If someone wanted to see the power of a fan base not showing up to games at a record pace to make management notice it, one would have to look no further than the south side of Chicago. The White Sox organization have taken the message to heart and have done a massive amount of wheeling and dealing to fix chinks in the lineup, rotation and bullpen.
The Sox didn’t take long to get to work as they turned their attention to the black hole they had in 2014, the bullpen. The bullpen was responsible for 32 losses in relief, most in Major League Baseball. It shouldn’t be too shocking to most considering their ERA in the eighth and ninth innings were 5.42 and 4.74 respectively. So how do you fix a bullpen that was amazingly horrendous?
The Sox started with signing Zach Duke to a 3-year, $15 million contract in the middle of November. Duke’s coming off one of his better seasons of his career playing for Milwaukee as a non-roster invitee in 2014. The Sox were desperate to get Duke off the free agent market with how dreadful their left-handed relievers were last season. If Duke were to carry an ERA near his career average of 4.46 out of the pen, he still would be almost a whole run better than the combined ERA of 5.21 from Eric Surkamp and Donnie Veal of 2014. The former Brewer however has had an under 2.50 ERA in two and a half of the last three seasons. So the hope is he’d continue the trend and help solidify a rough spot for the Sox last season.
After they filled the first glaring hole in the bullpen the Sox looked to replace the retiring Paul Konerko and the traded Adam Dunn at designated hitter and backup first baseman. Former Washington National Adam LaRoche put his name to a two-years, $25 million contract to help fill the void in the lineup. LaRoche holds a .264 batting average and has hit 20 or more home runs in four of the last five seasons. If the Sox were to hit him third, in front of Jose Abreu, LaRoche’s numbers could be even better with the more hitter friendly pitches he’d see with protection like that. It could be similar to the benefit Alexei Ramirez had in 2014. He may not hit as many home runs as Dunn and Konerko have had in the past but especially compared to 2014, he’d provide more offense in the way of his batting average being near .040 higher than Dunn and .060 higher than Konerko.
Once the MLB winter meetings came about last week, the Sox offseason was thought of as being just ok since they filled a couple holes. General Manager Rick Hahn saw an opportunity very few people saw coming from them, the chance to get an ace-like pitcher to slide behind Chris Sale in the rotation and they pulled it off. The Sox sent infielder Marcus Semien, catcher Josh Phegley, right-handed pitcher Chris Bassitt, and first baseman Rangel Ravelo to the Oakland Athletics for former Cub Jeff Samardzija and fellow right-hander Michael Ynoa.
The Northern Indiana native, who grew up a Sox fan, gets the opportunity to give the Sox one of the best top of the rotation duos in baseball. His 2.99 combined ERA with his time on the north side and on the west coast in 2014 is what Rick Hahn and the Sox are hoping to be a fix to the carousel of starters in the bottom of the rotation. Pending any surprises coming out of next spring, the Sox should be able to trot out a lefty, righty combination throughout their rotation.
Lefties Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and John Danks should anchor the first, third and fifth starts while Samardzija and Hector Noesi take on the second and fourth day starts. The wild card in that plan could be the Sox’s first round pick from 2014, lefty Carlos Rodon.
The Sox started Rodon in Winston-Salem at A level baseball and quickly elevated him to triple-A Charlotte after he posted a 1.86 ERA in 4 games. Rodon’s 2014 season went 24.2 innings with 38 strikes outs and a 2.92 total ERA. If he lives up to the hype and shows the same level of skill in the majors as he did this past season in the minors, the Sox could be looking at having one of the best rotations in baseball. Several White Sox management members have said that Rodon will start the season in the minors and then possibly come up later in the year if he continues his success. We’ll have to wait till spring training to see if Rodon forces their hand with an outstanding spring and makes the team out of Arizona.
Even if Rodon doesn’t make it to Chicago in the spring, the rotation will be solid as is. The front spots are covered by a Cy Young runner up and former Cubs’ ace. Quintana will get his usual amount of quality starts and hopefully some offense to go with it for wins. Danks and Noesi will have their rough games but should be serviceable in a majority of their starts. It’ll be exciting for fans to come out and see this staff do its thing on a daily basis especially compared to what they witnessed last season.
A day after Samardzija was acquired; the Sox stole another hot target off the free agent market with former Yankee, David Robertson. The right-handed closer signed with the club for 4 years, $46 million.
A quote from Robertson in the Chicago Sun-Times gives a glimpse into what he was thinking leading up to his signing and it also says exactly what Sox fans and baseball analysts are thinking as well of the busy offseason.
