Chicago White Sox Rumors

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Heyman’s Latest: Williams, Collins, ChiSox, Keuchel, Halos, Dietrich

In today’s edition of his weekly Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by highlighting the fact that the NL East division title race will determine the fate of Nationals manager Matt Williams and Mets manager Terry Collins. Heyman writes that while Nats GM Mike Rizzo has repeatedly backed Williams, Rizzo is something of a “chorus of one” — publicly, at least. Ownership is extremely frustrated with the team’s recent play, and Heyman points out that it may also be telling that amid multiple reports of players disliking his rigid demeanor, not one player from the Nats has stepped forward to defend Williams. Ownership has already discussed dismissing Williams, Heyman adds. Collins, on the other hand, is in line for a new contract if and when the Mets reach the postseason. Falling behind the Nats and missing the playoffs, though, would harken back to 2007’s epic collapse and almost certainly cost Collins his job. Then again, the Mets have remaining series against the Reds, Braves, Phillies and Marlins, as Heyman points out, so a collapse seems particularly unlikely.

Some other highlights from the column…

  • Jeff Samardzija and another unknown White Sox player were both claimed on the same day that the Yankees claimed David Robertson, Heyman reports. However, the Samardzija claim was, like the Robertson claim, primarily a blocking tactic. Heyman notes that while Samardzija has had a very poor contract season, scouts still love his build, athleticism and competitiveness.
  • Dallas Keuchel and the Astros have tabled extension talks until after the season, per Heyman. Houston hopes to lock its ace up on at least a four-year deal — that’d cover his arbitration years and one free agent season — though as I noted when word of discussions between the two sides broke, Keuchel’s currently slated to hit the open market heading into his age-31 season. Delaying his free agency by even one year would probably put a five-year max on the free-agent deal Keuchel could secure, as teams rarely guarantee pitchers’ age-37 seasons in long-term deals.
  • Regarding the Angels‘ GM vacancy, Heyman characterizes recent interviews of internal candidates Matt Klentak and Scott Servais (both assistant GMs) as “perfunctory,” believing an outside hire to be the probably outcome. Klentak could stay on in a role similar to his own, whereas Servais is said by Heyman to be more at odds with manager Mike Scioscia. Kevin Towers, Ned Colletti and Yankees AGM Billy Eppler are all listed as speculative candidates by Heyman.
  • The Dodgers took on about $150K of the remaining $450K on Justin Ruggiano‘s salary when they acquired him from the Mariners.
  • The Marlins are coming around on the idea of Derek Dietrich as a Ben Zobrist/Josh Harrison type of player that can play everyday in part due to his versatility. While Dietrich’s defense isn’t on the same level as that highly valuable duo, the Marlins see him as an athletic bat with 25-homer upside. The 26-year-old Dietrich is hitting .263/.359/.514 in spite of a cavernous home park (138 OPS+) and has smashed 10 homers in 64 games while seeing time at first base, third base and in the corner outfield. None of those are even his natural position, but he’s blocked at second base by Dee Gordon, of course.

AL Central Notes: Perkins, Ramirez, Almonte, Indians

Twins closer Glen Perkins told reporters today that he can “barely walk” due to back spasms, per La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Twitter links). Perkins will not accompany the team to Houston for its weekend series and will instead remain in Minneapolis for treatment. Per the Pioneer Press’ Jace Frederick and’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter links), Perkins says he is “baffled” by the recurrence of back pain, as he felt fine after recording a save on Tuesday and believed himself to be 90 to 95 percent healed. Instead, he awoke Wednesday to the realization that he could barely get out of bed. It’s not known how long Perkins will be sidelined, but the injury makes the Twins’ acquisitions of Kevin Jepsen and Neal Cotts look that much more important. That duo, along with Trevor May, who has temporarily converted to a reliever (with strong results), will figure to play a key role as the Twins hope to remain in Wild Card contention.

Here’s more from their division…

  • Alexei Ramirez hopes to return to the White Sox in 2016, he tells Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune“This was the team that gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues and I want to spend the rest of my career here,” said Ramirez via interpreter. Chicago holds a $10MM option with a $1MM buyout on the 33-year-old Ramirez, essentially making it a $9MM decision for the Sox. Ramirez’s .243/.273/.345 batting line would make that seem like an easy call, Ramirez has made things tougher on GM Rick Hahn and his staff by hitting .285/.324/.435 with six homers and seven steals in 53 games dating back to July 1.
  • Zack Meisel of chronicles Abraham Almonte‘s long journey to the Indians, including his battle with alcohol abuse along the way. Almonte admits that a shoulder injury suffered in 2010 as a minor leaguer with the Yankees led him to drinking nearly every day and candidly recounts the story of how he overcame his problems. Now with the Indians after being traded three times in three seasons, Almonte says he’s having the most fun of his career, and he’s drawing praise from teammates and coaches alike. Almonte, still just 26 years old, is hitting .274/.326/.536 with three homers and three steals in 92 plate appearances as Cleveland’s primary center fielder. His defense, characteristically, has been outstanding according to metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved.
  • The Indians will likely promote left-hander Giovanni Soto and infielder Michael Martinez tomorrow, tweets’s Jordan Bastian. However, neither is on the team’s 40-man roster, meaning they’ll have to make a pair of 40-man moves in order to accommodate the duo. This is my speculation, but moving T.J. House to the 60-day disabled list would clear one spot, but there’s no injury-related move that could free up a second spot (unless the team decides Carlos Carrasco is done for the year), making a DFA seem probable.

AL Central Notes: Johnson, Berrios, Floyd, Indians

White Sox right-hander Erik Johnson‘s resurgent season at Triple-A has placed the former top prospect firmly on the map for a rotation spot in 2016, GM Rick Hahn tells Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. After a 6.73 ERA in 105 2/3 innings at Triple-A last season, Johnson has turned in a 2.37 mark over 132 2/3 frames with 9.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. As Kane writes, Johnson will be working in relief initially, but he’s likely to make some starts later this month in what could be a preview for the 2016 season.

Here’s more from the AL Central…

  • The Twins will not call up top pitching prospect Jose Berrios this season, GM Terry Ryan told reporters, including’s Rhett Bollinger. The 21-year-old’s innings total is a concern to the Twins, Ryan explained, especially considering the fact that Berrios is of slighter frame than many pitchers. Berrios ranks as one of the game’s best prospects, including No. 23 on’s Top 100, No. 7 per Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, No. 21 per ESPN’s Keith Law and No. 19 per Baseball America.
  • The Indians activated right-hander Gavin Floyd from the DL when rosters expanded in September, and manager Terry Francona told reporters, including’s Jamie Ross, that Floyd is healthy enough to work out of the bullpen in the season’s final month. Francona said the Indians, however, owe it to Floyd to be careful with his surgically repaired right elbow because “he’s got more career ahead of him.” Floyd signed a one-year, $4MM contract this winter and re-fractured the olecranon bone in his right elbow in Spring Training — an injury that was initially believed to have ended his season. He made his Indians debut today, though, and fired a perfect inning from the ‘pen.
  •’s Zack Meisel looks at some of departing Indians president Mark Shapiro’s comments from his press conference announcing his move to Toronto. Meisel breaks down Shapiro’s response to his biggest challenge with Cleveland — Shapiro diplomatically hinted at payroll constraints while noting that market size can’t be used as an excuse for lack of results — as well as Shapiro’s comments on the Michael Bourn/Nick Swisher signings.

White Sox Pull David Robertson Off Waivers

1:10pm: Heyman tweets that the White Sox have pulled Robertson back off waivers.

11:50am: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears from a source that part of the Yankees’ motivation in making the claim was indeed to prevent the Blue Jays from having an opportunity to acquire Robertson (Twitter link).

8:32am: The Yankees have claimed closer David Robertson from the White Sox on revocable waivers, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but a trade between the two sides is seen as unlikely. To this point, according to Heyman, there’s little indication of a deal in the works, and as of late Saturday night there hadn’t even been legitimate discussions between Chicago and New York. It seems probable that the White Sox will elect to pull their closer back off waivers.

Robertson, 30, has spent his entire career with the Yankees aside from this season. He departed as a free agent following the 2014 campaign, electing to sign a sizable four-year, $46MM contract with the Sox. (The Yankees, meanwhile, made their own significant commitment to lefty Andrew Miller: four years, $36MM.)

It’s still far too early to judge that hefty investment from the White Sox, but the early returns have been outstanding. Robertson has a 2.60 ERA with 12.2 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 (a career-best rate) a 38.3 percent ground-ball rate and 27 saves in 52 innings with the Sox. That ERA would likely be even better were it not for the fact that White Sox rate as one of the worst defensive clubs in all of baseball. SIERA, FIP and xFIP, for instance, all peg Robertson between 1.89 and 2.17 — significantly better than his still-impressive 2.60 ERA.

