White Sox

Stone's Mailbag: Big Z and Sox pursuit of Dunn

Stone's Mailbag: Big Z and Sox pursuit of Dunn

Thursday, July 8, 2010
3:48 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer some of your questions about the White Sox being buyers, Andrew Cashner starting, what to do with Carlos Zambrano, and more!

Question from JJ S.--Oak Park, IL: J.J. Putz has undergone an interesting transformation, throwing his fastball significantly less and his splitter significantly more this year than he did in his heyday with Seattle. And yet, he's had about as good of success as he did in his dominant 2006-2007 seasons. Steve, did you or anybody you played with ever undergo such a drastic change in his pitch selection, and did you or he ever do it with as much success at Putz has had?

Steve Stone: Well before we anoint him as the next Mariano Rivera, lets wait a little and see what happens. Coming back form the arm problems he is coming back from, that necessitated the change in repertoire somewhat to take some pressure off the arm. The point remains, he has been most valuable; given the opportunity to close, there have been a lot of pitchers over the years who have transformed their repertoire. Sometimes its losing a pitch and gaining another, sometimes its coming back from a surgery or injury that necessitates a change. Baseball is littered with guys who have abandoned one or two pitches or refining another pitch they have. J.J. is no exception to that. I think the Sox and I both hope he continues with his resurgence. He was a dominant closer; he still remains as a useful and piece of the puzzle for the bullpen and Kenny is happy with him. No matter where he puts him, he will get an outstanding effort from him.

Question from David F--Wood Dale, IL: Steve, in regards to the White Sox, which areas do you think they can improve in? Do you feel they need to make trades to improve these areas?
Stone: I think the Sox would be the first to tell you that, a lot like the Cubs in this respect, they could use a left handed run producer. That being said, they are difficult to come by. When the cubs didnt make a specific offer to Bobby Abreu and allowed him to go to the Angels, only to try to fill that spot with first, Fukudome and second, Milton Bradley, it gives you some sort of an idea on how difficult it is to find that guy. Occasionally a player like Raul Ibanez will come onto the scene but not only his age and his position precludes some teams from acquiring him. Obviously the number one choice remains Adam Dunn; then it becomes, do you want to use him as a 2.5 or 3-month rental. If you do, its difficult to rationalize giving up one of your best young control and inexpensive major league players or giving them a couple very advanced but still young and controllable minor league players. That could be one of the sticking points as Washington looks to get rid of Dunn as others try to pursue him and see him as the missing piece of the puzzle. One area to look at is the bidding war for Seattle's Cliff Lee. He is probably the biggest prize as far as trade-ability is concerned. If you take a look at baseball standings, although things will clarify before the July 31st trade deadline, you can take a look at teams who are going to be sellers, looking to unload some players include Oakland, Seattle, Kansas City and Cleveland as well as Baltimore and quite possibly Toronto from the American league. In the national league, you have Arizona, Pittsburgh and Houston, certainly Washington and before its all over, the Cubs who at this writing are 10 under 500 and 9.5 games back in the central. They might find it advantageous if they fall a little deeper behind in the All-Star break to start to unload some of their higher salaried guys with or without the full no trade protection.

Question from Steven S--Orion, IL: With the turmoils and issues of Big Z and a no trade clause in his contract, what do you think are the Cubs best options to get this issue straightened out? Will they get him right or can they get some team to take him of the Cubs hands?

Stone: Fortunately that tricky bit of negotiation lands squarely in the lap of Jim Hendry who did manage to sign him to a long-term 91 million full no trade clause contract. I think it all comes down to, of the 45 million owed to the formerly Big Z, Jim is going to have to go to his owner Tom Ricketts and the Ricketts family and figure just how much he would be willing to ear of this contract. Already out there trying to trade Fukudome and eat as much as 12 million of his remaining guarantee dollars, one can only wonder just exactly how much of the contract or Big Z will they be able to move. It has been clearly illustrated before the blowup and after the blowup that at this point in his career; Tom Gorzelanny can actually out pitch Carlos Zambrano. And so, if Z does come back and is accepted on to the Cubs, the option of putting him back in the semi-limbo in the bullpen does not sound particularly appealing. Far be it for me to suggest to the boys on the North side on just how to get themselves out of this position, but I do know if you have some assets that are fairly valuable, it would be wise to move those assets before perhaps something happen that renders them unmovable. I of course am referring to the immediate attempt to trade Silva. They owe him 18 million for the remainder of this year and next year, and he is throwing the ball exceptionally well. However an occasional leg problem will lead to occasional back problems and I would be rushing onto the trade market to see if I can dump his contract, eliminate some salary for this year and next and perhaps get something of value before a guy who weighs what he does, eventually and inevitably starts to break down.

Question from Larry S--Chicago, IL: Do you see Andrew Cashner eventually ending up as a reliever or starter for the Cubs?
Stone: I think Andrew has the chance to be an exceptional pitcher. He has picked up some losses and the opposition has gotten to him but the Cubs envision him as a starter. I believe he has a very good speaking disposition; I had an opportunity to speak to him during CubsSox series. I think he would like to start, and Cashner being a young pitcher, an inexpensive pitcher, a controllable for a long time pitcher as far as the organization goes, I believe he will find his way into the starting rotation. He will certainly get the chance after this season, but could very well start in 2010 as an opportunity to stretch him out if they fall out of this race. If they do put together a hot streak and get back in the race, there is a good chance he stays in the bullpen for the remainder of this year.

Question from John S--Elmwood Park, IL: With two no-hitters, two perfect games, and one should've-been-perfect game, is this the year of the pitcher?

Stone: It certainly appears to be the year of the pitcher. Occasionally you have that which shows you a couple different things. One is that there are a lot of very good young pitchers coming up tot he Major Leagues and two, a lot of pitchers find themselves with quality bullpens behind them which on days when they dont have their great stuff, come in handy. I look at Felix Hernandez of Seattle and I see a guy despite a 6-5 record, has a 3.03 era, he just went and shut out the New York Yankees in New York. You look at baseball and you see some really good pitchers, Cincinnatis Johnny Cueto, the Yankees have Phil Hughes, Tampa Bay has David Price, Washington has Stephen Strasburg (though he hasnt had much of an opportunity to this point). You could probably go on and on with young pitchers around baseball that have suddenly burst on the scene and done a terrific job. No one can understand why one-year pitchers dominate. Hopefully there wont be any knee jerk reactions like in 1968. As a result of that year, the mound was lowered from its height of I believe 13 inches to 10 inches high where it still stays today. I would hope that baseball would not make any such tinkering with the mound again in a way to let the hitters resurge. I believe there is enough hitting and there is always going to be good pitchers, but now because of economics, they are giving younger pitchers with great arms a chance to get to the big leagues faster.

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.