White Sox

James Shields embraces White Sox rebuild as he tries to rebound

James Shields embraces White Sox rebuild as he tries to rebound

GLENDALE, Ariz. — James Shields wants to move on from last year's nightmare season and he's excited to do so for the rebuilding White Sox.

During his career, Shields has pitched for several rebuilding clubs and has discovered that he likes to provide an example for his younger teammates. The veteran — who has pitched more innings than any other starter in baseball since 2007 — has no issues if the White Sox ask the same of him this season. Many of those teammates would be better served if they kept a close eye on how Shields conducted himself during a trying 2016 campaign.

Shields, who was traded to the White Sox in June, finished with 19 losses, 40 home runs allowed and a 5.85 ERA. He went 4-12 with a 6.77 ERA in 114 1/3 innings for the White Sox.

"I wish it could have been better," Shields said. "There's no doubt about it. I'm a competitor and I don't like to lose and I don't like to get hit around like that. Shocking factor? Not really. Sometimes those things happen, but unfortunately it happened too often. But this season I'm feeling good. I've got a lot of confidence right now in my ability and what I did this offseason and I'm going to carry it on."

Shields was acquired from the San Diego Padres on June 4. Not only was he brought in to boost a sagging White Sox rotation, there was hope he could be one of the final pieces of the puzzle to help them reach the postseason for the first time since 2008.

But fresh off a public lambasting by the Padres' Ron Fowler — one of two shots the chairman took at him during the season — Shields struggled. He allowed 21 runs in 8 2/3 innings in his first three starts with the White Sox.

Pitching coach Don Cooper thinks all of those factors resulted in Shields getting away from the pitcher who has led all of baseball with 2,169 2/3 innings since 2007. Cooper also thinks Shields still has the stuff to rebound in 2017.

"He was traded midseason, trade deadline, after getting hammered by the owner out there," Cooper said. "It couldn't have been a great situation. He comes to a new team, with us, trying to impress, trying to really want to jump in there and help, tried to do a lot more than he was capable of doing. He wasn't there. It didn't turn out the way he wanted it to.

"He still has everything he needs stuff-wise to get people out. He has movement. He has a great changeup. He commands that fastball. We're hoping for a whole lot better for sure. And I'm sure he is, too."

Shields certainly arrived in camp in the right frame of mind. Having played for the Tampa Bay Rays for the first seven seasons of his career, Shields isn't one to shy away from a potential rebuild. He likes showing younger pitchers how to handle themselves over the course of a major league season and sees a lot of potential in the prospects the White Sox acquired.

"I'm smiling because I've been a part of rebuilds quite a bit," Shields said. "So for me, I love it. I absolutely love it. I love having the young kids, being a veteran, being a leader on the team and showing these guys what professional baseball is all about. I've been very successful with the teams I've been on with the rebuilds. We've got a good group of guys. Lot of young talent, lot of good talent and I'm excited to see these guys.”

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."