White Sox

Sox Drawer: A Winter Meetings Preview

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Sox Drawer: A Winter Meetings Preview

Friday, December 4th

Its three days before baseballs winter meetings in Indianapolis. What is Kenny Williams thinking? Judging by his opening comments on a Friday conference call with the media, he certainly isnt going to tell us.

Kenny Williams here, he began. Ready to not answer any questions that you might have.

Okay

But in the 20-minute session, the Sox GM did provide some glimpses into their current mind-set, and what might happen between now and Opening Day.

The 2010 team:

Were going to pitch, and were going to play defense, and were going to scrap like hell to score runs, Williams said. Sounds like the blueprint from 2005. But will he have enough cement and bricks to build a winner?

The rotation is already one of the best in the majors. The defense is in the process of getting an upgrade. Adding Omar Vizquel and Andruw Jones, along with re-signing Mark Kotsay also gives the Sox one of the best benches in the majors.

And speaking of the bench, if another person makes a crack at how old those three guys are, Im going to send your antiquated thinking straight to a local nursing home where you will have nothing but a television and rabbit ears for White Sox information.

Sorry about that. Gotta vent here.

When it comes to a bench, you have to ask yourself one question, are the players major league competent? Seriously, thats all you want and all you need from your bench. Wilson Betemit, Brian Anderson (minus his glove), Brent Lillibridge, and DeWayne Wise (minus the Buehrle perfect game and 2008 playoff HR) = not competent.

Even if Jones shows up in Glendale weighing 250 pounds with McDonalds wrappers trailing his Rolls Royce on the freeway, if he can find his way to hit 15 homers for the Sox next season (which is completely attainable because he will run through a wall for his good friend Ozzie Guillen), you should take it.

Kenny added that Jones has accepted his role as a back-up, but wants to have the opportunity in spring training to compete for a starting job. Sounds like a guy preparing for career redemption. I like it.

And did you notice that Vizquel did not make a single error last season playing second, shortstop, and third? Again, take it.

Williams also gave a hint about his possible outfield, saying that Jones and Kotsay are insurance in case they decide to carry a youngster in the outfield. Jordan Danks, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

As for the rest of the squad..

The Sox leadoff situation:

There are two questions Kenny Williams never wants to hear ever again. One is Are you trading Bobby Jenks? And two, Who is going to bat leadoff? When the latter question was asked, I think another gray hair shot out of Kennys noggin, into his phone, and pierced every media member on the line.

Replied a sarcastic Williams, We wont forfeit that spot in the order. There will be someone there.

As for exactly who (forget about the Chone Figgins pipe dream. Hes likely headed for Seattle), dont get your hopes up. Williams pointed to the fact that as much as 90 percent of teams in the league dont have the ideal leadoff hitter.

So unless hes able to open up the Jerry Reinsdorf vault (Were always trying to find some wiggle room. It probably annoys Jerry to no end), or someone falls into their laps, or Scott Podsednik asks for less yearsmoney, or Rudy Law drinks from the fountain of youth and plays for 1983 money, the Sox will likely have to settle for an experiment in the leadoff spot. Sorry to break the news, but hope is not lost. As Williams put it, Just like we had Orlando Cabrera a couple years ago. It wasn't the ideal situation, but we won a division title with it.

Alex Rios, anyone? He is a career .282 hitter in the 1-spot. Just saying. Hopefully he shortens that swing. Greg Walker, do your magic. Maybe Frank Thomas can talk to him.

Theres always Jerry Owens. Oh wait. There isnt.

Bobby Jenks:

There have been so many rumors about Bobby Jenks, he could probably have his own special section on TMZ.

If the Sox want to upgrade somewhere on their roster without taking on more salary, their large closer (Im not going to call him overweight for fear that he might sit on me at spring training) remains one of their biggest (and by that I do not mean heavy) bargaining chips.

However, Kennys fuel gauge in regards to the Jenks trade question currently has a flashing yellow light. Hes about done with it. Or at least, thats what hes telling us, which is what keeps the Jenks trade rumors going. Is this a Kenny smokescreen or is he legitimately going to keep him here next season? Once a players name gets on the hamster wheel, its tough to make it stop.

Williams referred to the Jenks speculation as the media running with something, and added, I havent had any conversations with anyone about trading Bobby Jenks. Im really surprised that this has continued on. I think what keeps the Jenks rumor alive was Williams next sentence: This is the same stance Ive taken since Day One sitting in this chair. If the right opportunity presents itself, well travel down that road.

And the hamster wheel just took another violent spin.

Williams predicted that the Sox will be busier after the Winter Meetings than during it. So with that line of thinking...expect an interesting week in Indy. Always is, even if nothing happens.

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant: Now this is the show South Side fans have been waiting for

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AP

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant: Now this is the show South Side fans have been waiting for

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant sound like characters from your kid’s favorite show (or your favorite show, if you happen to be a kid).

But instead they’re the duo South Side baseball fans have been waiting for.

You might know them better as the Cuban Connection, an alliterative and far less confusing nickname that describes Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu, who in Monday night’s 10-4 win over the visiting Seattle Mariners combined for seven hits, three home runs, a double, a triple, six runs scored and four RBIs.

It was a welcome sight after the White Sox offense slumbered through a weekend series with the Houston Astros in which they mustered just two runs. Heck, this offense has been hard to find during the entire month of April. Entering Monday, it’d produced just 16 runs in its last seven games (with 11 of those coming in a single contest).

But then came Monday’s show, in which Abreu launched a pair of homers and Moncada came a single short of hitting for the cycle. That had to be a proud moment for Abreu, who’s taken his countryman under his wing since Moncada arrived in the majors last summer.

“I’m really mad at him because he had two chances to do it and he couldn’t,” Abreu joked with the help of a translator. “Seriously, I’m really happy for him. I know today was a special game for him. I know he couldn’t hit for the cycle today. But he’s going to have more chances in the future. He’s going to be good.”

This is what White Sox fans have been hoping for. It’s what they’re still waiting for, considering much of that oft-discussed team of the future is still developing in the minor leagues. But Moncada is the story of 2018 at the major league level, how development will continue for the player White Sox fans drooled over at this time last year, when he was ranked as baseball’s top prospect.

Moncada got a lot of early attention for his high strikeout total, and with another punch out Monday he’s now got 34 on the season, still one of the highest totals in the league. But his numbers are looking good in many other facets. He raised his batting average .026 points Monday alone, and he’s now slashing .240/.345/.493 on the still-young season.

Abreu, of course, is the White Sox best hitter and has been ever since he arrived from Cuba before the 2014 season. For a team in such an offensive rut, Abreu’s four-hit night Monday raised his batting average up over .300, to .308. He’s now got six homers on the season, the most on the team and one of the higher totals in the American League. While Moncada and others will spend 2018 showing the White Sox what they will be in the future, this was expected from a guy who’s been one of baseball’s most consistent hitters in the last half decade.

But the future comes into play with Abreu, too, whose consistency at the plate and his presence in the clubhouse as a mentor to Moncada and other young players make him as believable a part of those planned future contenders as any of the organization’s highly rated prospects. A contract decision will need to be made at some point, obviously, but the White Sox will tell you any day of the week how much they value Abreu, who knows exactly where this franchise is and is excited as anyone about where it’s going.

“Everybody knows we are in the process, and everybody knows what this process is about,” Abreu said. “We have a lot of young talent, a lot of young players. They are going to hit some bumps and have some struggles as a team. But I think we all know how we have to play this game. (Manager Rick Renteria) has taught us how to play this game, how to play this game representing the White Sox organization and how they play this game.

“I feel really happy. We prove today that we are able to play a good game and to show the rest how we win games. That is the way we like to play.”

Monday was a bright spot in what’s been an otherwise very tough start to the 2018 campaign. But for a team where the future is what matters most, this is what fans have been waiting to see. A game like this might not be commonplace as the summer rolls on on the South Side. But for those dreaming about Moncada and Abreu teaming to lead those contenders of the future, this was one heck of a glimpse into the crystal ball.

“That’s our goal to have big games together for this team,” Moncada said. “Having the opportunity to play with Abreu — ‘The Big Elephant’ as we call him in Cuba — it’s good for me. It’s a big honor. I feel really happy when we have these kinds of games.”

Yoan Moncada nearly hits for the cycle, Jose Abreu hits two homers and the White Sox finally break out the bats

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AP

Yoan Moncada nearly hits for the cycle, Jose Abreu hits two homers and the White Sox finally break out the bats

So, anyone out there still worried about Yoan Moncada?

The White Sox second baseman, who at this time last year was the top-ranked prospect in baseball, was the subject of much social-media frustration through the season's first few weeks. But it's safe to say he's "redeemed" himself in the eyes of fretting fans.

Monday night, he led the White Sox offensive eruption with a three-hit night that brought him just a single shy of the cycle in a 10-4 win over the visiting Seattle Mariners.

Moncada started the offensive outburst with a leadoff triple in the bottom of the first inning. He doubled to start the bottom of the second and launched a solo homer to begin the bottom of the fourth. He scored all three times.

Moncada entered the game with a .214/.329/.400 slash line, though he's been hot of late. In the last seven games, he's got nine hits, six extra-base hits and three homers. He still has 34 strikeouts on the season, one of the highest totals in the majors, but he's putting up some good numbers elsewhere.

Abreu also had a red-hot Monday night, picking up four hits with a couple of homers, the 12th time he's bashed multiple long balls in a single game.

It was quite the performance for a White Sox offense that has mostly been quiet so far in 2018. They scored just two total runs in three straight blowout losses against the Houston Astros over the weekend. And while they plated 11 in that 14-inning marathon in Oakland, the three road games prior to that featured a grand total of three runs.

Monday night that all changed with the White Sox banging out 18 hits, including seven straight to start the bottom of the first, the first time that happened in the big leagues in four years.