“First of all, I think the White Sox have a great club,” he said. “I love the city of Chicago, and I love what [general manager] Rick Hahn has been doing this offseason. I like the moves he’s making with getting LaRoche and Duke and the trade for Samardzija, I feel like he’s building a competitor next year, and I’m hoping we end up back in the playoffs.”
As a life-long Sox fan, I completely agree with every word!
All that being said Rick Hahn still wasn’t done tweaking the roster. He sent pitcher Andre Rienzo to the Miami Marlins in return for relief pitcher Dan Jennings. The third year south paw has a 2.43 ERA in his career with 100.0 innings pitched. The only concern to be had in this trade seems to be Jennings WHIP. His walks and hits per innings pitched has been over 1.500 for two of his three seasons in South Beach. In both of those seasons however he carried an under 2.00 ERA as well. So while he may let them on, he seems to keep them from scoring.
That brings up to the latest signing in Melky Cabrera. The right-handed hitting outfielder inked his name to a three-year deal with the White Sox for $45 million. With this deal it shows that the talk for the last couple weeks has been Seattle’s interest in Dayan Viciedo for their outfield was getting serious. Viciedo has three years left of team control before he hits free agency which makes him a favorable piece to move. Unfortunately with the deal the Mariners pulled off yesterday with the Cubs for a 32-year old Justin Ruggiano may have put any Viciedo deal to the northwest on hold. The move for Melky though was simply to improve upon the lack of production from the third spot in the outfield and to have back to back hitters at the top of the lineup that get on base and make contact on a consistent basis.
The traded Alejandro DeAza and Viciedo combined to hit for a .236 batting average last season. Cabrera comes to the team off a season he hit .301 and only 67 strike outs in 568 at-bats. Rick Hahn said yesterday on the Waddle and Silvy show on ESPN 1000AM that he liked what Cabrera brought to the team and he would be a nice piece in the second spot of the lineup.
There’s a breeze of fresh air coming through the Sox’s fan base. With 2014 so awful the Sox attendance last season was the in the bottom third of the league. There were games where there were maybe 1,000 people in the stands for the first few innings. It had to have embarrassed the front office daily. Now that they’ve shown they will spend money on quality players to turn things around, Rick Hahn’s said in interviews that the fan base has responded at the box office. 2015 will be different in Chicago for sure. As a fan I’m excited to see what’s to come!
The Chicago White Sox have been playing second fiddle to the Chicago Cubs in the rebuilding game over the past few years, but on Monday they launched a massive counter-attack as they signed relief pitcher David Robertson to a four-year deal and reportedly agreed to a trade that would send Jeff Samardzija to the south side of Chicago.
Going into this offseason, the Sox had needs at a slew of positions. They needed bullpen help from both sides of the rubber. They needed a powerful left-handed bat to help protect Jose Abreu in the lineup and to take advantage of the hitter-friendly confines of US Cellular Field. They needed a right-handed starter in their rotation to help balance out a rotation that is lefty-dominated with guys like Chris Sale and Jose Quintana.
Now, with the entire baseball world paying attention to where Jon Lester is going to end up, the White Sox threw a massive punch and put a huge dent into their shopping list. Yes, the money on Robertson is big, with $46 million going into his pocket after a 39-save season with the New York Yankees, and yes, there is no guarantee that Samardzija will be around long-term, as he becomes a free agent after the 2015 season. Despite those limitations, the moves that the Sox made on Monday not only make them an instant contender in a winnable AL Central, but it also signals that they mean business when it comes to being the dominant team in Chicago.
Opening day is one of the most beloved days of the year on the calendar. It is the time of the year where every Major League team and fan base have hope of making it to the World Series.
The White Sox entered the game Monday with the hope that the retooling effort they put in during the offseason will pay off throughout the 2014 campaign and beyond.
Monday’s season opener saw the Chris Sale and the Sox take on Ricky Nolasco and the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.
Sale was wildly effective during the first couple innings. No matter whether it was nerves, the chill, or something else he looked tight. He faced the minimum through two innings despite giving up a hit in the top of the second.
The Twins would get to Sale for two Runs in the third starting with a lead-off base on balls to Twins right fielder Oswaldo Arcia. That would be followed by a single to left field by Aaron Hicks, then they were moved into scoring position by shortstop Pedro Florimon on a bunt back to Sale. Two hitters later, Kurt Suzuki roped a two out single to left, scoring both Arcia and Hicks.
