runs, the most since his rookie season. He has hit over 100 RBIs this season, marking the third season in which he has hit 30+ home runs and 100+ RBIs.

This year, Abreu also became just the sixth White Sox player to hit for the cycle on September 9th, earning him a gift from White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf — a commemorative ring to help celebrate his achievement.

“I would like to stay here forever,” Abreu said through the White Sox interpreter. “I would like to play with this team my whole career. But it is a business and we have to accept and respect what’s in the future. I would like to stay here forever.”

Abreu’s role in the clubhouse has become a pertinent piece in the discussion regarding his future. Abreu has taken on the role of a veteran leader in this clubhouse. He’s also been a friend and mentor to a precious piece of the White Sox’s future — Yoan Moncada. Moncada and Abreu grew up playing together in Cuba and have kept up a strong bond over the years. Having both Abreu serving as a mentor to both Moncada and the rest of the team’s budding youth could be considered a priceless asset.

“Most of the improvement or change since he first got here,” Hahn said, “It’s been with his comfort level in that clubhouse and the role of leader he has assumed, that he has always wanted to. We talked about that as far back as his rookie season—that that’s how he viewed himself and that’s what he wanted to be for this organization. But I think you’ve seen more public examples than you were able to see in the past of him playing that role for this club.”

Thankfully for the White Sox and Abreu, there’s no rush to make any decisions just yet. “Frankly, those decisions don’t have to be made this offseason,” Hahn said of entertaining the idea of moving the first baseman. “[He’s] controllable through 2019. We have the luxury, if we want, to play it out another year [or] play it out another half-a-year to see if the performance continues, see if the trade market changes.”

Hahn cited another important move that White Sox made this season that could have been made earlier, but the timing wasn’t right.

“As was the case when we sat here with [Jose] Quintana a year ago,” Hahn said, “yes, he was potentially a trade candidate, but the market didn’t respond the way we had anticipated, so we had to wait. There isn’t a firm answer right now. We don’t know what the options are. One of them conceivably is extending, and we have to wait and see what that cost entails.”

But Hahn realizes that luxury isn’t always afforded for long. “Sometimes a player needs to see what their free agent value is,” Hahn said. “And they perhaps have a different view of what their value is than what the market tells them it is. You’ve certainly seen a lot of players who have had to go out into the market, get whatever information they needed, and then return back to our club.”

Whether Abreu has a long term future in a Sox uniform remains to be seen right now. But the important part is that he’s continuing to make strides that indicate he’s still healthy and strong as ever, and has made a lasting impression on the White Sox’s young clubhouse. That impression cannot be erased, so even should the future find Abreu’s locker empty, his legacy will linger throughout the clubhouse as this team climbs to it’s bright, promising future.

Rodon Has Surgery, Opening Day ’18 In Question

White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn told reporters at Guaranteed Rate Field today that left hander Carlos Rodon underwent arthroscopic surgery to fix a “significant case of bursitis” in his left shoulder. The procedure was preformed in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal El Attrache  and Rodon’s tentative timeline for return is in six to eight months. That timeline, obviously, puts his Opening Day status in question. The diagnoses for Rodon, who started the year on the disabled list with bursitis, is about as good as the White Sox could hope for, Hahn said. Rodon’s biceps and labrum were fine and the injury was limited to the bursitis in his shoulder.

In total, Rodon started 12 games for the White Sox in 2017. His season debut didn’t arrive until June 28th as he rehabbed his ailing shoulder in Arizona to start the year. Although his ERA was 4.15 over the 69.1 innings he threw, Rodon was able to lock things in and give White Sox fans a glimpse of his potential for a stretch of six starts from late July into August. Over those six, Rodon went 40 innings with a 2.93 ERA and struck out 48 hitters while walking only 12.

It’s not the first injury for Rodon. He sprained his wrist in the 2016 season, which interrupted a comeback-type second half, and injuries have kept sightings of that type of performances to just a glimpse.

Rodon will turn 25 before the end of the year and, even at such a young age, could very well be the “elder statesman” in the White Sox rotation. Only James Shields, who has one year left on his deal, is older and Rodon, should he make the full recovery that he and the White Sox hope for, has plenty of potential to keep White Sox fans dreaming about his return all winter.

While Rodon heals, the White Sox rebuild rolls on. There are a number of young, talented arms in the minors (Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, and Dane Dunning to name a few) that could push for starts late in the 2018 campaign. How Rodon fits back in will largely be a question of health.

