- White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler was a guest host for a pair of White Sox Inbox columns at MLB.com, during which he answered a slew of questions on player evaluation, a day in the life of a scouting director, amateur draft philosophies and the upcoming Rule 5 Draft in December. Hostetler states that he has full confidence in Tim Anderson’s ability to develop into a plus defender at shortstop and also talked about top prospect Zack Collins’ improvements both at the plate and behind the plate as a catcher. Hostetler also notes that GM Rick Hahn and assistant GM Jeremy Haber are constantly working to maintain roster flexibility should a strong opportunity present itself in the Rule 5 Draft.
Former White Sox pitcher Daniel Webb passed away due to an ATV accident last night, according to a report from wpsdlocal6.com. Chris Davis, Sheriff of Humphreys County, confirmed the news via telephone.
The Blue Jays selected Webb in the 18th round of the 2009 June amateur draft, but the Kentucky native spent most of his career in the White Sox organization. During his time at the MLB level, he compiled 110 relief innings at the major league level, including 67 2/3 innings in 2014 with a 3.99 ERA. Webb showed promise with a fastball that averaged 96 MPH, but hadn’t pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2016.
The White Sox issued the following statement in the wake of the 28-year old’s passing.
“Daniel left many friends within the Chicago White Sox organization, and we are all shocked and stunned by the news of last night’s terrible accident. He was a terrific young man with a full life ahead of him. All thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends as they deal with today’s tragic news.”
MLBTR sends its condolences to Webb’s family and friends during this difficult time.
- White Sox left fielder/designated hitter Nicky Delmonico will be shut down from offseason activity for up to four weeks due to inflammation and discomfort in his shoulder, the team announced this week. It’s a seemingly innocuous update for the time being, though the situation is worth at least monitoring. Delmonico, once a well-regarded prospect with the Orioles and Brewers, put himself back on the radar in 2017 with a big season in Triple-A and a .262/.373/.482 batting line with nine homers in 166 plate appearances in Chicago this season. If he’s healthy in 2018, he’s likely to play on a near-everyday basis between left field, first base and designated hitter, as the Sox hope to have uncovered a hidden gem.
The 2016 Winter Meetings marked the beginning of a new White Sox strategy: a total rebuild. Gone are Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings, Melky Cabrera, and Miguel Gonzalez. The 2017 team played to their low expectations, but the club’s record was an afterthought as the White Sox continued acquiring top-shelf young talent throughout the season. In terms of trades, most of the heavy lifting has been done as we head into the offseason.
- James Shields, SP: White Sox responsible for $10MM in 2018 salary as well as $2MM buyout on 2019 option.
- Nate Jones, RP: $5.2MM through 2018. Includes club options for 2019-21.
- Tim Anderson, SS: $24.15MM through 2022. Includes club options for 2023-24.
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)
- Al Alburquerque (5.030) – $1.1MM projected salary
- Avisail Garcia (4.167) – $6.7MM
- Zach Putnam (4.135) – $1.4MM
- Jake Petricka (4.044) – $1.1MM
- Jose Abreu (4.000) – $17.9MM
- Danny Farquhar (3.136) – $1.5MM
- Leury Garcia (3.025) – $1.2MM
- Carlos Rodon (2.168) – $2.0MM
- Yolmer Sanchez (2.134) – $2.1MM
- Non-tender candidates: Alburquerque, Putnam, Petricka, Farquhar
GM Rick Hahn has executed his plan perfectly so far. The White Sox were able to give fans a glimpse of the future as Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez made their team debuts this summer. They’ve got six of the game’s top 100 prospects waiting in the wings with Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Dylan Cease, and Alec Hansen. Zack Collins, Dane Dunning, and Carson Fulmer follow on their top prospect list. And don’t forget about Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon, who have already experienced big league success even if they struggled in 2017. As the rebuild enters its second offseason, what’s left to do on the transaction side?
The White Sox still have two marketable veterans: Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia. Both were bright spots on a 2017 club that lost 95 games. Abreu, 31 in January, experienced a power resurgence on his way to becoming one of the five best-hitting first basemen in the game this year. The White Sox control him through 2019 as an arbitration eligible player, and MLBTR projects a salary close to $18MM just for 2018. His price tag could be in the $40MM range for 2018-19.
Abreu’s rising salary is not a problem for the Sox, who have next to nothing on the books. If the White Sox entertain trades for Abreu, his salary could take smaller payroll teams out of the mix. Still, he arguably could be the best hitter on the market aside from J.D. Martinez and will require a much smaller financial commitment than Martinez or fellow first baseman Eric Hosmer. Abreu also brings reliability that is unmatched by 2017 breakouts like Logan Morrison or Yonder Alonso.
Hahn will likely treat Abreu as he did Jose Quintana last winter: set a price, listen to offers, and hold him if those offers fall short. Penciling Abreu into the third spot in the order for the 2018 White Sox would likely please fans. An extension would be pushing too far, however, as Abreu is unlikely to provide surplus value in his age-33 season and beyond.
Right fielder Avisail Garcia is also controlled for two more seasons through arbitration. He presents a different calculus following a surprising season in which he hit .330/.380/.506. Garcia, 27 in June, should be in the prime of his career. He’s also less proven than Abreu, having shown a subpar bat until 2017.
We project Garcia to earn $6.7MM in 2018, so he could be a bargain even though no one expects him to manage a .392 batting average on balls in play again. South Side Sox notes that Garcia’s expected weighted on-base average (found using Statcast data) suggests his new level is that of a well above-average player. Extending Garcia before he proves himself further could result in a discount for the White Sox, if the player is willing. If the numbers don’t add up for Hahn, Garcia becomes a trade candidate.
Trade chips aside, the White Sox must field a Major League team in 2018. While the 2017 season was surprisingly fun in spite of the team’s record, fans will expect progress in the standings with a more respectable product on the field as the rebuild enters its second phase.
The bullpen is an obvious area for Hahn to address this winter. Due to the trades of Robertson, Kahnle, Swarzak, Jennings, and Tyler Clippard, as well as injuries to Nate Jones and Zach Putnam, manager Rick Renteria had to survive with perhaps MLB’s least recognizable bullpen. 27-year-old Juan Minaya, a waiver claim from last year, was an up-and-down guy for the Sox until late June, and by mid-August he became the team’s closer. 30-year-old Gregory Infante signed a minor league deal in January and worked his way into high-leverage innings by season’s end. Most likely, Chicago’s bullpen will continue to present great opportunities to the game’s reclamation projects, especially after helping Swarzak and Kahnle turn around their careers. There’s room for mid-range additions as well, given the team’s sparse payroll commitments. While Hahn won’t be looking at Wade Davis or Greg Holland, the White Sox may add a few veterans in the $3-6MM per year range in addition to a likely significant number of minor league pacts.
The rotation is more settled. Veteran James Shields will retain a spot in the last year of his contract. Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito are in. Carlos Rodon will claim a spot, but his timetable is wide open currently as he recovers from shoulder surgery. As MLB.com’s Scott Merkin explained in September, Carson Fulmer is a contender for a spot and Michael Kopech will likely make his way up midseason. There seems to be room for at least one veteran addition, perhaps with last year’s $6MM deal with Derek Holland serving as a model. Free agent reclamation projects include Clay Buchholz, Jeremy Hellickson, Francisco Liriano, Wade Miley, Hector Santiago, and Chris Tillman.
The White Sox may also consider minor additions on the position player side. After going with Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith behind the dish this year, the Sox could make a low-key veteran catcher addition from a list of many options. Leury Garcia showed well as the starting center fielder when he wasn’t battling injuries. Adam Engel and Charlie Tilson will be in the center field mix as well. Nicky Delmonico had a strong 166-plate appearance debut and should see time at left field and designated hitter. Yolmer Sanchez could be penciled in at third base with Moncada getting the nod at second and Anderson at shortstop. While they aren’t expected to contend for big names, the White Sox would benefit from adding both outfield and infield depth for 2018.
As Steve Adams outlined last month, the White Sox should consider taking advantage of their low payroll commitment to further boost their prospect stash. After arbitration raises, the team projects to have around $45MM committed to the 2018 payroll. Steve named bad contract examples such as Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis, Yasmany Tomas, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Wei-Yin Chen. The White Sox could agree to take on a contract like that in order to pry young players away from the club that is currently saddled with said contract. In the process, the Sox would also be supplementing their own 2018 team.
With most of the building blocks of the future already in the organization, the next phase of the White Sox rebuild will hinge on player development. The 2017-18 offseason figures to be much less eventful than the previous one for White Sox fans. Rick Hahn’s work is far from over, but the next White Sox playoff team is starting to come into view.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The White Sox announced Wednesday that they’ve outrighted catcher Rob Brantly, outfielder Rymer Liriano, left-hander David Holmberg and righties Chris Volstad and Brad Goldberg off the 40-man roster, dropping their 40-man count to 33 in the process. Brantly, Liriano, Holmberg and Volstad will all become free agents, while Goldberg (who lacks the service time of the other players) will stick with the ChiSox as a non-roster player.
