White Sox

Sox Stove Report: Formulating Plans

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Sox Stove Report: Formulating Plans

Tuesday, November 30, 2010
5:40 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

With the official opening of baseballs Winter Meetings just a week away and little movement by the Chicago White Sox, heres a peek at the current state of affairs for the 2011 club:

CHICAGO Just one week from the Winter Meetings, White Sox general manager Ken Williams is keeping his plans for the 2011 squad as close to the vest as ever. So close to the vest, in fact, that hes not even admitting yet that he has a plan heading into next week (telling MLBs Scott Merkin, I will expound on any thoughts, ideas, formulation of plan or plans then).

Fine and good, but even Williams would admit that the White Sox are still unsettled in some key areas: catcher, first base, designated hitter and closer, with viable questions at third and in right field, as well as an anticipated surplus of one potential ace-level starter.

Yesterday, Merkin also cited a major-league source who denied the White Sox ever made a formal offer to new Detroit Tiger Victor Martinez, who could have been an ideal fit for the 2011 White Sox. Pale Hose faithful had better hope that, if true, its some kind of face-saving maneuver over being reportedly outbid by just 500,000 per season for a player who could have slipped into either one of the teams gaping needs at catcher and first (likely a bit of both).

Even when Williams could have been expected to mellow down, hes pounced (case in point: Aaron Rowand for Jim Thome in 2006, with the bloom still on the World Series trophy), so the Winter Meetings are indeed Williams time to shine, and even with the omnipresent budget restrictions, the decade-tenured GM generally has excelled. So with that in mind, lets anticipate where Williams fingers will do their walking.

Catcher

Chisox stalwart A.J. Pierzynskis potential suitors are drying up with recent backstop signings, making the White Soxs gamble in not offering him arbitration (and a salary commensurate to or higher than last years 6.75 million) look smart. However, with Martinezs bolt to Motown and an inviting right-field line to offer, the Boston Red Sox still loom as a promising possibility for Pierzynski. Pierzynski is certain to have to take a pay cut wherever he signs and has further limited his options by desiring teams somewhat near his Florida home (the White Sox being one clear exception).

Williams is definitely in dollar-saving mode with regard to his catchers and is unlikely to top a 3 million offer to his veteran. Turning his back on Pierzynski (and similar players such as Miguel Olivo and Rod Barajas) would be risky, leaving rookie Tyler Flowers and veteran Ramon Castro, right-handers both, to man the dish.

Prediction: Pierzynski returns on a team-friendly deal, 7 million over two years, while Flowers is at the ready in Charlotte.

First BaseDesignated Hitter

Choices abound here even with Martinez off the board (ironically, wooed by Ozzie Guillen compadre and Tigs first baseman Miguel Cabrera), and whoever is acquired at first base will likely see time at DH, or vice-versa. If Williams could get both Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn onto the South Side for 25 million per year combined, the GM could likely get one of his Williams Exceptions from owner Jerry Reinsdorf and raise the clubs payroll.

With the bidding on Dunn expected to start at 15 million a year, that would mean Konerko would have to come back at a cut from his 12 million per season dealnot as farfetched as it might seem, as the Captain is comfortable playing in Chicago and not looking at money as the only, or even main, factor in choosing his next club. (At seasons end, Konerko spent more time discussing, albeit obliquely, what the White Sox needed to do to get back into serious contention in the AL Central than he did his salary demands.) Adding Dunn as a DH1B and contingent tweaks to the roster could get Konerko back and fired up for another two- or three-year run with the White Sox.

Some lower-budget choices are out there in a thick field of first basemen, including slick fielders like Carlos Pena and Derrek Lee. Adam LaRoche is also a consideration. If the White Sox could pull in Dunn along with any of the other first base candidates for 20 million annually, theyd be pleasedand in the case of Pena or LaRoche in combination with Dunn, thats not completely farfetched.

Prediction: Dunn and PenaLaRoche at 1BDH for 23 million annually.

Closer

With the money splurged to bring lefty power to the South Side, theres little room left to import a new closer, even after trimming Bobby Jenkss 7.5 million salary. J.J. Putz, who recently declined arbitration, remains a viable option to play the key set-up role in Chicago for a few years to come.

The good news is Williams has stocked the White Sox pen with power arms, including closer candidates Matt Thornton and Sergio Santos. And while the White Sox envision Chris Sale as a longtime rotation member, if injured hoss Jake Peavy is ahead of schedule in his rehab and can start the season in the Chicago rotation, Sale could serve another year in the pen and possibly close for the club as well.

If Sale is in the rotation, whether from April forward or penciled in to sub for an injured or slumping starter, the White Sox will need to find another lefty for the pen, but that inking wont break the bank.

Prediction: Three years, 11 million for Putz. Closer by matchup, split between Thornton and Santos.

Other Questions
Is Brent Morel the 2011 third baseman?
While many (including me) might look at Chicagos third base situation as unsettled, the White Sox were pleased with Morels audition and enters Spring Training as the incumbent starter. The good news is that a number of players, including Mark Teahen, Dayan Viciedo and Omar Vizquel will push Morel for playing time. The bad news? None of the three (or four, including Morel) appear ready both offensively and defensively to provide standout production at the hot corner.

Wheres Carlos Quentin?
Re-signing Andruw Jones to play right field and bumping Q to designated hitter (heartily endorsed on these pages) is a plausible, low-cost plan, but does nothing to add a lefty bat at DH. Quentins relative health and impressive power numbers will earn him a healthy raise in arbitration (5 million?) but must be at least a part-time DH in 2011 if the White Sox hope to field a competitive defensive team. Its been reported that Quentin has been rendered off-limits by the Chisox (as off-limits as any one player can be in a Williams regime), a sign the team still loves Quentin and could ready a long-term deal for him once again (Q rejected the buyout of his remaining arbitration years last spring, as did John Danks).

Whats all the chatter about trading Gavin Floyd?
Preposterous stuff indeed. The White Sox rarely sell low on a player, particularly one with the upside of Floyd. Persistent reports out of Colorado have the White Sox demanding Ian StewartDexter Fowler combination for Floyd, but even those two promising players dont represent the value Floyd brings (and will continue to bring) to the White Sox rotation. Part of the reason Williams is so willing to raid his farm clubs is that his mode of operation is swapping potential for proven playersand has hardly been singed yet in that high-stakes game. One thing he does not do is trade high-value, low-cost, major-league players off his roster.

Floyd as the centerpiece of a Prince Fielder trade? Now that bears the markings of a Williams concoction.

Why does Williams hate the Colorado Rockies?
Aside from the rumors hes swapping his most inexpensive ace to the Rockies, because they just gave shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, a relatively comparable player to Alexei Ramirez, a 20 million per season extension. Ramirez is likely to opt out of the last year of his initial, four-year contract with the White Sox tomorrow and force the club to more than double his salary for 2011, to 2.75 million. Thats still a bargain, so it will be interesting to see if the White Sox lock up the Missile with a stab at, say, five years, 35 million. Ramirez is entering his prime years and has provided almost 25 million in value to the club (per FanGraphs) in the last two seasons alone, so something even beyond that range could prove a bargain for the White Sox.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

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."