Though details of Rick Renteria’s contract were unreported when he was named manager of the White Sox, FanRag’s Jon Heyman now reports that Renteria received a three-year contract that runs from 2017-19. Renteria will earn $1.1MM in 2017, $1.2MM in 2018 and $1.3MM in 2019, according to Heyman’s report. The appointment of the 55-year-old Renteria, who had previously served as a bench coach with the White Sox and as the manager of the Cubs, came after an unsuccessful five-year run at the helm for former White Sox All-Star Robin Ventura. While it’s early in the season and the White Sox aren’t expected to contend following the offseason sale of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, Renteria has the team off to a nice 11-9 start.
Nineteen-year-old outfielder Luis Robert is the top international talent that is available on the amateur market and, after recently being declared a free agent by Major League Baseball, has already begun hosting private workouts with interested teams, according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler. The Athletics hosted a workout for Robert last Friday that was attended by GM David Forst, according to Badler, and Reds GM Dick Williams was on hand to watch him this past Tuesday in a workout. Prior to that, he’d worked out for the Astros, Badler adds.
Badler notes that Robert’s camp is also expected to set up private workouts with the Padres, Cardinals and White Sox in the coming weeks. It seems that of those three clubs, the heavy-spending Padres are up first, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports (via Twitter) that Robert will work out with the Pads tomorrow. To this point, the Padres have paced all 30 teams in terms of international spending during the current signing period, as their total investment (including luxury tax penalties for shattering their allotted bonus pool) is in the vicinity of $80MM.
The willingness to spend at such an aggressive level may be key for any club that wishes to sign Robert, as FanRag’s Jon Heyman writes in his latest Inside Baseball column that one source who closely follows the international market believes Robert already has a $25MM offer “in hand,” though Heyman notes that others have suggested to him no offers have been made to this point. There could, of course, be some semantics at play there in terms of what constitutes a formal offer. A price tag in the vicinity of $25MM for Robert would come with a 100 percent luxury tax attached to it, meaning he’d cost any team that signed him at that rate a total of roughly $50MM.
As Badler writes, though Robert has been declared a free agent, he won’t formally be cleared to sign until May 20. In the interim, he’ll host at least one more open showcase for teams, in addition to the remaining private workouts his camp will orchestrate.
It’s worth noting that of the teams linked to Robert, only the White Sox have yet to exceed their current international bonus pool. In other words, while other clubs would essentially only be parting with money in order to sign Robert, the ChiSox would need to determine if Robert is worth handcuffing themselves in each of the next two international signing periods; should the Sox decide to exceed their pool in the eleventh hour — the current signing period ends on June 15 — they’d be unable to sign any individual player for more than $300K in either the 2017-18 or 2018-19 signing periods.
In a similar vein, teams that are still in the metaphorical “penalty box” for crushing their allotted pools in previous signing periods won’t be able to compete for Robert’s services, as they’re each capped at that same $300K figure on individual signings. That eliminates the Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Blue Jays, Rays, Royals and Diamondbacks from serving as serious competition in the Robert market.
Though Robert is just 19 years of age, he’d already blossomed into a star, hitting a ridiculous .401/.526/.687 with 12 homers, 12 doubles, a pair of triples and 11 steals over the life of 53 games (232 plate appearances) in his final pro season in the Cuban National Series. Scouting reports on Robert note that he’s capable of playing center field right now, though he may ultimately wind up in a corner. Badler has previously written that both his bat speed and raw power are plus, and Heyman’s above-linked piece offers a number of favorable reviews of Robert’s skill set. Additionally, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez has previously spoken to a number of international scouting directors who have heaped praise onto Robert, calling him the game’s best international prospect behind Japanese phenom Shohei Otani and labeling him one of the most talented young players on the planet.
- The White Sox were able to get a look at lefty Carlos Rodon yesterday, as he played catch under the watch of pitching coach Don Cooper, as Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago writes. But that doesn’t mean there’s any further clarity to the question of when the talented southpaw will be back to the majors. Details are murky on Rodon, whose biceps injury initially seemed minor. As Hayes notes, the club had initially hoped to see Rodon push past 200 frames this year, but that’s obviously no longer a viable target.