Both Brantly and Holmberg were in their second stints with the White Sox organization. Brantly appeared in 14 games with the Pale Hose in both 2015 and 2017. spending a year as a member of the Reds organization in the interim. He’s a career .230/.294/.333 hitter in parts of four big league seasons.
Holmberg, meanwhile, was a second-round pick by the ChiSox back in 2009 but was traded to the D-backs along with Daniel Hudson in exchange for Edwin Jackson before ever appearing in Chicago. He tossed 57 2/3 innings for them this year after returning on a minor league deal, though, working to a 4.67 ERA. That was the most significant experience the 25-year-old has had in the Majors to date. Holmberg has struggled in 119 2/3 big league innings, pitching to a 5.49 ERA with more walks (69) than strikeouts (66).
Liriano, once a top prospect in the Padres organization, came to the Sox via waivers but put up uninspiring numbers between both Triple-A and the Majors. Even with a paltry .740 OPS in 500 Triple-A plate appearances this season, the 26-year-old is a lifetime .286/.365/.453 hitter in parts of three Triple-A campaigns.
Volstad’s return to the Majors was somewhat remarkable, as the 31-year-old entered the year with just 10 1/3 MLB innings under his belt dating back to the 2012 season. He didn’t perform especially well in either Triple-A Charlotte or in 19 1/3 innings with the Sox, but he could aim for a similar minor league opportunity this winter.
Goldberg, 27, was the White Sox’ 10th-round pick back in 2013 and debuted in the Majors this year with unsightly results. In 12 innings he was shelled for 11 runs on 14 hits and 14 walks with just three strikeouts. He did post a 3.35 ERA with a much more palatable 47-to-22 K/BB ratio in 40 1/3 Triple-A frames, however.
- The Tigers will interview Marlins third base coach Fredi Gonzalez and White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing this week about the managerial vacancy, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. Angels bench coach Dino Ebel is also on Detroit’s list of candidates, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets. Several other internal (coaches Lloyd McClendon, Omar Vizquel, Dave Clark) and external (Phil Nevin and Charlie Montoyo) have already been linked to the Tigers’ search, which reportedly began with around 50 names in consideration.
- Right-hander Michael Ynoa has re-signed with the White Sox rather than test minor league free agency. Ynoa was outrighted off Chicago’s roster earlier this season after posting a 5.90 ERA over 29 innings. Once a highly-touted international signing as a teenager, Ynoa has struggled with his command in both the minors and at the big league level, with a 5.9 BB/9 over 59 career innings with the White Sox in 2016-17.
- The rebuilding process for the White Sox has gone according to plan thus far, though as CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes writes, the team has another long year ahead of it next season. “We know we might be entering a slightly more difficult phase of this rebuild, and that is the phase where we have to allow this talent the time and patience to develop….We’re going to have to remain diligent and realize that this isn’t about any individual player or any individual season, this is about building something for the long term,” GM Rick Hahn said. “For this next phase, that’s going to require player development to play its important role and for us to have patience in Chicago that would allow that to unfold.”
As the White Sox prepare for the second season of a dramatic rebuilding of the franchise, the biggest questions facing general manager Rick Hahn and his front-office team will be the futures of Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia. As I noted last week when taking a look at some of the upcoming offseason needs for the Sox, both are controlled only through 2019, making it questionable as to whether they’ll be part of the next contending team or whether either is more of a trade piece than a building block. Abreu will earn a raise on this year’s $10.825MM in arbitration this offseason, while Garcia will get a bump on his own $3MM salary.
Hahn address both players’ futures at an end-of-season press conference yesterday, expanding a bit on the difficult nature of the decision at hand. Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago and Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune were among the reporters on hand for Hahn’s media address and has numerous quotes from the Chicago exec as well as from Abreu himself. Abreu hasn’t been shy about his desire to stick with the Sox through their rebuild in the past, and he was as blunt as ever yesterday in telling Hayes that he hopes to spend his entire career in a White Sox uniform. Whether that happens is largely up to Hahn and his staff, and the decision unsurprisingly isn’t an easy one for that group.