Robertson is earning $10MM in 2015 and has about $1.97MM remaining on his current salary, plus an additional $36MM through the 2018 season. The Yankees will have until 2:00 ET to work out a trade, per Heyman, indicating that the actual claim of Robertson was made on Saturday afternoon. It’s possible, though, that the Yankees made the claim not so much expecting a deal but more to prevent the division-leading Blue Jays from having an opportunity to add to their bullpen.

Even if that were the case, it wouldn’t mean the Yankees aren’t interested in a reunion. They pursued bullpen help in late July, and Robertson would mark at least the third elite reliever that the Yankees have attempted to acquire to pair with their already dominant late-inning duo of Miller and Dellin Betances. GM Brian Cashman reportedly showed strong interest in both Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman prior to the non-waiver trade deadline last month.

Though his specific trade probably won’t come to fruition, it’s likely that we’ll see a few swaps made prior to midnight. Players acquired on Sept. 1 or later are ineligible for their new team’s postseason roster, meaning that any last-minute trades that contenders wish to make in order to upgrade their potential playoff rosters will need to be completed in the next 14.5 hours.

White Sox Release John Mayberry Jr.

The White Sox have released outfielder John Mayberry Jr., the team’s Triple-A affiliate announced (Twitter link).

Mayberry had signed a minor league pact with the Sox back on Aug. 7, though his stay with the team’s Triple-A affiliate lasted just 13 games. In those 13 games, the 31-year-old was unable to correct the struggles he displayed earlier this season with the Mets, batting .162/.225/.189 in 40 plate appearances. Typically a potent weapon against left-handed pitching, Mayberry has slashed a combined .175/.246/.381 in 69 plate appearances versus southpaws in the Majors and minors. Throughout his big-league career, Mayberry has hit .260/.315/.517 against lefties.

Quick Hits: GM Turnover, Williams, Zduriencik, Prospects

Baseball has experienced intense turnover in its front offices of late, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today notes in a column today, and there could be more to come. Nightengale cites Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Phillies, Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners, and Walt Jocketty of the Reds as candidates for dismissal. The frequency of change represents a “new state of the game,” argues Nightengale.

  • The Mariners could end up bringing in White Sox president Kenny Williams to head its front office, Nighengale reports. But Williams may also be in the running to become the new president of the Blue Jays. Reds special assistant Kevin Towers also increasingly seems to be an option for Seattle, Nightengale adds on Twitter.
  • Zduriencik says that he pays no heed to the rumor mill, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. Though he’s aware that there is chatter that he could be vulnerable, the Mariners general manager explains that he can’t let that affect his work. “I’ve got eyes,” said the seven-year veteran GM. I can see what’s going on here. I know what has not worked and what should be working and isn’t. For me to focus on any outside distractions (is non-productive).” Zduriencik stressed that he still believes in the talent base he’s compiled, explaining: “I think when you start to piece it together, there are things we need to do going forward, but I do think that there are some really solid pieces there.”
  • Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs provides an overhauled, mid-season look at the game’s best prospects. He breaks down a series of different prospect classes. One of those is his list of the game’s premium pre-MLB players, which is made up of the 26 names who separated themselves from the pack. The usual suspects sit atop that list, but there are some quick-rising players as well, including shortstops Orlando Arcia (Brewers, #8), Franklin Barreto (Athletics, #14), and Trea Turner (Nationals, #15), outfielders Bradley Zimmer (Indians, #21) and Gleyber Torres (Cubs, #23), and Rays lefty Blake Snell, who shot all the way up to the 16th slot. McDaniel also lists the year’s newly-emerging prospects, the newly-professional crop of players added over the summer, and the impressive list of young players who no longer qualify as prospects.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America takes a closer look at one such swiftly-rising prospect, Nationals outfielder Victor Robles. The 18-year-old drew the attention of the organization because of his quick-twitch athleticism and high energy, and the club’s $225K bonus has paid out amply so far. It’s a lengthy piece, but well worth a read for any prospect hounds or Nats fans.

White Sox Designate Emilio Bonifacio For Assignment

The White Sox have designated Emilio Bonifacio for assignment, as Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune tweets.  Manager Robin Ventura told reporters, including Kane, that the way Trayce Thompson has played since coming up played into the club’s decision to remove Bonifacio from the 40-man.

