For the last two off-seasons, the White Sox have tried to address their left field situation. Unfortunately, the off-season leading into the 2014 season came and went for the club leaving them with both Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro DeAza still on the roster. The goal going in had been to move Viciedo and leave DeAza as the everyday left fielder, but with the start of spring training on them, the time ran out on the move. So they became stuck with both players and decided to use them in a platoon fashion in left field and occasionally at the designated hitter position.
Sox fans are well aware that the plan didn’t work out so well. Viciedo hit a measly .231 for an average and DeAza ended up being traded to Baltimore after hitting a mediocre .243 average.
So that left General Manager Rick Hahn with a decision to make during this off-season. One option was to go with Viciedo again in left field with the hope that he figures out how to hit with better consistency. The other option would be to try to trade him and find someone else on the market. The Sox would end up going with option number two because, with the moves that had been made before and while at the winter meetings, they showed the league that they were going to be serious about building a team to compete this season. The Sox were able to lock in one of the better left fielders off the free agent market.
Switch hitter Melky Cabrera joined the Sox in December on a 3-year, $42 million contract to become the team’s new everyday left fielder. He comes to the south side as a better defender and hitter then the Sox have rolled out there in recent times.
Defensively Cabrera hasn’t had a season where he’s committed more than 4 errors which happens to be half of the total Viciedo had last season by himself. While Viciedo may have a better arm than Cabrera, the Sox and their fans would rather have a player in the outfield that can make smart plays and limit stupid mistakes.
Offensively Cabrera brings much more to the table that fits the White Sox plans better than either DeAza or Viciedo would have. He might not have the power Viciedo had, but he brings versatility with his ability to be a contact hitter. Cabrera struck out only 67 times last season in 621 plate appearances. He only strikes out at an awesome one in ten plate appearances rate compared to Viciedo who struck out every one in five plate appearances.
It seemed like an off-season in which Hahn and Sox management went out looking for free agents that made more contact than the player they were replacing, and that’s just what they got in Melky Cabrera.
The question that’s left for Manager Robin Ventura is where to slot this switch hitting contact hitter in the lineup.
For a player with his hitting ability and with the hitters they’re surrounding him with the best answer would be as the second hitter. The reason being, he makes a lot of contact and hits for a high average with runners on base. Cabrera has a career .311 batting average on balls in play. More importantly with men on base he has a .315 batting average on balls in play. With that production in mind, and if Adam Eaton can reproduce his production from 2014, it would set up the heart of the lineup to improve their RBI chances. The “get them on, get them over, get them in” philosophy will be key at the top of the lineup and will be what makes the Sox successful this season.
Another reason he’d be great behind Eaton is his versatility as a switch hitter. If the Sox run a lineup of Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, Jose Abreu, Adam LaRoche, Avisail Garcia out there and could use Conor Gillaspie and Alexei Ramirez after that, it would give the Sox a lefty-righty combination through the seventh spot in the order. That lineup would also feature three .300-plus hitters at the top of it.
To try to find depth at the left field position, the Sox have also signed former Angel and 2013 American League Rookie of the Year candidate J.B. Shuck, former Chicago Cub Emilio Bonifacio, as well as invited prospects Courtney Hawkins, Jared Mitchell, and Michael Taylor to camp this spring.
First, the left-handed hitting J.B. Shuck currently stands as the backup to Melky Cabrera in left, and he’s coming off a miserable year where he hit .145 for an average in 38 games for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Cleveland Indians. However, two seasons ago he was in the running for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. That season he hit .293 in 437 at-bats. So, worst case scenario for the team, they could end up stashing Shuck in Triple-A Charolette and let him find his way again since he’s under team control until 2020.
Next on WhiteSox.com’s depth chart for left field is Emilio Bonifacio. The journeyman utility player is all over the depth chart listings. In fact, he’s listed at all the infield positions except first base and every outfield position. Although he is listed at all those positions, Bonifacio has been mentioned to mostly platoon at third and to fill in at shortstop and second when necessary. The Sox are hoping that without injury Bonifacio won’t see much time past the lip of the infield.
The three prospects from the minors, Jared Mitchell, Courtney Hawkins, Michael Taylor are likely non-roster invitees to evaluate how they do against major league pitchers. Taylor did see some time in the pros last September when call-ups were made. He hit .250 for an average in his limited appearance in 2014, but carried a combined average of both pros and the minors of .273.
As long as Melky Cabrera stays healthy throughout the whole 2015 season and doesn’t go down the PED path again, the left field position on defense and in the lineup will be one of the team’s strengths this coming season.
In an attempt to add depth at multiple positions with one player in what has already been a busy offseason, the White Sox have added journeyman Emilio Bonifacio with a one-year, $4 million contract.
Bonifacio joins his seventh team in nine seasons. He carries a career .262 batting average and 162 stolen bases in 722 games. More importantly, he gives the Sox a player who has experience playing second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions.
With his addition, it opens up the opportunity for the White Sox to finally decide on what they want to do with Dayan Viciedo. They may also keep Viciedo as a backup outfielder or backup designated hitter while using Bonifacio at second base.
The White Sox have around 45 days left till pitchers and catchers report, so there’s still plenty of time for them to work out how they will work out their options after adding this versatile option.
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 White Sox took a trip to bright, sunny Peoria Stadium Monday afternoon to take on Blake Beavan and the Seattle Mariners. The White Sox, who haven’t seen the winning side of games in a week, turned to rookie pitcher Erik Johnson to lead the way for the Sox.
Paul Konerko got the offense started in the second with a single. Dayan Viciedo followed it up with a sharp single to right field which was misplayed by Michael Saunders which allowed Viciedo to advance to third and Konerko to score from first. Alexei Ramirez would follow with a single to left field to score Viciedo. After a Tyler Flowers single, Marcus Semien would crush an inside fastball out to left field for a three run home run. The Sox would take the 5-0 lead.
Johnson would give a couple back in the bottom of the second after he hit Mariners’ designated hitter Stephen Romero with a pitch, and gave up a single to first baseman Logan Morrison. He would give up a single by Dustin Ackley that scored Romero, and then would get Michael Saunders to ground out to Jose Abreu at first which would score Morrison from third making it a 5-2 Sox lead.
Johnson would give up another run in the fifth inning on a Robinson Cano single to right field that scored catcher Mike Zunino cutting the Sox lead down to two.
The Sox’s rookie fourth starter looked solid in his last start of the spring. His fastball looked crisp and located it well. This spring Johnson has given up 12 earned runs in 17 innings. The number skew by the seven runs he gave up to the LA Angels last Wednesday. He should make a good back end starter for the Sox and has the abilities to end up with seven to ten wins and a mid to high three ERA.
The White Sox would add two more runs in the top of the sixth inning off the bat of Paul Konerko when he hit a home run to left center that scored Connor Gillaspie making it 7-3. That would cap the White Sox offense as the Sox would generate only two more hits in the last three innings including a Viciedo one out double in the ninth inning off of Seattle’s closer Danny Farquhar.
Donnie Veal came into the game in the bottom of the seventh. After the first pitch single to Mike Zunino, Veal couldn’t keep the ball in the strike zone. He would fly open with his shoulder in his delivery causing the ball to sail into the left handed batter’s box. After almost hitting the next two hitters and consequently walked them, he would give up bases clearing double to Cano in the seventh inning in relief of Johnson. After the double, Veal would get three straight outs to get out of the seventh.
Manager Robin Ventura would tap Zach Putnam to come in for the save. Putnam is in competition for the last spot in the bullpen with Daniel Webb. He would get the five out save, only giving up one hit in the process. He got the last two of the eighth and the first in the ninth quickly. He’d give up a single to Tyler Smith to center field, but came right back with a fastball that Mariners third baseman D.J. Peterson hit into a double play to end the game.
As a team the Sox look like their ready for the regular season. With only days left there are still a couple cuts that need to be made. The White Sox broke camp today after the Cubs game, more information on the cuts coming as soon as they’re announced.
Saturday saw the White Sox play in their last two split squad games before the conclusion of spring training. The White Sox sent one squad to the San Diego Padres camp, while the other squad welcomed the San Francisco Giants to Camelback Ranch.