The Nationals’ bullpen is off to a dismal start to the season, with a collective 4.86 ERA through the season’s first three weeks. Blake Treinen has already been removed from the closer’s role, albeit with a relatively quick hook (he’s thrown just seven innings this year). Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley are presently sharing ninth-inning work, and they’re two of just three Nats relievers that have ERAs south of 5.00 to begin the year. (Matt Albers has not allowed a run in four innings.)
In light of those struggles, Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM reports that the Nats have “touched base” with multiple teams on their closers. Specifically, he cites a pair of names that are no stranger to trade rumors: David Robertson of the White Sox and Alex Colome of the Rays. However, Bowden adds that the Nats “aren’t even in the same ballpark” when it comes to the asking price on those players.
Robertson, 32, has allowed just one run through his first 6 2/3 innings this season and logged an impressive 12-to-3 K/BB ratio along the way. He’s earning $12MM this season (of which about $10.6MM remains) and will earn $13MM next year in the final season of a four-year, $46MM contract. The 28-year-old Colome, meanwhile, has yet to allow a run this year, though he’s curiously punched out just four hitters through nine innings after posting a gaudy 11.3 K/9 rate in a breakout 2016 campaign. He’s not yet arbitration eligible and can be controlled through the 2020 season, so it’s hardly surprising to hear that Tampa Bay’s asking price may be quite lofty.
As alternative options, Bowden lists Brandon Kintzler of the Twins, Brandon Maurer of the Padres and any of the Athletics’ late-inning arms, which include Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Santiago Casilla. It should be noted, though, that there’s no specific mention of trade talks with any of those clubs, so the suggestions seem fairly speculative in nature.
Furthermore, each of those names comes with a caveat. Kintzler’s experience as a closer is highly limited, and a year ago at this time he was in Triple-A after signing a minor league deal with Minnesota. As a free agent at season’s end, though, he’s a natural trade candidate. Maurer is controllable through 2019, which could create a significant asking price, and he hasn’t exactly established a track record of dominance himself. And when it comes to the A’s, Doolittle is on a terrific contract, while Madson’s three-year, $22MM looks to be an overpay. Casilla, meanwhile, can’t even be traded without his consent until June 15 given the fact that he only signed with Oakland as a free agent this past offseason (a two-year, $11MM deal).
The Nationals, according to Bowden, believe that the 24-year-old Glover can be their closer of the future, but there’s some question in the organization about whether it’s too early in his career to hand him the job. Glover has just 27 1/3 MLB innings under his belt and has been solid but not overpowering in that time; the former eighth-rounder has a 4.28 ERA, a 22-to-8 K/BB ratio and a 42 percent ground-ball rate in his young career.
The White Sox have swapped out veteran hurlers with a roster move today, placing James Shields on the DL and selecting the contract of Mike Pelfrey, as JJ Stankevitz (Twitter links) and Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago (Twitter link) report. Shields is dealing with a lat strain, though GM Rick Hahn says it’s not believed to be serious.
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While the prognosis looks good, it’s unfortunate timing for the 35-year-old Shields. He has turned in three impressive starts thus far, allowing just three earned runs on only nine hits over 16 2/3 innings while recording 16 strikeouts against ten walks.
There’s some sample-size noise here, to be sure. Shields has stranded literally every runner to reach base against him — he has allowed three solo homers — and is benefiting from a .150 BABIP. At the very least, though, it’s encouraging that he has been able to generate some soft contact and get some results after a brutal 2016 season.
Shields would seem a plausible trade chip this summer if he’s able to return to health. There’s little reason to expect he’ll keep up anything approaching his first three outings, but there’d surely be interest in the respected veteran if he can return to the form he showed in 2015, when he gave the Padres over 200 innings of 3.91 ERA ball. There’s still the matter of salary, of course; Shields is under contract for 2017 and 2018 at $21MM apiece, though the Padres are on the hook for $22MM of that. (Chicago also owes him a $2MM buyout on his 2019 club option.)
