- The White Sox expect to activate shortstop Tim Anderson from the injured list when he’s first eligible Thursday, manager Tony La Russa told Scott Merkin of MLB.com and other reporters. The former batting champion has been down since April 5 with a strained left hamstring, and the White Sox have turned to a combination of Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick in Anderson’s absence. Garcia has gotten off to a terrible start this year, while Mendick has been great over an admittedly tiny sample size of 12 plate appearances.
White Sox Rumors
The White Sox placed Billy Hamilton on the injured list after he tweaked his hamstring in yesterday’s ballgame. Nick Williams has been called up to take his place on the roster while Jace Fry was moved to the 60-day injured list. Williams had to be added to the 40-man roster, per the Athletic’s James Fegan (via Twitter).
Williams will get right into the action today. He is starting in left and batting seventh against the Royals. Williams, 27, was hardly Plan A for the White Sox this season, but he’ll have his cleats in the grass for their home opener nonetheless. Eloy Jimenez, of course, was the scheduled left fielder, but he tore his pectoral in the spring and will be out for four to five months.
Rookie Andrew Vaughn has split time in left with Hamilton to start the season. Leury Garcia has been one option for left, but he’s experiencing some leg tightness of his own, though he is available off the bench, notes Fegan. Garcia may also be needed at shortstop while Tim Anderson is on the injured list. Danny Mendick gets the start at short today.
As for Williams, he’ll be making his first Major League appearance since 2019. He hit .254/.313/.420 in 903 plate appearances with the Phillies from 2017 to 2019, a 94 wRC+ for his career. His role with the Phils was largely usurped by Bryce Harper as he saw his playing time and productivity diminish significantly in 2019. Prior to that season, he had posted a 110 wRC+ and 102 wRC+ in back-to-back seasons. He signed with the White Sox this past January.
The latest minor moves from around baseball, all courtesy of Chris Hilburn-Trenkle of Baseball America:
- The Rockies recently signed first baseman Matt Adams to a minor-league deal. The slugging lefty has been assigned to Colorado’s alternate training site, per Kyle Newman of The Denver Post. Adams has played for the Cardinals, Nationals and Braves over the past nine seasons. He was a fairly significant part of Washington’s big league roster as recently as 2019, although he only picked up 51 plate appearances with Atlanta last year before being cut loose. The Rockies have tabbed C.J. Cron as their regular first baseman to start the year.
- The Cubs signed Andrew Romine to a minors contract. The veteran utilityman has played with the Angels, Tigers, Rangers and Mariners over a big league career that began in 2010. Romine was in camp with the Twins in Spring Training but opted out after Minnesota declined to add the 35-year-old to the MLB roster. Romine’s younger brother Austin Romine is a catcher on the Cubs’ major league team, although the backstop is currently on the 10-day injured list.
- The White Sox signed outfielder Zack Granite and right-hander Keyvius Sampson to minor-league deals. Granite is a speedy outfielder who picked up 107 MLB plate appearances with the 2017 Twins. He has since spent time in the Rangers’ and Yankees’ systems but hasn’t made it back to the big leagues. Sampson pitched in the majors with the Reds from 2015-16 and with the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization in 2018. He returned to the U.S. on a minors deal with the Giants in 2019 but didn’t get back to the majors.
The White Sox announced Wednesday that they’ve placed shortstop Tim Anderson on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to April 5, due to a strained left hamstring. Anderson exited Sunday’s game due to tightness in his hamstring, and it would seem that discomfort has not dissipated. Fellow infielder Danny Mendick was recalled from the Sox’ alternate site in Schaumburg to take Anderson’s spot on the roster.
With Anderson sidelined temporarily, the Sox are down two of their best hitters early in the season. Anderson’s absence obviously isn’t expected to be as lengthy as that of Eloy Jimenez, who is expected to miss the majority of the season due to a ruptured pectoral tendon, but his absence will be felt in the short-term.
Anderson, 27, was out to just a 3-for-15 start in 2021, though his work at the plate since Opening Day 2019 speaks for itself. He’s been not just one of Chicago’s best hitters over the past two seasons but one of the best hitters on the planet, raking at a .331/.357/.514 batting line with 28 homers, 43 doubles and a triple in 739 trips to the plate.
Mendick, a career .260/.292/.404 hitter in 154 big league plate appearances won’t replicate that offensive output, but he’ll give the South Siders a solid glove to install at the position while Anderson’s injury heals. He’s in the lineup at shortstop today, batting ninth for the series finale against the Mariners at T-Mobile Park.
APRIL 5: Anderson underwent an MRI, and the White Sox are still waiting for the results, manager Tony La Russa told Bruce Levine of 670 The Score and other reporters. He’s unlikely to play until at least Thursday.