In the first matchup versus the San Diego Padres, the White Sox managed to put up a little offense for Chris Beck, their rookie right-handed starting pitcher. Avisail Garcia started the scoring out in the most unfortunate way: by a double play to second base which scored Micah Johnson in the top of the third inning to tie it up 1-1.
Garcia came back up in the top of the eighth inning and hit a single to right field off of Padres’ first baseman Yonder Alonso to score Micah Johnson. Adam Dunn then added a run with a ground out to first base which scored right fielder Denis Phipps, making it 3-1. The White Sox offense failed to add any more runs in the ninth.
Second baseman Micah Johnson, third baseman Connor Gillaspie, and left fielder Dayan Viciedo went two for four each in the game. Adam Dunn also went one for two with a pair of walks.
Starter Chris Beck and the White Sox relievers turned their performances around a little bit as compared to the previous couple games. Beck turned in a decent five innings in which he gave up five hits and one earned run. He also gave up a walk while striking out five batters. The bottom of the first was Beck’s only blemish in the run category. He gave up a line drive double to left field center which scored Alexi Amarista.
Both relievers, Scott Carroll and Dylan Axelrod, followed up Beck’s performance with two hit-one run performances themselves. Carroll did it while locking down the sixth through eighth innings, while Axelrod was given the blown save in the ninth.
The game ended after the ninth inning as a 3-3 tie.
In the second matchup of the day, the White Sox took on the Tim Hudson and the San Francisco Giants.
The Sox sent Felipe Paulino to the hill in his fifth start of the spring. Much like his last start, Paulino created his own trouble. The second inning started off with a base on balls to Brandon Hicks and the inning just got worse from there. After a double play to Juan Perez, Paulino walked Giants first baseman Mark Minicozzi, and gave up a back to back singles to Ehire Adrianza and Tim Hudson to load the bases. Center fielder Gregor Blanco then walked giving the Giants their first run of the game.
From the third through fifth innings, Paulino calmed down and went the minimum faced even though he gave up a walk to Juan Perez in the forth. The sixth inning is where things fell apart.
Buster Posey, who went three for four on the day, led off with a single then stole second base. After a single that moved Posey to third and a stolen base by Brandon Hicks, Juan Perez hit a three-run homer to left field off of Paulino making it 4-1. Minicozzi would chase Paulino with his single to center.
As for the Sox, Alejandro DeAza got the offense going with his first home run to right field in the second inning. The Sox offense finally came to life in the seventh inning with a double by back-up catcher to right field. Right fielder Blake Tekotte and center fielder Adam Eaton followed the double up with singles of their own scoring Nieto.
After a pitching change by the Giants, pitch hitter Grant Buckner doubled to left field which scored Semien and Black making it seven to five.
The Giants would add one in the ninth, but the Sox would go out in order in the eighth. In the ninth the Sox would get a single by Dan Black and had Grant Buckner reach on a catcher’s interference call. Unfortunately for the Sox neither player would score. The White Sox would fall by the eight to five score.
The Chicago White Sox welcomed Jesse Chavez and Oakland A’s yesterday at Camelback Ranch, but the bright sunny Tuesday in Glendale turned dark in a flash for the Sox.
Jose Quintana was hoping to forget his last outing when he gave up 7 runs to the LA Angels in three innings on the mound, but things got even worse for him in this outing. Without recording a single out in the first inning, Quintana gave up three singles, two doubles, a triple, a home run and two walks in the nine batters he faced.
He isn’t in trouble of losing a spot in the rotation, and Robin Ventura will still have the confidence to put him out there. However the last two games have to be slightly concerning, especially games like Tuesday’s where he didn’t get a single out.
Connor Gillaspie, who’s in control of the winning the job at third base got one back for the Sox with a home run in the last of the second inning. Gillaspie has taken the lead in the competition for the starting role at the hot corner by hitting .273 in the spring games with three home runs.
Jeff Keppinger was also involved in the race for the spot at third, but with a stubborn shoulder injury that he had cleaned out at the end of last season, he is likely going to start the season on the disabled list.
Matt Davidson has only one less hit than Gillaspie in spring games, but has accumulated half of those in just two games. In an interview Davidson had with Whitesox.com he said, “I’m human and I want to be in the big leagues and I’m not satisfied with going to the Minors but then again, I’m not going to be disappointed. I still want to have a collective great 2014.” Davidson is still a 50-50 shot to make the big club this season. There are still 13 more moves that need to be made after the six moves from today.