The 33-year-old Pelfrey, meanwhile, landed in Chicago when the Tigers cut him loose late in camp. He has not been very successful in his two Triple-A outings thus far, lasting just six total innings while coughing up five earned on ten hits. But Pelfrey has long logged serviceable frames at the MLB level, and he’ll look to get back on track while providing the rebuilding organization some innings — at the league-minimum salary — while they wait for Shields to return.
- Speaking of the Nationals, Joel Sherman of the New York Post spoke to one team official who tells him that the Nats pursued Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon and David Robertson “very aggressively” this offseason but weren’t able to close either free-agent deal or swing a trade with the White Sox. Sherman notes that it’s somewhat surprising to see an expected division contender neglect to address its most obvious need in the offseason and writes that the Nationals may have little choice but to go beyond their comfort zone in trade talks for Robertson or another available closing option this summer. Sherman lists Tampa Bay’s Alex Colome as a speculative option, while FanRag’s Jon Heyman suggests that the Rays’ Brad Boxberger or the Cardinals’ Trevor Rosenthal make sense as on-paper fits. (Though Rosenthal, of course, is throwing quite well this season and there’s no guarantee the Cardinals would even be willing to move him.) Beyond those two speculative fits, Heyman adds that as of the end of Spring Training, there’d been no recent talks with the ChiSox regarding Robertson.
- The White Sox might have the best pitching available to deal this summer, Ken Rosenthal opines in a video for FOX Sports. There’s Jose Quintana, of course, but fellow veterans James Shields and Derek Holland have also pitched well in the very early going, and closer David Robertson has been terrific. The departures of veteran pitchers during trading season could create openings for newly acquired top prospects like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, along with 2015 first-rounder Carson Fulmer.
- White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson appeared on the Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney (audio link) and talked about his days as an amateur, his experience playing basketball in his youth and the decision to ink a six-year, $25MM contract extension before reaching one full year of Major League service time. “It was more so the security level had to meet where I wanted to feel secure with my family,” says Anderson. “It was an exciting moment. We went back and forth two or three weeks, and was able to get this thing — get it figured out and get it going. Just on my family’s side, my daughter and my wife, it was relieving just to be able to tell them and let them see that we’re going to be OK and be fine.” Sox fans will want to give the interview a listen, as it offers some good insight into the background of one of the team’s rising stars and core pieces.
- Chicago announced yesterday that catcher Geovany Soto was headed to the 10-day DL with elbow inflammation, summoning Kevan Smith from Triple-A Charlotte to take his spot on the roster for the time being. Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago writes that while Soto experienced some abnormal discomfort when making a throw, an MRI revealed everything in his elbow to be “fairly OK” (Soto’s own words). Soto says there’s no tear in his arm but there are “a couple floaters” (presumably referring to spurs or loose bodies). He’ll rest the elbow and use medication to treat the issue, though there’s not yet a clear indication of when he’s expected to return to the White Sox.
- The White Sox have purchased the contract of catcher Kevan Smith and placed Geovany Soto on the 10-day disabled list due to forearm tightness, as Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago writes. Chicago outrighted the 28-year-old Smith off the 40-man roster back in February. He made his Major League debut with the South Siders last year, collecting a pair of singles in 16 at-bats over the life of seven games. A former seventh-round pick, Smith is a career .251/.322/.386 in 585 plate appearances across parts of three seasons with Triple-A Charlotte.
- White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon is progressing in his recovery from biceps bursitis, as Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune writes. Though Rodon has yet to take the mound while he works back to strength, manager Rick Renteria says he’s “moving along positively” and is continuing to work through a throwing program. While the Sox would no doubt love to see the young southpaw working to take the next steps in his development at the major league level, the rebuilding club is obviously taking a conservative course in bringing him back to full speed.