Bonifacio, 30, has struggled mightily in 2015.  In 82 plate appearances for the White Sox, the veteran owns a dismal .167/.198/.192.  The versatile Bonifacio has given the White Sox innings at second base, center field, left field, and third base this season, but his performance at the plate has negated his contributions as a utility player.

Bonifacio, a client of agent Gene Mato, signed a one-year, $3MM deal with the White Sox back in January.  That pact included a club option for the 2015 season but he’ll instead collect on a $1MM buyout.  The switch-hitting Bonifacio played second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions between the Cubs and Braves in 2014, batting .259/.305/.345 with 26 steals in 426 plate appearances along the way.

Bonifacio now joins Jose Dominguez, Chris Capuano, Brad Mills, Drew Stubbs, Garrett Jones, Dale Thayer, Taylor Lindsey, and Justin Masterson in DFA limbo.  To keep track of everyone in DFA limbo, check out MLBTR’s DFA Tracker.


Free Agent Stock Watch: Shortstops

It’s often dangerous to read too much into a hot streak, as the endpoints of the streak will often be arbitrary, and shrinking the sample size makes the data more susceptible to randomness. Though it’s dangerous to use them as a predictive tool, hot streaks can hold some significance for upcoming free agents — particularly ones that have struggled for much of the season. A well-timed hot streak can take a player’s numbers from good to great or from terrible to passable. A huge second half following a disastrous first half can demonstrate that a player hasn’t suddenly lost all of his skill, giving offseason suitors hope for more consistent production in the season(s) to follow.

The overall numbers on the following players may not quite look appealing, but here are three that could be in the midst of bolstering their offseason earning power after dreadful starts to the year (coincidentally — they’re all shortstops!)…

  • Ian Desmond, Nationals: Perhaps no player looked to be costing himself as much money as Desmond entering the All-Star break. Heading into his contract season, there was a legitimate case to be made for Desmond as the game’s most productive shortstop over the past three seasons, but he slumped to a .211/.255/.334 batting line in the first half and endured an awful error-prone stretch in the field early on. He’s tightened up the errors after those first few weeks, though, and is finally showing signs of life at the plate. Over his past 21 games, Desmond is hitting .312/.376/.636 with seven homers and four steals. The question for him will become whether or not a huge second half can make his first half simply look like an anomaly and convince a team to invest more than $100MM.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera, Rays: Cabrera settled for a one-year deal this winter, and through the first eight to 10 weeks of the season, he looked like a player that didn’t deserve anything more. However, since mid-June, Cabrera’s hitting .357/.393/.579 with four homers, 13 doubles and a triple. It’s easy enough to see that his .418 BABIP in that stretch is inflating his numbers, but there’s been some improvement as well. Cabrera struck out at a 23.1 percent clip through June 18, but since that night he’s at a more palatable 18.4 percent. He’s also hitting the ball with more authority, as evidenced not only by his spike in power but by his decrease in soft contact and increase in medium and hard contact (per Fangraphs). Surprisingly, Cabrera grades out as a plus defender at shortstop in 2015 as well, though it may take more than a few hundred innings to overturn his previous reputation as a poor defender. At the very least, he’s positioning himself to land the multi-year deal that eluded him this past winter.
  • Jimmy Rollins, Dodgers: Suffice it to say, the 2015 season hasn’t gone as the Dodgers or Rollins had hoped. In his first season sans Phillies pinstripes, Rollins has flirted with the Mendoza Line and carried a sub-.600 OPS for much of the year. His current line is about 20 percent worse than the league-average hitter (80 wRC+, 78 OPS+), but a good deal of his struggles have also been BABIP-related, and his fortunes have begun to turn. Dating back to July 1, Rollins is hitting a much-improved .256/.315/.453, including hits in 15 of his past 18 games. Though his steals are well down, he’s already sporting a double-digit home run total. Rollins has not drawn strong ratings on his defense this year, but he does have a lengthy track record of high-quality glove work on which he can fall back. If he can continue his late surge at the plate and continue to make the first half look more like a blip, he should draw plenty of interest from teams looking for a sturdy veteran option up the middle.
  • Alexei Ramirez, White Sox: Not long ago, Ramirez’s $10MM club option looked like a no-brainer to be bought out. Glancing at his overall numbers, that’d still be the case, but like the others on this list, he’s looked like a different player over the past month-plus. Ramirez was hitting .212/.235/.281 on June 30, but he’s hitting .291/.321/.480 with five homers and six steals in 34 games since. He’s not walking much (4.4%), but he’s also not striking out (7.4%), so his solid production comes with a very sustainable .283 BABIP. Ramirez can’t erase his ugly numbers through June 30, but if he sustains this production through season’s end, the White Sox or another team could easily be convinced that a .234 average on balls in play was responsible for his poor first half than a total collapse of his skill set.