APRIL 4: White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson was removed from tonight’s game with the Angels after suffering a hamstring injury while trying to beat out a grounder to first base. According to the official announcement from the Sox, Anderson is day-to-day with tightness in his left hamstring.
Leury Garcia took over for Anderson at shortstop before the bottom of the first inning, and Garcia is the likely fill-in should Anderson need some time on the injured list. Further infield depth is available in the form of Danny Mendick at the minor league level, plus other MLB-experienced players like Matt Reynolds, Marco Hernandez, and Tim Beckham who were in camp on minors deals.
Of course, there is no way to easily replace Anderson, who emerged as one of the sport’s better hitters over the last two seasons. Anderson has hit .331/.357/.514 (130 OPS+, 133 wRC+) with 28 home runs over 739 PA in 2019-20, winning the AL batting title in 2019 and a Silver Slugger Award last season. The White Sox were already missing one of their biggest bats in Eloy Jimenez (who will miss the majority of the season recovering from surgery to fix a ruptured pectoral tendon) as well as fourth outfielder Adam Engel, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury of his own.
The White Sox made a big starting pitching acquisition, signed the best reliever on the market, and went for a modest right field solution.
Major League Signings
- Liam Hendriks, RP: three years, $54MM. Includes club option for 2024
- Adam Eaton, RF: one year, $7MM
- Carlos Rodon, SP: one year, $3MM
- Total spend: $64MM
- Leury Garcia, IF: $3.5MM
Trades and Claims
- Claimed SP Emilio Vargas off waivers from Diamondbacks; later outrighted to Triple-A
- Acquired SP Lance Lynn from Rangers for SP Dane Dunning and SP Avery Weems
Notable Minor League Signings
- Dane Dunning, Avery Weems, Edwin Encarnacion, Nomar Mazara, James McCann, Yolmer Sanchez, Gio Gonzalez, Alex Colome, Steve Cishek, Ross Detwiler
The White Sox kicked off their offseason with the firing of manager Rick Renteria and longtime pitching coach Don Cooper. Rather than allow GM Rick Hahn to run a traditional managerial hiring process, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf decided to put Tony La Russa back in a managerial role for the first time since 2011, despite awareness of the manager’s second DUI having occurred in February 2020. I wrote about the situation at greater length back in November. Though the La Russa hiring brought the White Sox some backlash, it didn’t seem to have much effect on their free agent pursuits. And as of a few weeks ago, as Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times put it, “Sox players have expressed nothing but acceptance and support for La Russa.”
At the December non-tender deadline, the White Sox made the expected decision to cut Nomar Mazara loose. 2020 marked the third consecutive year in which the White Sox received replacement-level play from their primary right fielder. With free agent options ranging from George Springer to Joc Pederson, the White Sox instead pounced on…Adam Eaton. I thought the club would aim bigger than a reunion with the 32-year-old, whose ceiling would appear to be something around 2 WAR. The White Sox did not seriously engage with Springer, who went to the Blue Jays for six years and $150MM. Pederson, intent on the chance to prove himself against left-handed pitching, landed with the Cubs in January on a contract similar to Eaton’s.
Around the same time as the Eaton signing, the White Sox swung a major trade with the Rangers to acquire Lance Lynn. The price for Lynn’s age-34 season was steep: six years of control of 26-year-old sophomore Dane Dunning, plus a 40-grade prospect in Weems. Dunning was considered a 50-grade prospect before the 2020 season, in which he bolstered his stock with seven solid post-Tommy John surgery starts as an MLB rookie. Lynn is both a better pitcher than Dunning in 2021 and a more reliable one. Lynn led MLB in innings last year, and ranked fifth with 6.46 innings per start. He’s one of the game’s few remaining horses, and the White Sox have him at a below-market $8MM. Lynn fits nicely into the team’s rotation with Dallas Keuchel, behind ace Lucas Giolito.
The White Sox added Giolito’s former high school pitching coach, Ethan Katz, but weren’t successful in locking up the righty to a long-term deal. On March 1st, Giolito said to James Fegan of The Athletic, “There haven’t really been discussions about an extension, which is fine. I think the organization knows that I value myself. I know kind of what I’m worth.” The White Sox did engage with Giolito at some point after that comment was made, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The White Sox haven’t reached an in-season extension with a player anytime recently, and they may have to try again with Giolito in the spring of 2022, when he’ll have four years of MLB service under his belt. The most recent comparable might be Kyle Hendricks’ March 2019 deal, covering one arbitration year and potentially four free agent seasons for a $55.5MM guarantee. As someone actively involved in the players’ union, Giolito probably isn’t keen on giving much of a discount.
