White Sox

Pierzynski to Texas: The end of one era, the start of another

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Pierzynski to Texas: The end of one era, the start of another

A.J. Pierzynski is off to Texas, per multiple reports, and it appears the book is closed on an eight-year run with the White Sox. When Opening Day rolls around next April, Paul Konerko will be the last remaining player from the 2005 World Series team still with the White Sox.

Pierzynski was a man without a team in the winter following the 2004 season, his lone year with San Francisco. His reputation wasn't good around baseball, despite hitting .293.335.438 in his ages 24-27 seasons. With some prodding from Hawk Harrelson, the White Sox took a chance and signed Pierzynski to a one-year, 2.25 million deal.

We kept going to Kenny, and Kenny was like 'I don't know, I've heard all these bad things, and I don't know, I've gotta talk to my people, Pierzynski told CSN Chicago's Chuck Garfien this summer. Finally, I guess Hawk got a hold of him, sat down and told him he'd take care of me, so Kenny finally consented and I've been here ever since.

Pierzynski stabilized the White Sox behind the plate, starting eight consecutive Opening Days -- the third-most in franchise history, behind only Sherm Lollar and Ray Schalk. He made the All-Star Game in 2006 (as part of the organization's "Punch AJ" campaign) and logged over 1,000 innings behind the plate in all eight of his seasons with the Sox.

His best year, though, came in 2012. Pierzynski hit a career-high 27 home runs (his previous high was 18, set in 2005), while his .827 OPS was similarly a career best.

Pierzynski's departure means the Tyler Flowers era is set to begin in 2013, as the White Sox will figure out what they have in the backstop who turns 27 in late January. Over 108 major-league games, Flowers has a .205.307.388 line with 12 home runs, and his defense has earned above-average reviews.

The White Sox had interest in bringing Pierzynski back, but only at a certain limit, as CSN White Sox Insider Dan Hayes previously reported. The organization, too, has expressed a faith in Flowers to succeed numerous times.

"I think that Tyler, based on the history that weve had with him, will be a quality everyday catcher in the big leagues," general manager Rick Hahn said at the outset of the offseason. "Its tough for a kid, especially a young kid, to sort of have sporadic playing time as he did this past year and continue that development. So that will be one of the things we have to talk about.

"But defensively he certainly can handle the position. I think hes going to get on base and hit for power. So he can be a valuable and viable everyday catcher in the big leagues."

White Sox Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with Frank Thomas

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AP

White Sox Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with Frank Thomas

White Sox Hall of Famer Frank Thomas came on the podcast to talk with Chuck Garfien about his past, baseball's present and the future of the White Sox. He talks about his first major league hit (a stand-up triple!), how fame affected him when he was a player, his appearance on David Letterman in the 1990s and more. 

Plus, what was wrong with the baseball this past season? Thomas has some ideas and tells Garfien how many home runs he would have hit with that baseball in his prime. He talks about working with Alex Rodriguez at FOX and what it was like whenever girlfriend Jennifer Lopez came to visit in the studio.

Thomas praises the White Sox rebuild and reveals an idea he presented to GM Rick Hahn about where all the top prospects should play this upcoming season. He describes what it was like going to Roy Halladay's funeral, if he sees the White Sox signing Manny Machado in 2019 and much more.

Listen to the full White Sox Talk Podcast right here:

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).”