Hahn’s Perspective as Phase One Comes to an End

“It’s nice, in a year where we’re likely going to wind up with the worst record in the American League and a top three pick, that there’s this level of enthusiasm,” White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn said during a one-on-one interview with WLS on Wednesday.

Despite being knee-deep in a rebuild, the mood was light and hopeful, and the messages Hahn conveyed were steadfast and reassuring.

Just a year ago, White Sox fans weren’t sure there was much of a future to look forward to. But in less than a year’s time, under Hahn’s direction, this team has become one of the most promising teams of the next few years.

“We knew something had to change. We knew we had to commit fully to one direction,” Hahn said. Hahn admitted to shuffling somewhere around 50 players through the South Side this season, from the departure of Todd Frazier to the welcoming of baseball’s top prospect, Yoan Moncada, who exactly a year ago was having his cup of coffee in a Boston uniform.

“This is the most exciting 60-win team I’ve ever watched,” an enthusiastic fan said to Hahn. Hahn has orchestrated this team’s rebuilding efforts flawlessly, and lucky for Sox fans, every player that’s arrived so far has been right on target. But rebuilds take time and most importantly—patience.

“Whatever happens over the next 12 months or so, that process is going to require a lot of patience. We’re going to have to allow these players the time to develop, [there are] many guys we still have in this pipeline, far lower than Moncada, Giolito and Lopez who we’ve already brought up, and it’s going to require a similar stretch of patience. People are going to want to see Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez, but we’re going to have to exhibit that same level of patience here over the next 12-18 months so that we can make sure they have similar such success as these first three.”

Hahn praised many of the new young members of this team and their success at the big league level, but that hasn’t all been chalked up to luck. For Hahn, it’s making sure that players “check all the boxes” before they make their arrival in a Sox uniform. Hahn says he heard all the clamoring for Moncada’s arrival. But the second baseman simply wasn’t ready yet.

“With Moncada, specifically, it was his right-handed swing and the exchange on the double play arm slot issue,” Hahn said of the ‘delayed’ arrival. “Not the end of the world, certainly things he could have come up to Chicago and survived, but we wanted to take the time and frankly knowing what kind of season we were going to have at the big league level, we had the luxury of taking the time to make sure they check every box we have for them in the minor leagues.”

Some might be thinking, what type of skills could a few extra days even merit, though? That’s where the patience—and the trust in Hahn—come into play. Hahn and the rest of the Sox organization see a lot of things that folks who aren’t on the forefront of a player’s development can’t.

“Moncada did struggle a little bit with breaking balls [in the big leagues], and he still struggles a little bit with breaking balls,” Hahn said. “But now it’s the kind of breaking balls that he couldn’t see in Charlotte.”

Hahn preached another interesting point — failure is important.

“There is an element of player development that involves failure,” Hahn said. Hahn reflected on the career of former White Sox top prospect Gordon Beckham, who was an extremely buzzworthy prospect, but spent years simply treading water in the majors.

We also, unfortunately, remember Gordon Beckham’s struggles that came at the big league level, because for the first time in his career he actually failed,” Hahn said.

“Adjusting on the fly to the big leagues is the hardest thing to do. [Beckahm] really wasn’t equip to ever having dealt with failure, having pulled himself out of it and the ability to show he knew how to survive.”

Learning to deal with failure while still having success is still a realistic outcome. But sometimes, such as with the case with Beckham, it just doesn’t work out.

“We have to build up a critical mass of prospects and we will continue to add to that,” Hahn said. Because inevitably, the baseball gods are going to take a couple of them from us.”

But while everyone is so focused on the future, some of the pieces that were supposed to be a part of the White Sox’s bright future a few years ago still remain—one of them being the 30-year old Jose Abreu.

“We have to make the assessment all things considered, from the strong numbers to the impact he has on Moncada. In terms of our window, ‘Is that the best use of our resources?’ A mid-thirties right-handed first basemen who may be on the decline, or that stalwart in the middle of the lineup who is a great team leader.”

Even if it’s a few seasons late, outfielder Avisail Garcia has hit his stride in 2017, presenting another interesting question about the 26-year old’s future.

“We have to make an assessment,” Hahn said of Garcia. “Does it make sense to commit whatever amount of money keeps Avi Garcia off free agency, or do we explore perhaps moving him in exchange for continuing this accumulation of prospects.”