The White Sox would eventually round out their rotation in late January with the signing of Rodon. Having non-tendered him a few months prior, it’s clear that the White Sox wanted to retain their 2019 Opening Day starter only at their price. The White Sox drafted Rodon third overall in 2014. He was in the Majors the following year and peaked with a 2.7 WAR 2016 campaign before injuries set in, culminating with May 2019 Tommy John surgery. Rodon returned last summer to make four appearances, but then got a “wake-up call,” as he described it, when the Sox non-tendered him in December. Having experienced the White Sox throughout their rebuilding phase, he didn’t want to miss out now that they’re a contender. After an impressive spring training, I’m intrigued to see what a second act might look like for the 28-year-old lefty.
In addition to Lynn, Chicago’s other major strike of the offseason was the signing of the best reliever on the market, Liam Hendriks. As a 32-year-old, Hendriks wasn’t going to get the five-year contract standards set by Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Hendriks (or his agent) was instead seemingly intent on setting an average annual value record for relievers. That’s how we wound up with a contract structure I’d never seen before, a three-year $54MM deal that includes a fourth-year club option in which the buyout value of $15MM matches the option price. So Hendriks is getting $54MM no matter what, but with the fourth year not technically guaranteed, the AAV is $18MM. So why wouldn’t the White Sox pick up the 2024 option? If it’s declined, the buyout is paid in ten annual installments, so there’s a modest benefit to the club in the event Hendriks is completely undesirable for ’24 whether due to injury or poor performance.
Unique contract structure aside, the White Sox landed a lockdown stopper who put up a 1.79 ERA, 38 K%, and 5.7 BB% from 2019-20 over 110 1/3 innings. He led all traditional relievers in innings over that period and has proven himself capable of going more than one inning. Relievers are a fickle bunch, but it looks like the White Sox acquired a relief ace they can lean on heavily in the postseason. Hahn has put together a flamethrowing bullpen. Four of their current relievers – Codi Heuer, Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet, and Jose Ruiz – actually throw harder than Hendriks’ 96.3 mile per hour average fastball. It’s also a largely untested bullpen behind Hendriks, with four current members who have yet to reach 31 career innings.
Though not exactly part of their offseason, March saw a couple of major, related developments for the White Sox. Eloy Jimenez ruptured his left pectoral tendon during a spring training game, requiring surgery with a 4-5 month recovery timeline. A few days later the club selected the contract of 2019 first rounder Andrew Vaughn, making good on their pledge not to manipulate his service time even though they’ve been unable to sign him long-term thus far. Not only is the club convinced Vaughn will successfully make the jump from High-A to the big leagues (with alternate site time in-between), but they’re also asking him to learn left field to replace Jimenez.
Even before the Jimenez injury, the White Sox elected not to bring in a full-time designated hitter to replace Edwin Encarnacion. Backup catcher Zack Collins snagged the Opening Day DH assignment, with third catcher Yermin Mercedes riding a hot streak to get the next three starts. Once Mercedes cools off, others will surely filter through the DH spot as well. The White Sox probably aren’t dying to see more of Jimenez in left field once he recovers, so he may join the DH rotation as well. The best solution might be to try to make the pieces fit until July, at which point the club will know more about Jimenez’s timeline and can acquire someone with real outfield experience.
Even with the Jimenez injury, the White Sox have a solid chance of making the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Though a Jerry Reinsdorf team going all-in might not involve $100MM contracts, I expect the Sox to continue to be aggressive in their own way in the coming years. Their contention window is now fully open.
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Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The White Sox finalized their season-opening roster Thursday, announcing they have selected the contracts of outfielder Billy Hamilton and outfielder/first baseman/designated hitter Andrew Vaughn (previously reported). They also placed outfielder Eloy Jimenez on the 60-day injured list as he recovers from a torn left pectoral tendon, while Adam Engel (strained right hamstring) and left-handed reliever Jace Fry (microdisectomy) went to the 10-day IL. Additionally, the White Sox outrighted lefty Nik Turley. Because Turley has been outrighted in the past, he’ll have the right to elect free agency.
The most experienced player in this group is Hamilton, whom the White Sox signed to a minor league contract two weeks ago. Hamilton’s chances of making the roster increased significantly when they lost both Jimenez and Engel to injuries. The former Red, Royal, Brave, Met and Cub will open the season on Chicago’s fifth outfielder behind Luis Robert, Vaughn, Adam Eaton and Leury Garcia.
While the 30-year-old Hamilton has never hit much in the majors, where he has posted a .241/.296/.325 line through 3,125 plate appearances, his speed and defense have kept him in the league. Hamilton has stolen 305 bases on 376 attempts – good for a success rate of 81-plus percent – and totaled 72 Defensive Runs Saved with a 56.2 Ultimate Zone Rating as a center fielder. That combination could make him a useful reserve for the White Sox.
