White Sox

Robin Ventura: White Sox have 'improved, definitely'

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Robin Ventura: White Sox have 'improved, definitely'

He wouldn’t go so far as to predict a 2016 playoff appearance, but Robin Ventura is pleased with recent upgrades to the White Sox roster.

Ten months after he opened spring training with the suggestion his 2015 club was postseason worthy, the White Sox manager said Thursday he likes the additions of infielders Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie. Both were traded for in an eight-day span in which the White Sox have dramatically overhauled their infield. Those additions came on the heels of the signings of catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro.

Even though fangraphs.com’s early projections have the teams’ four newest players providing 8.1 Wins Above Replacement, a significant increase over last season, Ventura wouldn’t go overboard with any White Sox predictions.

“We’re improved, definitely,” Ventura said on a conference call. “We’re also in the division that has the World Series champion. We know it’s a tough division. Everyone in that division is getting better and this is our way to improve and make ourselves a viable candidate, so we’re much improved from last year. Just look at the people that we got. And again, you’re going to have to play to be able to make an impact and make it happen because it doesn’t happen on paper.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Rick Hahn: White Sox to stay 'aggressive on numerous fronts']

Until they can prove it on the field, the White Sox only have projections and scouting reports upon which to base their moves.

So far, the White Sox have done well in that arena.

A number of scouts and a National League executive praised the White Sox on Wednesday for their acquisition of Frazier, even though they had to part with three major league ready (or close to) players, including outfielder Trayce Thompson.

Responses ranged from “love Frazier” to “fantastic” to “real good deal for Sox.”

Frazier is expected to provide the White Sox with a middle of the lineup presence behind Jose Abreu and a strong glove at third base. The two-time All-Star projects for 3.7 WAR next season just one season after White Sox third baseman combined for minus-1.3 WAR.

Lawrie is predicted to provide 15 home runs at second base and 1.8 WAR, a number the White Sox hope is low given they believe he’ll benefit from a change of scenery.

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Last season, White Sox second baseman hit five homers and were valued at minus-1.3 WAR.

Navarro and Avila — who signed for a combined $6.5 million — are expected to produce 2.6 WAR, according to fangraphs.com, an increase of 1.1 WAR over Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto in 2015.

Though Ventura wants to see it on the field first, it’s reasonable to expect improvement over an offense that scored 3.89 runs per game and hit an American League-low 136 homers last season.

“We haven’t offensively got production out of some areas (on the infield),” Ventura said. “You have to try to go at it and try to improve it. This is one of the ways to do it. We did give up some young talent to be able to do it, but you have to give up something to get something. That’s the way it works in this game. Todd was definitely a target, and when you start to look around and look at the landscape of what you can do and the moves you can make and how you are going to do it, Rick (Hahn) is the one who went through it and figured out how to make it all work.”

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sunday marked the first surprise of White Sox spring training, courtesy of first baseman Jose Abreu.

“This year, I’m going to try to steal more bases,” Abreu said through a translator.

This might have sounded like a joke, but Abreu was completely serious.

On paper, he’s not exactly Rickey Henderson. In 614 career games, Abreu has only six stolen bases. However, the slimmed-down first baseman does have some sneaky speed. His six triples last season ranked third in the American League. So there are some wheels to work with.

“I like the challenge. I think that’s a good challenge for me. I’m ready for it,” Abreu said.

How many steals are we talking about? A reporter asked sarcastically if a 30-30 season is in the offing? Abreu didn’t exactly shoot down the possibility.

“Who knows? When you fill your mind with positive things, maybe you can accomplish them,” Abreu said. “The mind of a human being works in a lot of different ways. If you fill your mind with good things, good things are going to happen.”

The morning began with Abreu walking to the hitting cages with his Cuban compadres Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, who the White Sox signed last summer. He held his first workout on Sunday. At the White Sox hitters camp last month, Moncada took Robert under his wing, showing him the ropes, even telling Ricky Renteria, “I got him.”

But Sunday, Abreu was in charge, holding court with the three of them in the cage. Abreu watched closely as Robert hit off a tee, giving him pointers about his swing.

“I just like to help people,” Abreu said. “When I started to play at 16 in Cuba, I had a lot people who hounded me to get better. At the same point, I want to give back things that I’ve learned and pass that along to other people. That’s what I’m doing. I’m not expecting anything else. I’m just glad to help them and get them better.”

What kind of advice has he passed along to Robert?

“Since I came to this country, I learned quickly three keys to be a success: Be disciplined, work hard and always be on time. If you apply those three keys, I think you’re going to be good. Those are the three keys I’m trying to teach the new kids, the young guys,” Abreu said.

Abreu lost about 10 pounds during the offseason. He said he hopes to learn more English in 2018. He also arrived at spring training sporting a scruffy beard which he grew while he was in Cuba so he “could be incongnito.”

Abreu likes his new look. Moncada thinks he should shave it off.

“If the organization doesn’t say anything, I’m just going to keep it,” Abreu said.

Well, so much for that.

Moments after Abreu spoke with the media, Renteria told reporters that Abreu will have to “clean it up a bit.”

The two will find a compromise. Come to think of it, maybe Abreu and the White Sox should do the same about a contract extension in the near future.

Yes, he’ll be 33 when his contract expires in two years, but there have been no signs of a decline with his performance. Instead, Abreu is only getting better both offensively and defensively.

Heck, now he wants to steal bases, too.

After Renteria, Abreu is the leader of this team. He commands ultimate respect inside the clubhouse. He’s become another coach to Moncada, Robert and others. He’s a huge brick in the present and too big of an influence and cornerstone to not have around in the future.

“I hope to play my entire career in the majors with the White Sox,” Abreu said Sunday. “But I can’t control that.”

At some point, a decision will have to be made whether to keep Abreu or trade him. In the meantime, ask yourself this question: What will bring more value to the White Sox, getting a high-end prospect or two in return not knowing if they’ll ever succeed in the majors? Or keeping your best player, the heart and soul of your team, allowing him to show your future stars the way while they’re developing in the major leagues?

Seems like an easy decision to me.