Hahn embarked upon a journey last offseason to do what every GM wants to do. He’s built a team from the ground up, made them compelling to follow during a 60-win season, and has given a weary fanbase something to truly be hopeful for—all in under a year.

Everything Must Go

The White Sox continued flipping major-league assets with the late night trade of reliever Tyler Clippard to the Astros Sunday night. Clippard, who worked just 10 innings for the White Sox after coming over in a seven-player trade with the Yankees on July 19th, was moved for a player to be named later or cash.

Despite a decent track record of success (2.78 ERA in 527.1 IP from 2010-2016), Clippard’s 2017 started like a nightmare. In 46.1 innings with the Yankees, Clippard logged a 4.27 ERA, the Yankees saw leads evaporate and fans lost patience at a record pace–even for Yankee fans. Still, after coming over to the White Sox, Clippard worked his bread-and-butter change-up back into shape and was reliable enough (10 IP, 2 ER, 10 K, 5 BB).

While the quality of player (or amount of money) the White Sox receive will certainly depend on Clippard’s performance down the stretch for Houston, credit GM Rick Hahn for moving a short-term asset for, well, anything.

It seems likely that Dylan Covey, whose been rehabbing at AAA Charlotte, will come up to take Clippard’s spot. Covey, who started the year as the fifth man in the White Sox rotation, is a Rule 5 pick and needs to be on the 25-man roster or be returned to Oakland at the end of the year.

-Jimenez Rakes

Eloy Jimenez, the power-laden outfielder who headlined the Jose Quintana trade, was having a wonderful season before being traded to the White Sox. Since the deal, he’s been nothing short of incredible. Over 100 at-bats with the Winston-Salem Dash, Jimenez has slashed .380/.446/.750. He’s hit eight home runs–the same number he’d hit in the 155 at-bats prior to the trade. It’s entirely possible that he’s ready for the test at double-A but the White Sox have said, many times, they’re not interested in rushing prospects through this rebuilding process.

White Sox Send Frazier, Robertson, Kahnle to Yankees; Call up Moncada

Out with the old, in with the new.

That’s certainly the phrase for the White Sox on Tuesday as they turned over their lineup, sending veterans Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and breakout reliever Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees in return for Tyler Clippard and three prospects while also announcing that Yoan Moncada will be called up to join the Major League club for Wednesday’s game against the Dodgers at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The White Sox will deplete their bullpen by dealing away Robertson and Kahnle, but shore up the loss by adding Tyler Clippard in what will likely be the closing role. Clippard has struggled with the Yankees this season, with a walk rate of 4.71 per nine and a HR/FB percentage of 14.6. Clippard is currently striking out 10.40 batter per nine.

The return the White Sox received from the Bronx included outfielder Blake Rutherford, the No. 3 prospect in the Yankees system, left-hander Ian Clarkin and outfielder Tito Polo.

The centerpiece of this deal is certainly 20-year-old Blake Rutherford. “Blake is a guy who was very high on our draft boards,” Hahn said of Rutherford. “We debated him right up through our pick last year.” Rutherford is the No. 36 prospect overall according to MLB.com. “I don’t like putting comps on players but we do view him as having an extremely high ceiling and a guy who when we start looking around at Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada. He fits into that potential mold of a potential high-impact offensive player who potentially can also help you defensively,” Hahn said. Rutherford hit .281 while with the Yankees Class A Charleston team.

Ian Clarkin, 22, was ranked as the Yankees No. 19 prospect according to MLB.com and was in Class A Tampa where he had a 2.62 ERA over 75 IP with 58 strikeouts. He comes with a long injury history but has a good mix of pitches that include an above-average breaking ball and a fringe-average changeup that could be interesting in use as a long reliever if Clarkin doesn’t make the starting rotation in the future. The White Sox have a long track record of keeping their pitching healthy, so perhaps the injuries are not a major concern for the organization.

Tito Polo, 22, was the mystery fourth piece in the deal. “Tito Polo is a center fielder who has gotten off to a torrid start in CF,” Hahn said. “He can run a little bit and swing.” Polo came to the Yankees in August of 2016 as the player to be named later in the Ivan Nova trade with Pittsburgh. Polo was a resident at both High-A Tampa and Double A Trenton in the Yankees system this season, where he hit nearly .300 between the two affiliates and had an OBP of .365 in Double A.