The Cardinals announced Thursday that they’ve claimed lefty Bernardo Flores Jr. off waivers from the White Sox. He’s been optioned to the Cards’ alternate training site. The waiver claim fills the Cardinals’ 40-man roster.
Flores, 24, was Chicago’s seventh-round pick back in 2016 and made his big league debut this past season, tossing two innings and yielding a pair of runs. He’d have spent the 2020 season at the Triple-A level had there been a minor league season, but his top level aside from that brief two-inning cup of coffee in the big leagues has been Double-A. The southpaw has posted strong numbers in parts of two Double-A campaigns, working to a combined 3.04 ERA with an outstanding 4.6 percent walk rate and a 52 percent grounder rate — albeit with a below-average 18.8 percent strikeout rate.
Flores will give the Cardinals some depth both in the rotation and the bullpen. He has a pair of minor league options remaining, so he can be shuttled between Triple-A (or the Cards’ alternate site) and the big leagues over the next two seasons if he sticks on the 40-man roster.
Prized White Sox prospect Andrew Vaughn has made the team’s Opening Day roster. He isn’t on Chicago’s 40-man, so the team will need to select him.
The White Sox could have gained an extra year of service time by keeping Vaughn down for the first few weeks of the season, but executive vice president Ken Williams said last week that wouldn’t be a motivating factor in their decision. The team was true to its word. If Vaughn doesn’t return to the minors, he’ll be controllable through 2026 and eligible for arbitration after 2023, though the White Sox could certainly extend him before then, as they’ve done on multiple occasions in recent years with offensive building blocks such as Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.
General manager Rick Hahn stated Tuesday (via James Fegan of The Athletic), “Having Andrew around will be a positive for this offense.” The White Sox expect Vaughn to factor in at designated hitter, first base and left field, according to Hahn.
It became easier to envision Vaughn making Chicago’s season-opening roster when the club received the devastating news of Jimenez’s ruptured pectoral tendon last week. Jimenez underwent surgery Tuesday and remains likely to miss at least five to six months, Hahn said. The hope is that Vaughn will help fill Jimenez’s enormous offensive void.
Now 22 years old, Vaughn is a former University of California standout whom the White Sox drafted third overall in 2019 and then signed to a $7.2MM-plus bonus. Vaughn hasn’t gotten above High-A ball since then, but he has held his own in the minors, having slashed .278/.384/.449 in 245 plate appearances. He has also looked ready for prime time this spring with a .279/.375/.459 line and six extra-base hits (three doubles, two home runs and a triple) in 61 at-bats.
Along with Vaughn’s addition, the White Sox made a handful of other roster moves Tuesday. They optioned infielder Danny Mendick to their alternate site and reassigned fellow infielders Tim Beckham, Zach Remillard and Matt Reynolds, outfielder Nick Williams, and right-hander Ryan Burr. The club also made the previously reported release of catcher Jonathan Lucroy official.
TODAY: The Sox officially announced the deal, confirming that Lamb’s deal is a Major League pact. In a corresponding move, left-hander Nik Turley was designated for assignment. Turley was claimed off waivers from the Athletics last week.
MARCH 29: The White Sox have an agreement to sign free agent third baseman Jake Lamb, pending a physical, per Robert Murray of FanSided (via Twitter). Lamb spent the spring with the Atlanta Braves, who ultimately stuck with Pablo Sandoval as their backup at the hot corner. He will need to clear waivers before this deal is official.
Lamb should have a certain degree of comfort with White Sox manager Tony La Russa. La Russa was the Chief Baseball Officer of the Diamondbacks during Lamb’s heyday from 2014 to 2017. Lamb hit .250/.336/.462 with 69 home runs in 1,752 plate appearances over that span. Injuries hit Lamb hard since then, however.
He did have a small-sample resurgence with the A’s last year, posting a 141 wRC+ in 49 plate appearances with Oakland. Combined with 50 plate appearances in Arizona where he posted just a 14 wRC+, however, and the numbers balance to 77 wRC+, almost exactly matching his mark from the previous two seasons.
The White Sox are a little light on depth, but it’s not exactly clear where Lamb might fit. The logical jump is that Lamb’s signing is a reaction to losing Eloy Jimenez, but there’s not a natural way to shift the roster to make that line of thinking track. Yoan Moncada plays Lambs’ natural position at third, though he has offered to play the outfield in the past, including last offseason when Chicago was entertaining making a run at free agent Anthony Rendon. That would seem to be a lot to ask of Moncada coming off the difficult season he endured in 2020.
More than likely, he’s simply slated for organizational depth. If he’s added to the Major League roster, he could see time at designated hitter in the event that Andrew Vaughn either doesn’t make the roster or does make the roster and spends time in left field, where he’s started two of the past three spring games.