Clearly, these four can’t all sustain their recent production (especially in the case of Desmond and Cabrera). However, it’s worth keeping an eye on each player’s production over the final seven weeks of the season, as none of the four looks as lost as he did even six weeks ago. In Desmond’s case in particular, that could mean the difference of tens of millions of dollars.

White Sox Still Looking To Add Pieces For 2015 And Beyond

Though the White Sox have followed up a seven-game winning streak in late July with a 3-8 showing, GM Rick Hahn hasn’t yet thrown in the towel on the season, writes Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times“As we get deeper into August and if things don’t improve that is something we’ll have to take seriously but at this point we’re still having the same approach of looking for long term fits that could help this year and beyond,” Hahn told Van Schouwen.

Hahn notes that the despite the discouraging results of late, the Sox do have quite a bit of schedule remaining against teams that are currently ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. The Sox topped the Angels last night and have two more games against them in the current series. They’ll then host the Cubs for three and travel to Anaheim for a four-game set. Following that, Chicago has 10 straight games against the struggling Red Sox and Mariners to close out the month, so it does seem that there’s some reason for optimism based on the schedule.

Nonetheless, a six-and-a-half-game deficit when there are seven teams in better Wild Card standing is a tough obstacle for the White Sox to face, and their immediate schedule is a difficult one. Hahn didn’t speak as a man who would cling to the current course of action at all costs: “As for us in the front office obviously we have to be cognizant of where we sit in the standings and how each loss makes that road to the playoffs a little more difficult to travel down. So we’re aware of the situation and we’re aware of what potentially needs to be done in the coming weeks.”

Should the next nine games against contending teams go particularly poorly, the Sox will have a number of pieces they can look to market to other teams. Jeff Samardzija probably wouldn’t clear waivers, but the Sox could certainly put him through the process and see if they’re able to strike a deal with a claiming team. The resurgent Alexei Ramirez (.289/.316/.533 with five homers, four steals in 23 second-half games) could be of interest to teams looking for shortstop help. Catcher Geovany Soto and righty Matt Albers are also short-term pieces that could draw interest. Candidates to clear waivers due to their salary include Ramirez, Adam LaRoche, Zach Duke, John Danks and Melky Cabrera, as each has had his struggles his year (Cabrera, like Ramirez, has come to life as of late but is still owed $32.9MM through 2017).

On the flipside, if they’re able to get back into the Wild Card hunt late this month, the Sox have received scarce production from second base, third base and designated hitter this season, and they could use some left-handed relief help as well.

White Sox Sign John Mayberry Jr.

Free agent outfielder John Mayberry Jr. has signed a minor league deal with the White Sox, according to a tweet from the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Charlotte. Mayberry, a client of CAA Sports, was released by the Mets following the team’s acquisition of Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe.

Signed by New York to a one-year contract this winter, Mayberry struggled to a .164/.227/.318 batting line with three homers in 119 plate appearances with the Mets. Those numbers represent a stark decline from the roughly league-average (.241/.305/.429) batting line that Mayberry carried into the 2015 season.

Hitting lefties has always been the right-handed Mayberry’s calling card — career .260/.315/.517/ — but even that skill seemed to elude him during his time in Queens. Mayberry’s numbers against lefties in 2015 were better than his numbers against righties, but he still mustered just a .628 OPS.

The White Sox abruptly changed course heading into the deadline and elected not to sell off any veteran pieces, instead pursuing outfield bats such as Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton. While Mayberry quite clearly isn’t an addition of that magnitude, he does offer the Sox a veteran depth piece who could come up and help in the corner outfield versus lefties if he can get back to his old form with the Knights in Triple-A. Both Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton have hit poorly against southpaws this season, and the team doesn’t have much in the way of Major League outfield depth beyond its starting trio (which also includes Avisail Garcia). Trayce Thompson and Leury Garcia are currently the team’s reserve options in the outfield, but Garcia has been an infielder throughout his entire pro career, and Thompson has just one Major League plate appearance.