Sale would give up one more run in the eighth after being taken out of the game with one out and having already a given up a double by Hicks to left field. Reliever Ronald Belisario would come into the game and give up a rope single to left off of the bat of Suzuki, scoring Hicks. Sale closed the day with 7.1 innings pitched, three runs on five hits, and had eight strike outs to go with one walk.
The offense showed signs of how good it could be this year if every thing falls their way.
Sox center fielder Adam Eaton tried making sure the season got off to a good start with a shot right back up the middle to start off the season for the new look offense. Unfortunately, last year’s issue showed up in the next batter when Marcus Semien grounded into a five, four, three double play.
The Sox offense got started again in the second when Jose Abreu smashed a fastball that was on the edge of the left hand batters box to right field. The ball one hopped the fence so fast that all Arcia could do was jump and hope he could get it some how. The ball would bounce away from Arcia allowing Abreu to turn the hit into a double. Adam Dunn would follow with a full count walk in a solid at-bat, but he would be erased by a Avisail Garcia double play. Alejandro DeAza would come up next, and would start his season off with a bang. DeAza turned around a slider that hung in inner half for a two run home run that would score Abreu.
The Sox would add two more runs in the third on a RBI single to left by Jose Abreu, and an RBI sacrifice fly by Adam Dunn. Dunn’s sacrifice fly started out a normal pop out to the shortstop but drift all the way to the tarp in foul territory due to the strong winds blowing across the field. Twins shortstop Pedro Florimon drifted with the ball and made a sliding catch going away from home plate which allowed Sox third baseman Connor Gillaspie to score from third.
The Sox would add one more in the sixth on another DeAza line drive home run to the right field bullpen.
Matt Lindstrom, who was named the closer on opening day by manager Robin Ventura and called upon in the ninth to shut the door on the Twins. Even though he did give up a one out double to designated hitter Chris Colabello, Lindstrom was able to close out the Twins and preserve the 5-3 victory.
After a day off on Tuesday, the White Sox will return for another matinee on Wednesday against the Twins. The Sox will send right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino against fellow right-hander Kevin Correia for the Twins. The game is a 1:10pm start in Chicago.
On Monday the White Sox assured themselves of having the second of their top two starting pitchers in their organization for several years. They had already signed Sale at the beginning of last season to a five-year, $65 million contract with two years of team options. That contract locked up the ace of the staff until 2020 when he could become a free agent.
So the White Sox went into this spring wanting to lock up another of their young pitchers for years to come on Monday. The 25-year old, Jose Quintana was rewarded for his 2013 performance with a five year contract of his own.
According to WhiteSox.com, if Quintana is eligible for arbitration after this season, the sum of the guaranteed dollars would be at $26.5 million for the length of the contract. That breaks down into $850,000 this season, a nice bump up to $3.4 million next season, a raise to $5.4 million in 2016, $7 million in 2017 and $8.85 million in 2018. The contract also holds two team options for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, at $10.5 million and $11.5 million respectively. There is also a $1 million buy out if the Sox don’t pick up either option on Quintana.
Again according to WhiteSox.com, if Quintana is not eligible for arbitration after this season, the sum of the guaranteed dollars would be $21 million for the length of the contract. This contract breaks down into the same $850,000 this season, $1 million for next season, $3.8 million in 2016, $6 million in 2017 and $8.35 million in 2018. The Sox would still hold the same two options for Quintana as they do in the arbitration eligible contract.
Quintana who posted a 3.51 ERA last season in 200 innings has shown that even without over powering stuff he could still get guys out effectively. He did have six games where he gave up either four or five runs, but for the most part he kept the games in the quality start category. The biggest problem he ran into last season was the lack of a White Sox offense to support him.
Quintana so far during Spring Training has pitched 11 innings and has given up 18 hits and 20 runs in those innings. The worst of his outings is the one against the Oakland A’s in which he never recorded an out and gave up 9 runs.
Rick Hahn said today in an interview about the signing that he took blame for the rough outing because he thinks Quintana may have been concerned over the physical that was pending in the days after the outing for his contract to be finalized.
Sale said of the move to WhiteSox.com, “What he does on the field is secondary to who he is in the clubhouse.” He continued, “How hard he works at pitching but with being a good teammate and I mean, a year ago today, he needed an interpreter and now he’s doing all this on his own. He’s a very hard worker and he’s very dedicated to what he does.”
In a statement about his contract, Quintana said, “That’s a lot of money. But I want to focus on games. The money, my family is happy with that. I talked to them and they’re so happy.” Quintana went on, “I want to say thank you to the Chicago White Sox for this opportunity to be here for a long time. I want to play hard every five days and better this team.”
