White Sox GM Rick Hahn recognizes there will be some disappointment and finger-pointing if the White Sox don’t come away with Manny Machado or Bryce Harper this offseason, but he’s not ready to say more about the ongoing negotiations than necessary. Hahn did flat-out reject the idea of signing both free agent stars, as two monster contracts would hamper the long-term flexibility to a harmful degree. While Hahn spoke openly about Machado rumors, he is unhappy with the number of leaks, both true and untrue, coming from the Southside, per the Athletic’s James Fegan. As irritating as the leaks are, Hahn assured the crowds at SoxFest that they will continue to confront leaks of all varieties with honesty. Fegan also notes that former top prospect Manny Banuelos has generated more hype than usual for an unestablished 27-year-old. The Sox preempted Banuelos’ minor league free agency by acquiring him via trade from the Dodgers in November. Banuelos has been around the block, spending time with the Braves and Yankees, starting six games for the former in 2015. He put together a solid campaign last season for the Dodgers’ Triple A affiliate, throwing 108 2/3 innings, with a 9-7 record, 3.73 ERA and 10.52 K/9 versus 3.48 BB/9. Now, rumblings from the league office, and more from SoxFest in Chicago…
- Baseball’s offensive landscape has shifted due to record strikeout totals, increased bullpen usage, shorter stints from starting pitchers and more meticulous long-term bullpen management. These trends have been spotlit by the increased media attention paid to service time manipulation, most-famously in the case of Kris Bryant, as well as the Tampa Bay Rays’ recent revelation that has already made its way into common baseball parlance: the opener. In an effort to curb these trends, Major League Baseball is getting set to present the Players’ Association with rule change proposals that may include the institution of a pitch clock, reinstating the 15-day disabled list and increasing the amount of time an optioned player must spend in the minor leagues, back to 15 days from the current minimum of 10 – though nothing official has yet been released, per Ronald Blum of the Associated Press. The league office could force feed these rule changes with a year’s notice, but Commissioner Rob Manfred is unlikely to use such an aggressive tactic. It will be up to the players, then, to decide whether these proposals are good for the game.
- Of note, the league has made strides in quickening the pace of the game, as average 9-inning game times sped up from 3 hours, 5 minutes, 11 seconds in 2017, to 3 hours and 44 seconds last year. Trimming mound visits without a pitching change from 7.41 to 4.01 certainly had a hand in cutting out those 4+ minutes. Quantifying the impact of these changes is difficult, giving baseball circles more than enough fodder for debate, though it seems the “state of the game” conversations will continue throughout the next two years leading up to the expiration of the current CBA in 2021.
- White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper won’t kowtow to the wisdom of the opener anytime soon, per Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun Times. The way Cooper sees it, the role of the starter on the White Sox has not changed, and he still expects to get 6+ innings out of his guys. That’s been a tough ask of late as the Southsiders have built their staff from the ground up via development and trades. Next season is a key year for their young arms, as the trio of Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito look to cement their place in the rotation before the arrival of the next wave of high profile prospects like Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning, the latter two of whom are working their way back from injury. Ivan Nova rounds out the top four in Cooper’s rotation, with Dylan Covey in competition with Banuelos for the five slot. There are still plenty of arms on the free agent market, however, and GM Rick Hahn says the team is working on 3-4 potential acquisitions. Given the collective injury troubles plaguing Chicago’s cavalcade of young arms, it would not be surprising in the least to see one or two veteran arms brought into camp on cheap or minor-league deals.