It was nothing short of an exciting day on the South Side with the Dodgers being in town and rolling out Clayton Kershaw, the addition of more prospects to bulk up their flourishing minor league system and, oh, let’s not forget about Moncada. He’ll be on the South Side on Wednesday.

So Long, Q

Just one day before the start of the second half, the White Sox had their druthers in the most dramatic way possible. The White Sox traded Jose Quintana, their most valuable trade asset, to the Cubs for a top-tier package of prospects headlined by the MLB.com’s 8th-ranked Eloy Jimenez. Since the end of January, White Sox GM Rick Hahn was asked what it would take to move Jose Quintana. He was asked when it would happen. He was asked, coyly, if he’d ever deal with the Cubs. Today, there were answers.

On a conference call, Hahn expressed how hard it was to make the phone call and tell Quintana he’d been traded. “There was no part of this call to trade Q that I enjoyed,” Hahn said. The White Sox picked up Quintana as a minor-league free agent. Those pick ups never work out. Never. The Sox identified a talent. They molded him. Quintana worked as hard as anyone could ask and more.

By trading Quintana, the White Sox have added more into their pipeline. Jimenez, a massive corner outfielder, gives the White Sox their 7th top-100 prospect. It’s now becoming an embarrassment of riches throughout the White Sox system. Dylan Cease, the next best player in the deal, becomes the next in a growing line of White Sox minor league arms who hit triple digits on the radar gun.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the trade is the actual surprise of the trade.

No one had this. It was announced via press release. There were no leaks. There were no hints. There were no unnamed sources. Like a minor-league free agent panning out, that never happens.

There was, seemingly, many suitors for Quintana. Hahn told reporters there were multiple clubs interested–including teams who are not currently in contention. “Theo and I exchanged texts shortly after the draft about potential fits,” Hahn said. Sunday morning before the All Star game is when conversations really started to move. Hahn said he told the Cubs things were getting hot around Quintana and that it was time to act if they wanted him. Jimenez would need to be in the deal, however. “[There was] nothing for us to talk about with Cubs without Eloy in the deal,” Hahn said.

The trade reinforces the White Sox rebuild. Quintana is a top-of-the-rotation arm the Cubs desperately need for this season and beyond. Hopefully, for both teams, it’s a win-win.

Word was that the White Sox and Cubs would never do a deal. Hahn called that notion “somewhat laughable.” The White Sox front office is in the business of making the best deal possible. It’s devoted to setting up the long-term success of the club and, to that end, nothing is off the table. There is still work to do before the deadline at the end of the month. The Sox may well deal more talent to bolster a preposterously strong minor league system. One thing is for sure; the biggest headline has been made.

 

 

White Sox Weekly (07-02-2017) Part 2

Connor McKnight hosts part 2 of White Sox Weekly before the White Sox take on the Texas Rangers. We hear from Sox General Manager Rick Hahn, as well as Manager Ricky Renteria’s pre-game comments. Connor opens up the mailbag to get answers to his question; “What one thing has made the biggest impression for you so far this season?” Connor wraps up this week with the farm report.

Welcome to the South Side, Robert

It’s almost as if Mother Nature knew it was the day.

After a night of brutal rain that postponed the first game of a doubleheader and caused a delay of the second on Friday evening, the sun shined brightly on a clear, warm morning at Guaranteed Rate Field.

With his family and new teammate Jose Abreu, Luis Robert stepped off the top step of the dugout onto the foul territory he will eventually call home to a flurry of camera flashes and reporters, eager to get a glimpse of the newest addition to the White Sox’s increasingly bright future. Robert couldn’t have asked for a better welcoming.

The White Sox officially announced Saturday morning that 19 year-old Cuban hype-machine was officially signed to a minor league contract with a signing bonus of $26 million.

“Today’s an important day for the organization and one that marks another step forward in this process we began over a year ago,” Hahn said during a press conference to announce the signing. “In adding Luis to our organization we feel we’ve added another dynamic, potential talent to our organization.”

Indeed, they have. Robert will arguably rank as the third best prospect in the White Sox’s system, hitting .312/.402/.467 with 29 stolen bases and 82 walks during his final season with Ciego de Avila. Though Major League Baseball is an entirely different level of play, Robert possesses the raw tools and room for growth for those skills to successfully transfer to the majors in the coming seasons.

Questions were raised about the level of concern the organization has regarding the fact that Robert has not played competitive baseball in 11 months as he has been preparing for team workouts. What we must remember is, regardless of that fact, Robert is still only 19-years-old and has a long developmental path ahead of him.

