White Sox

Garfien: Buehrle to the Cubs? No chance

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Garfien: Buehrle to the Cubs? No chance

Over the last couple days you may have heard rumblings in the news that a certain baseball team in Chicago not called the White Sox has expressed interest in signing free agent pitcher Mark Buehrle. Im told the thought of the South Side legend calling the North Side home has produced such side effects as nausea, headaches, and especially -- heartburn.

As I sit here today, I cannot promise you that Mark will return to the White Sox. There are many teams knocking on the door, and reportedly even the team that plays at Wrigley Field. However, there is one thing I can assure you:

Mark Buehrle will not sign with the Cubs.

Rest easy, White Sox fans. It wont happen.

How do I know?

Lets start with what we know about Mark as a person. Growing up in a close-knit family in St. Charles, Missouri, the values that were instilled in him back then are still very much apart of his life. Ever hear the phrase Give me a child until he is seven and Ill give you the man?

Thats Mark.

He was born into a world that made him a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, and to a large degree, he remains that to this very day. The White Sox are number one in his life, the Cardinals are number two.

What do both teams have in common? A deep and utter dislike for the Cubs. Those feelings dont go away in a day or even three decades.

Mark also knows who he is. His life has become deeply rooted, not only in White Sox lore, but in the hearts and minds of the people who come to watch him play. He knows it, and when he takes the mound at U.S. Cellular Field, he feels it. Although he wasnt raised on the South Side, when he looks into the crowd, he doesnt just see White Sox fans, he sees a bit of himself. Meat and potato baseball fans. Thats one of the reasons hes become such an icon.

So would Buehrle, who has made 85 million in his baseball career -- millions more than he ever dreamed of -- jump ship to the other side of town, turning his backs on the only team hes ever played for, the only major league fans who have ever cheered for him, just so he could chase a few extra bucks?

No way.

These are just my words. Want to hear some from Mark?

Buehrle has declined to be interviewed until he signs with the lucky team. But an interview I did with him last February during spring training revealed what he was thinking then, and is very likely thinking now. Mark has lived by the same principles his entire life. I doubt they have changed in the last nine months.

In the conversation, he first explained that if the White Sox didnt re-sign him there would be a small list of teams he would play for.

Obviously St. Louis would be there, Buehrle said. Im not going to throw teams out to you because obviously getting to the end of your career youre going to want to go to a team thats going to win or has a chance to win. Youre not going to go to a team thats obviously rebuilding.

After winning 71 games and finishing 25 games out of first place, this would seemingly take the Cubs out of contention. One could argue that the White Sox situation isnt much better, but thats a subject for another column, one I would disagree with -- depending on the moves Kenny Williams makes this off-season. Its too early to go down that road.

Right now, I cant pinpoint how many teams, Buerhle continued. I know there are teams in my head I will not go to no matter how much money or what the situation is. If the White Sox dont want to sign me back after this year and some team that Im not a fan of, or I dont want to go play for, or if its just too far from home, Im not going to go play just to make money.

So I asked him. What about the Cubs?

Im not saying any names, any cities, any towns, but I have a few teams that are on my mind I would play for, and there are a few teams I wouldnt play for.

I told Mark that if he went to the Cubs Id be concerned about the mental well-being of many White Sox fans.

I could see that, he replied. I dont know if I can get up for that many day games. Im not a morning person. Spring training is about it, and then I need some sleep.

Mark is a smart person and also a smart business man. There would be no benefit in saying directly that he wouldnt play for the Cubs. But read between the lines. Its all there.

Cubs President Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer are reportedly pursuing Buehrle, which is what any smart baseball executive would and should do. On paper, hes a logical fit for the Cubs. Plus, they both have experience seeing one of their best players leave and play for their biggest rival. In 2006, Johnny Damon departed the Red Sox and signed with the hated Yankees. Wade Boggs did the same thing. Theyre probably thinking, Why not Buehrle?

But thats Boston and New York. This is Chicago. Its different here. Its the same reason Kerry Wood chose not to sign with the White Sox last winter. He wouldnt do it.

For those of us who are from here, its all quite simple.

The Sox are the Sox.
The Cubs are the Cubs.
We are who we are. Its in our blood.
The Sox are in Buehrles blood.

Being traded across town is one thing. Its happened before. Even to Ron Santo. But choosing to jump ship and actually sign with the enemy, thats completely another.

Some athletes chase money, some chase fame, some both.
Buehrle? He stands for much more than that.

Will he sign with the Cubs?

No offense to my friends and colleagues who are Cubs fans, but the answer is an easy one.

It can be summed up in a single word.

Never.

