White Sox

Buehrle's contract with Marlins carries risk

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Buehrle's contract with Marlins carries risk

In agreeing to a four-year, 58 million contract with Mark Buehrle, Miami added a durable, dependable arm to their starting rotation. That's the positive side. The negative side is they're paying 14.5 million to a high-contact pitcher who will be 37 in the final year of the deal.

Over the course of his four-year, 56 million deal with the White Sox that expired after last season, Buehrle was worth 66.5 million to the White Sox -- a surplus value of 10.5 million. Most of that surplus value came in 2008, which ranks among the best seasons of Buehrle's career. From 2009-2011, he was worth 1-1.5 million more than his salary per season.

Buehrle's durability over the last dozen years is well-known, as he hasn't failed to throw fewer than 201 innings in any season since joining the White Sox starting rotation in 2001. But as Buehrle enters his mid and late 30's, can Miami expect the same kind of durability?

Generally, the answer to that question would be no. But Buehrle isn't your average pitcher -- heck, his fastball is still the same speed as it was when he was 27. He's gone through his prime with an 86 mph fastball, so why can't it continue into his late 30's?

But no matter the player, as he gets older injuries become more likely. A lot of Buehrle's value is predicated on him throwing 200 innings, and if he loses five or six starts to an injury, that's enough to take his value below his salary.

That's why this move is risky for Miami. It helps that Ozzie Guillen has managed Buehrle since 2004 and knows how to manage his innings load to keep him as fresh as possible. But one freak injury and suddenly, Miami is saddled with overpaying Buehrle for a year.

Miami can -- apparently -- afford to shoulder that monetary risk, though. The White Sox could, too, but as they transition to a younger roster, there are better ways for Kenny Williams & Co. to spend 58 million.

Sentimentally, keeping Buehrle would've been great. And performance-wise, he'd probably still be successful with the Sox. But that's a lot of money to spend on someone of Buehrle's age, and the Sox shouldn't be criticized for not matching the contract offer.

Maybe this is nothing more than an effort to soften the blow of losing Buehrle -- who, for the record, has been my favorite player since I was 12 -- by saying "well, he wouldn't have been worth it." Chances are, Buehrle will be worth the contract he signed with Florida. But it's less of a slam dunk than the last four-year, 50 million Buehrle signed.

What are your thoughts on losing Buehrle? Does his contract make it easier to understand? Or would you still give anything to have him pitch for the Sox? Let us know in the comments or on twitter @WhiteSoxTalkCSN.

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: