White Sox

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

832659.png

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.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

mickeradolfo.jpg
USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

0223-rick-renteria-rick-hahn.jpg
AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”