Up close, White Sox see same big potential Cubs forecasted for Dylan Cease

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Up close, White Sox see same big potential Cubs forecasted for Dylan Cease

The Cubs made the Jose Quintana deal knowing it would have been more difficult to give up Dylan Cease if he was already performing at the Double-A level, and that the White Sox organization would be a good place to continue his education as a young pitcher.

While Eloy Jimenez keeps drawing ridiculous comparisons – the running total now includes Kris Bryant, Miguel Cabrera, Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz – Cease is more than just the other name prospect from the deal that shocked the baseball world during the All-Star break.

“We still project him as a starter,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said during this week’s GM meetings in Florida. “He certainly has the stuff where it’s easy to envision him as a potential dominant reliever. But to this point – for the foreseeable future – we deal with the starting and continue to develop him as a potential front-end arm.”

The Theo Epstein regime still hasn’t developed an impact homegrown pitcher, but that hasn’t stopped the Cubs from winning 292 games, six playoff rounds and a World Series title across the last three seasons, while still being in a strong position to win the National League Central again in 2018.

Without Quintana and his affordable contract that can run through 2020, Epstein’s front office might have been looking at the daunting possibility of trying to acquire three starting pitchers this winter.

While surveying a farm system in the middle of a natural downturn, Baseball America ranked seven pitchers on its top-10 list of prospects from the Cubs organization: Adbert Alzolay, Jose Albertos, Alex Lange, Oscar De La Cruz, Brendon Little, Thomas Hatch and Jen-Ho Tseng.

So far, only Alzolay, an Arizona Fall League Fall Star with seven starts for Double-A Tennessee on his resume, and Tseng, who made his big-league debut in September, have pitched above the A-ball level.

Cease – who went 0-8 with a 3.89 ERA for Class-A Kannapolis in his first nine starts in the White Sox system – has a 100-mph fastball and a big curveball and won’t turn 22 until next month. That stuff allowed Cease to pile up 126 strikeouts against 44 walks in 93.1 innings this year, putting him in the wave that includes Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen.

“Ideally, we have a lot of guys we project to be part of the future, very good, championship-caliber rotation,” Hahn said. “In an ideal world, there’s not going to be room at the inn for all of them. You only have five in that rotation and some of these guys will wind up in the bullpen. In reality, as players develop, you’re going to see some attrition.”

One spot after the White Sox grabbed Carlos Rodon with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, the Cubs did Kyle Schwarber’s below-slot deal, using part of the savings to buy out Cease’s commitment to Vanderbilt University ($1.5 million bonus for a sixth-rounder) and supervise his recovery from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Cease was never going to be on the fast track to Wrigley Field, and now the White Sox hope he can be part of the foundation on the South Side, where it’s easier to sell a rebuild after watching the Cubs and Houston Astros become World Series champions.

“It doesn’t change really for us internally in terms of our commitment or focus or our plan or our timeline or anything along those lines,” Hahn said. “I do think, perhaps, it helps the fan base understand a little bit about what the process looks like, where other teams have been and how long the path they took to get to the ultimate goal of winning a World Series (was). In Chicago, many fans saw it firsthand with the Cubs.

“There are certainly more and more examples in the game over the last several years to help sort of show fans the path and justification for what we’re (doing).”

The White Sox just traded for a really intriguing arm

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USA TODAY

The White Sox just traded for a really intriguing arm

The White Sox continued their rebuild Thursday by trading for an intriguing young right-handed pitcher.

The South Siders acquired Thyago Vieira from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for international signing bonus pool money.

The 24-year-old Vieira is a Brazilian native and has only made one appearance in the big leagues, striking out a batter in one perfect inning of work in 2017.

While his career minor-league numbers don't jump off the page — 14-19 with a 4.58 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 13 saves and 7.4 K/9 in 290.2 innings \— Vieira has been reportedly clocked at 104 mph with his fastball and was ranked as the Mariners' No. 8 prospect at the time of the deal. He also held righties to .194 batting average in 2017.

Here's video of Vieira throwing gas:

And this may explain why Vieira was even available:

Control has been an issue throughout his career, as he's walked 4.6 batters per nine innings in the minors. He has improved in that regard over the last few seasons, however, walking only 22 batters in 54 innings across three levels in 2017 and he doled out only one free pass in 5.1 innings in the Arizona Fall League in 2016.

What does this deal mean in the big picture for baseball? How did the Sox pull off a move like this while not having to give up a player in return? 

This may help shed light on the situation from Baseball America's Kyle Glaser:

Either way, the White Sox may have just acquired a guy who could potentially throw his name in the hat for "future closer." Or at the very least, throw his name in the hat for "best name."