White Sox

This season's moves could top 2004's for White Sox

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This season's moves could top 2004's for White Sox

In the weeks leading up to this season's non-waiver trading deadline, Kenny Williams acquired Kevin Youkilis, Brett Myers and Francisco Liriano for two utility players and four expendable minor-league pitchers. In other words, he addressed three key needs on the White Sox without subtracting much of anything.

When Brent Lillibridge and Eduardo Escobar -- both of whom, it should be noted, we well-liked in the White Sox clubhouse -- are your two biggest losses at the deadline, that's pretty impressive.

In 2004, Williams made a pair of moves that wound up being important for the White Sox World Series run in 2005. Like in 2012, Williams didn't wind up giving up much, although it didn't look like it at the time.

Freddy Garcia and Ben Davis cost the White Sox Jeremy Reed, then a blue-chip outfield prospect, Miguel Olivo, an up-and-coming catcher with great defensive skills, and Michael Morse, a powerful Double-A infielder. At the time, it looked like Seattle had made out well in the deal -- Reed was ranked as Baseball America's preseason No. 25 prospect, while Baseball Prospectus had him at No. 2.

But after playing a full season in 2005, Reed was relegated to a backup role for most of his eight-year career, in which he's posted a .309 OBP at the major-league level. Olivo bounced around and has since landed back with Seattle, but he has a career OBP of just .275. And Morse never broke through with Seattle, but seven years after the trade hit 31 home runs for Washington.

Garcia went on to throw 228 innings with a 3.87 ERA for the 2005 White Sox and compiled 8.4 WAR in 2 12 years with the team. Reed, Olivo and Morse have combined to be worth 9.4 WAR in the eight years since the trade, mainly buoyed by Morse's fantastic 2011 season.

When the White Sox traded for Garcia on June 27, they sat one game back of Minnesota. With Garcia in tow, the Sox went through an up-and-down month and led the division as late as July 24. But on July 25, the wheels began to come off, and by July 31, when the Sox suffered an extra-inning loss to Detroit, they were five games out of first place.

Esteban Loaiza was struggling to tread water in 2004, a year after a brilliant season nearly garnered him the AL Cy Young. Jose Contreras, the most-hyped Cuban pitcher to come to the United States at the time, had a 5.64 ERA in 18 starts with the Yankees.

The White Sox and Yankees swapped struggling starters on July 31. The team was in a much different place than they were on June 27, and hoped newly-accredited Dr. Cooper could fix Contreras' woes.

That didn't happen in 2004, as Contreras limped to the finish with a 5.30 ERA for the White Sox. Loaiza was worse off in New York, though, and was blasted to the tune of an ERA over 8 after his move to the Yankees.

Contreras started off 2005 strong, posting a 3.30 ERA through the end of May. But by the end of July, Contreras' ERA had risen to 4.58. Luckily, the Sox weren't worse off, as they entered August with a seemingly-insurmountable lead in the AL Central.

But as the White Sox struggled and the Indians caught fire, it was Conteras who helped hold things together in the rotation. In his final 11 starts of the season, the White Sox went 10-1, which included three key victories in late September to help hold off Cleveland. When the playoffs began, Contreras anchored a rotation that put together an all-time great postseason performance.

The moves Williams made leading up to the 2004 deadline didn't help the White Sox immediately. It was a year later when they finally paid off in the form of banners, rings, and a massive parade.

In 2012, Williams' moves were designed to pay off immediately. Liriano is a free agent after the season, while Myers and Youkilis both have options for 2013. There exists the possibility that none of those three players return next season.

But if Youkilis, Myers and Liriano help push the White Sox deep into the playoffs this year, it won't matter. And Williams will have pulled off his most successful string of pre-deadline deals in eight years.

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."