White Sox

Still in Chicago, Jeff Samardzija sees White Sox as contenders

7-16-jeff-samardzija-white-sox.png

Still in Chicago, Jeff Samardzija sees White Sox as contenders

After weeks of speculation that a Jeff Samardzija trade was inevitable, the 30-year-old right-hander is still here at U.S. Cellular Field, readying himself to start for the White Sox on Sunday against the Yankees.

Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline passed with the White Sox standing pat, choosing to hang on to Samardzija and continue a playoff push that gained legitimacy after a seven-game winning streak last month. Samardzija said he’s relieved to not have to uproot himself from Chicago for the second straight year and isn’t disappointed to currently be playing for a team that’s over .500 and closer to a playoff spot.

“I think we’ve always thought of ourselves as contenders,” Samardzija said. “I think we just need to go out and do what we’re capable of doing and that’ll take care of most of it. I love this team and think we have a great group of guys and we just need to keep playing like we’ve been playing.”

[MORE: White Sox place J.B. Shuck on DL, recall Scott Carroll for now]

Entering Saturday, the White Sox owned a 49-52 record and were three and and a half games behind a Minnesota Twins team that appears to be fading fast for the second American League wild card spot. But as winners of seven of their last 10 games, the White Sox went from probable sellers to possible buyers at the deadline, and instead of flipping their biggest trade chip for a few minor leaguers decided to keep Samardzija for a playoff push.

A year ago, the Cubs were clear sellers and shipped Samardzija to Oakland in a blockbuster deal that landed them top infield prospect Addison Russell. The A’s wound up blowing their lead in the AL West and Samardzija didn’t appear in a Wild Card playoff loss to Kansas City, leaving him with only one postseason appearance in his career (one inning of relief for the Cubs in the 2008 National League Division Series).

The White Sox are hardly guaranteed to make the playoffs this year, but manager Robin Ventura said he hasn’t seen Samardzija sulk over not going to a club that looks like a lock to play deep into October.

“I think if he doesn’t like his team there could be disappointment, but I haven’t sensed any disappointment from him,” Ventura said. “Even when he was pitching in Boston he was all for it and going. I haven’t seen any change from him being disappointed. He likes being here, he’s a competitor and I have no doubts or anything of sending him out there that he’s not going to be giving his best effort or committed to this.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Samardzija, a free agent after this season, won’t entertain any thoughts of his next move until he’s done playing this year. But the distractions that come with trade rumors are gone, and Samardzija said he’s relieved to get past the deadline and stick around Chicago instead of uprooting his life for two or three months.

“Yeah, it’s nice to not have to get all that help from my wife picking up and moving (to) a house here and there,” Samardzija said. “All the things that go with it, it’s tough. It’s definitely a big adjustment when you get traded. It’s nice to be able to take a deep breath and really get back to concentrating on that five-day routine and getting ready to pitch again.”

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

0218-dylan-covey.jpg
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

0218-jose-abreu.jpg
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.