Tyler Flowers added another home run to center field in the bottom of the third. Flowers beat out Josh Phegley for the starting position at catcher still has to prove himself as a hitter in the majors. The White Sox are hoping he can turn around his injury plagued 2013 season. The team can’t afford another to have Flowers hit .195 again this season if they plan to compete for the central division.
One of the hottest players on the team right now is outfielder Jordan Danks. Danks contributed a pair of home runs in the seventh and ninth innings. A hot Danks could give the Sox an opportunity to trade either or both Alejandro DeAza or Dayan Viciedo.
The Sox relief pitchers didn’t fare much better in the game Tuesday. They used six relievers and only two of them didn’t allow a run. Most of the pitchers seemed like they had lost control of most of their pitches, and couldn’t consistently hit their targets. With only a couple of weeks left before the start of the season it’s a little concerning that most of the six were wildly ineffective.
The game was a blow out from the beginning. The Sox ended up losing 16 to 6 and gave up 20 hits in the game with Alexei Ramirez having the only error in the game.
Today marks the week anniversary of the start of spring training games for the White Sox. After today’s win at the Cincinnati Reds, the Sox have 3 wins, 4 losses, and a tie for a record.
While the Sox are still trying to win games, even this early in spring training, getting ready for the regular season is most important. An example of that is pitchers that are working on pitch location, arm strength, or even learning a new pitch. John Danks is currently trying to hone in on creating a solid cut fastball.
“We actually worked on throwing it to both sides of the plate, and that was effective.” Dank’s told ChicagoWhiteSox.com. “It was around the zone, had a sharp break on it. That’s where I expected to be at this point. Keep on improving, but I’m really pleased with how it was so far.”
This is what spring training is all about. Danks had major issues last season controlling his pitches, especially with his cutter. His cutter last season lacked the snap that his cutter had before the surgery. He came to camp wanting to work on making his cutter more efficient and have more bite. He showed off his work in his game against the Mariners, where he went scoreless through three innings and had two strike outs.
Danks is trying to solidify his stuff as he’s vying for the second spot in the rotation against Jose Quintana. No matter which guy is second or third in the rotation, it gives the White Sox three left-handed people at the top of their rotation which is pretty rare throughout the league.
Jose Abreu is using his time in spring training to become accustomed to major league pitching. Abreu crushed his first home run of the spring Thursday against the Royals. He’s shown his natural power even in fly outs on pitches out of the zone when he muscles them to within feet of the warning track in the outfield. Abreu only has two hits in 10 at-bats in the spring, one home run and one double. The good news is that he’s making contact in every at-bat as he has no strike outs so far.
Another bright spot so far of the off-season is center fielder, Adam Eaton. The left-hander has had an excellent start to camp. In the four games he’s played in, Eaton has gone five for nine with a walk and a stolen base. If Eaton, who went one for one today in the game against Cincinnati, continues to have a hot bat through the spring, it may open up the possibility of the Sox trading Alejandro DeAza.
With Eaton’s emergence, there have been rumors that the White Sox would consider trading either Dayan Viciedo or Alejandro DeAza. Both players right now are going to be splitting playing time in left field throughout the season. Both also are at the end of the minor league options, but it’s DeAza that has only one more year of arbitration left of control. The Sox already have a back-up in the outfield, Jordan Danks. So it leaves Alejandro DeAza the odd man out.
In fact, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN in Minnesota, there are people in the Twins’ front office who are big fans of DeAza. It’d be a little odd for the Twins to go after DeAza since they have a plethora of young outfield talent in their organization. The Tigers may be a better fit for DeAza since they lost Andy Dirks for about three months. He’d be in another backup or platoon situation but would likely be Torii Hunter’s replacement if he leaves via free agency in 2015. According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Orioles, Mariners, and Pirates may also be a few teams that could use an upgrade in the outfield.
Tomorrow the Sox take on the Arizona Diamondbacks at Camelback Ranch. Jose Quintana’s first pitch will be at 1:05 pm MST as he faces off Brandon McCarthy.
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.