It’s rare these days to have a team’s management, the player who signed the contract and his teammates all truly happy with the size of deals that’ve been handed out. In this case, everyone’s happy. Now that the stress of the contract negotiations are over, it’ll be interesting to see if Quintana’s rough days were really from the stress or if it’s a sign of things to come. With the faith the Sox put into him, the chances are it’s just from the stress even though he’d never admit there was any to begin with.
Chris Sale and the White Sox opened the spring training part of their schedule today against their in house neighbor, the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch in Arizona.
Sale’s fastball looked great in his season debut. It was so good that he started out throwing fastballs on the first 8 pitches of the game with good command. He ended up with 42 pitches thrown in the game when he left with two outs in the third inning. His stat line had four strike outs and only one hit given up against the everyday line-up of the Dodgers.
Adam Eaton’s White Sox debut went well as he went one for one with a single and a walk. He seemed very patient and willing to take pitches which will be important if he stays in the lead-off spot throughout the season.
Both Jose Abreu and Dayan Viciedo looked like they just wanted to crush the ball in their first appearance of the season. Abreu swung through a pitch so hard he fell off balance and ended up in the opposite batter’s box, while Viciedo spun around in one of his at-bats. Abreu went hitless with a fly out and a ground out. Viciedo managed to take a fastball to the opposite field for a single, and reached for a pitch which he drove to deep right for an out.
A double down the left field line and a check swing dribbler back to the pitcher are how Matt Davidson celebrated his White Sox debut.
In the first game of his retirement campaign, Paul Konerko went hitless and didn’t look comfortable in the batter’s box. The Dodgers, in both at-bats jammed Konerko inside with fastballs and he wasn’t able to do much with them. He ended the day after the 4th inning with a first pitch ground out to third and a fly out to the first baseman in foul territory.
Donnie Veal, Mitchell Boggs, and Charlie Leesman looked decent in the spring debuts. The three relievers combined to give up one hit in three innings of work with two strike outs by Leesman. It wasn’t until Jake Petricka and Omar Poveda came into the game that the Dodgers started scoring.
All in all some players had their good day today and others didn’t. That’s what spring training is for though is working on your fundamentals and getting the kinks out.
With the news last week that University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam was gay, the NFL world has been turned on its ear as it tries to come to grips with the fact that there will likely be an openly gay player in the league for the first time in its history.
Ever since that news broke with Sam’s admission, the rest of the sports world has been evaluating whether they too would be ready for a gay player to enter the ranks of their game. While the NHL has been the most forward about this situation with the embracing of the group “You Can Play” and other organizations, both the NBA and MLB have been a bit quieter on that front.
In the cases of the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox though, there is one thread that seems to run through both organizations: the only thing that matters about a player is whether he helps us win, not what sexual orientation he is.
White Sox pitcher Chris Sale was the most vocal about it.
“For me personally, if you show up, you’re ready to play, I don’t care what you believe in, who you are, where you’re from, any of that stuff,” he told Comcast SportsNet. “If you’re going to play hard and you’re going to play with respect, give him a jersey and put him the locker right next to me. I don’t care.”
Sale also didn’t mince words when asked about those players that would judge a player based on their sexuality. “The people that get all bent out of shape about that need a reality check,” he said.
On the Cubs’ side of things, pitcher Jeff Samardzija told media members that he did have a gay teammate in the minor leagues, and echoed Sale’s sentiments about what he looks for in a teammate.
“You win games with talent and good numbers and things like that,” he said. “You don’t win games with looks and styles and this and that. As a teammate, all you want is a guy to have your back, a guy to play hard for you and a guy that goes out there and battles with you every day of the week, regardless of preferences.”
True to his reputation as a scholar and a savvy forward-thinking executive, Cubs President Theo Epstein summed his feelings up on the matter very well.
“I think it’s important to be on the right side of history,” he said. “Clearly, we’ve reached that time in this society where you can do the right thing and it’s not any brave stand anymore. It’s just the right thing to do.”
“If there’s a player that can help you, you can’t look at things that don’t matter. Sexual orientation doesn’t matter with respect to winning games, with respect to having strong character, with respect to fitting into the clubhouse and making strong bonds with teammates,” he added.
All three of these guys, simply put, get it. A player’s sexual orientation matters about as much on the baseball field and in the locker room as what kind of cereal he eats in the morning. All that matters about a player is whether or not they can help a team win at the end of the game, and the more athletes and front office executives that can accept that irrefutable truth, the better.
Kudos to Epstein, Samardzija, and especially Sale for not only being grown-ups about this topic, but speaking up forcefully for equality in the locker room.