“Both Avi and Abreu are under control for the next two years, through 2019,” said Hahn (via Hayes). “I think even under the most optimistic projections of our ability to contend, certainly ’18 and ’19 don’t include the bulk of the time when we anticipate having a window open to us, so obviously with any player who isn’t controllable through the bulk of that window, we have to make an assessment.”
Hahn spoke about the possibility of extending one or both players but also the chance of marketing each in trades this offseason as a means of further amassing young talent with timelines that fall more into the 2020 and beyond target to which he alluded above.
“They’re both special cases, and there are very strong arguments for them playing roles in 2020 and beyond,” he continued, going on to stress the value they place on Abreu’s on-field contributions as well as his role as the team’s clubhouse leader. Garcia “is still very young in this game” said Hahn, adding that there’s some reason to believe that his 2017 breakout could very well become “the norm” for the 26-year-old moving forward.
Certainly, the Sox don’t have to make a definitive call on either player this winter. Hahn points to the team’s handling of Jose Quintana last offseason as an example of a player’s market not coming together in the winter but more strongly forming at the July non-waiver deadline.
“It’s not me just dancing around or being cute,” said Hahn. “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.”
One thing that does seem clear, especially in the wake of a shoulder operation that could sideline Carlos Rodon for as much as the first two months of the 2018 season, is that the Sox will need some veteran rotation reinforcements. Chicago also decimated its Major League bullpen on the trade market, and while they’ve received solid contributions from unexpected sources such as Gregory Infante and Juan Minaya, they’ll still have some work to do on that front.
“It’s going to be about being opportunistic,” Hahn said of his offseason search for bullpen arms (via Kane), “and perhaps there’s another arm to fill into the rotation that makes some sense for us.” Hahn spoke specifically about veteran additions being able to provide some “cushion” to allow younger arms to further develop. While Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and possibly Carson Fulmer could all be in the rotation early next year, the Sox seemingly could benefit from another veteran to pair with James Shields as they wait for Michael Kopech, Spencer Adams, Alec Hansen and/or Tyler Danish to prove ready for an extended look at the big league level.
There are quite a few more quotes from Hahn within each column from Hayes and Kane, so readers are encouraged to check out each in full.
White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon underwent arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday, the team announced this afternoon. Rodon’s surgery repaired a “significant” case of bursitis in his left shoulder, per Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago (Twitter links). A recovery time for his specific case wasn’t provided, Hayes notes, but the Sox suggested that the general recovery timeline for this procedure is anywhere from six to eight months.
The short end of that timeline would allow Rodon to be ready for the bulk of Spring Training. However, that time frame also seems to suggest that Rodon could miss the early portion of the 2018 campaign — possibly more than the first month of the season. Certainly, there will be more updates on his condition as his rehab progresses over the life of the offseason.
Set to turn 25 in December, Rodon is a key piece for the rebuilding White Sox as the team looks toward its future. Chicago selected the NC State lefty with the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, and he impressed with a 3.75 ERA over 139 1/3 innings as soon as the 2015 campaign — debuting less than one year after being drafted. Rodon followed that up with a slightly worse ERA in 2016 (4.04) but significant improvements to his control and to his durability, as he logged a career-high 165 innings in that solid 2016 effort.
The 2017 season was a struggle for Rodon, though, as he missed the first two months of the season with bursitis in his left biceps and was shut down for the year in early September. Overall, Rodon managed just 69 1/3 innings this season, though he did post a career-best 9.9 K/9 mark and a career-high 10.3 percent swinging-strike rate in that limited sample. Notably, Hayes adds in his tweets above that Rodon’s left biceps and the labrum in his left shoulder both looked “fine” when examined by renowned surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
[Related: Chicago White Sox depth chart]
The ChiSox already seemed a decent bet to explore the possibility of adding some veteran arms this offseason, given the inexperience of their rotation outside of struggling veteran James Shields. Uncertainty regarding Rodon’s timeline to start the 2018 season only figures to enhance that likelihood. The Sox have a pair of impressive young righties in their big league rotation at present in the form of Raynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, but they’ll surely want to be careful with each in his first full big league season.
Beyond that, right-hander Michael Kopech (acquired in last December’s Chris Sale blockbuster) is perhaps the game’s top pitching prospect, but he’s thrown just 15 inning at the Triple-A level and could likely use some further development time. Other prospects, including righties Spencer Adams, Alec Hansen and Tyler Danish could all likely stand to gain some additional minor league seasoning as well; Danish had a dreadful season in Triple-A Charlotte this season, while neither Danish nor Hansen has thrown a single pitch at that level.