“There’s still a fair amount of development for this player,” Hahn said. “This will take some time here. But with his raw set of materials and what he’s accomplished in international competition and at the highest league in Cuba at a young age, helps reinforce how you project this player to develop,” Hahn continued. “He’s obviously put together extremely well. Projecting too much addition of strength and power is unnecessary given what he already possesses. But if he continues to get stronger that will serve him well, as well.”

As far as where Robert will fit best on the field, the general consensus is still centerfield, but as Hahn has said before, development isn’t always linear. There’s room for Robert to move where the organization thinks he fits best as he progresses.

“He presents all five tools, plus power, plus speed,” Hahn said. “We think he has the ability to remain in centerfield and if for whatever reason he doesn’t wind up in the big leagues at centerfield, he certainly has enough offensive prowess to contribute strongly on either corner. It’s a rare opportunity to get a guy with this potential level of impact into the organization at only the expense of cash.”

Robert was as enthusiastic as a young player beginning his career in the majors should be on Saturday. He attributed his reasoning for choosing the South side to many things, including his Cuban heritage. Robert said that he was proud to don the same jersey as the late, great Minnie Minoso and current Cuban star Jose Abreu. “The White Sox tradition for Cuban players was something that motivated me to sign with this team. It’s something that made me feel comfortable,” he said. “I feel proud because those players were examples for us in Cuba. For me now to be here wearing the same uniform as them is a huge honor for me.”

Robert also took note of how interested the White Sox were in him, stating that they were the organization that scouted him the most. “I picked the Chicago White Sox because it was the team that scouted me most,” Robert said. “The video helps a lot but the thing that made me make a decision was who was the team that showed more interest. That was something that made me feel good.”

Robert also put to rest the lingering confusion about how to correctly pronounce his name. “In Cuba [people] call me more like ‘Robber.’ Outside people call me ‘Robert’ with the “T” but in Cuba it’s ‘Robber,'” he said. When asked what we should call him in America, he responded “Robber.”

So, what’s next for Robert? He will leave Chicago for the Dominican Republic, where he will get his feet wet again in the Dominican Summer League. He’ll also have to get to his shopping list, which includes buying three houses; “As for what can I buy first: a house for my family, a house for my uncle and also a house for me,” Robert said.

As far as White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn goes, it was a happy ending to a stressful week. “I think it was very similar to with Abreu,” Hahn said of his anxiety about landing Robert. “I don’t know if we’ve ever said we’re getting a guy no matter what, but we were prepared to be aggressive here and were comfortable up to the $26 million bonus we gave plus the similar amount in taxed that we wound up paying as a result of the deal.”

Hahn gave many other members of the White Sox organization credit for helping make this day possible, including Director of International Scouting, Marco Paddy. “Marco personally was willing to suffer the penalties that it has on his world for the betterment of the organization. Marco’s evaluation and presence and willingness to sacrifice potential future signings for this reinforced the notion that this was the right move to make.”

Rest well, South siders. We have more than just an Instagram photo now. We have ink.

Luis Robert and the White Sox Make It Official

News White Sox fans knew was coming for the better part of a week was made official by the White Sox on Saturday morning. They announced the signing of Cuban OF prospect Luis Robert and, in so doing, put another tentpole in the ground for the continual construction of their minor-league pipeline.

Robert, who will be ranked somewhere in the 20-30 range of the top 100 prospects in baseball, won’t make an immediate impact in the states, however. GM Rick Hahn told reporters today that Robert will start his White Sox career in the Dominican Summer League; Robert currently lives in the Dominican Republic.  The reasons for starting Robert in the DSL are multi-fold (and include a tax break) but they center on his not having played competitive baseball since last July due to the immigration process.

The connection the White Sox organization was able to create with Robert–through coaches, players and front office members–seemingly played a giant role in his closing to play on the South Side. Prior to Game One of Saturday’s double header, Robert threw out the first pitch. Behind home plate was Jose Abreu, Cuban Legend.

The Sox Cuban ties are deep. From Minnie Minoso to Abreu, the Sox have a tangible past to work with. Plus, manager Ricky Renteria is bilingual and featured prominently in a recruiting video that was used to pitch Robert.

WLS’s Catherine Garcia will have more on the day–including comments from Robert–in her piece this week. As always, you can check out the White Sox Weekly podcast on WLSAM.com. Rick Hahn’s opening statement about the signing are on the show.