White Sox

The top five stories of 2011 for the White Sox

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The top five stories of 2011 for the White Sox

Earlier this week, MLB.com's Scott Merkin ran down his top five franchise-changing developments from the 2011, with his list going as follows:

5. Mark Buehrle leaving
4. Rebuilding or retooling?
3. Dunn's struggles
2. Ozzie and some of the coaching staff leaving
1. Ventura returning

Check out the article for the explanations. My list differs from Scott's -- and hey, your list may differ from mine. Let us know in the comments what your top five would be if you disagree with anything.

5. White Sox extend Danks

This folds into the "rebuilding or retooling" bullet point, although it's nowhere near a rebuild. The Danks extension, for now, confirmed that.

4. Buehrle departs for Miami

The next four points are all intertwined, with the likelihood of Nos. 2-4 happening low without No. 1 on the list. Buehrle's departure was the product of...

3. Ozzie departs for Miami

...Ozzie Guillen being there and the White Sox neither the funds nor room in the starting rotation to keep him. And Ozzie Guillen leaving for Miami opened the door for...

2. Ventura's surprising hire

...nobody saw the Ventura hire coming outside of those in the White Sox front office, and it'll go down as one of the more interesting -- that could mean good or bad -- hires in White Sox history. But at the root of all this great change:

1. The unexpected downturns of Dunn and Rios

The White Sox had plenty of problems outside of this pair, but because both Adam Dunn and Alex Rios earned 12 million last season, they received much of the attention for the team's disappointing season.

The progression is this: If Dunn and Rios played near their 2010 levels to begin the 2011 season, perhaps the White Sox don't lose 17 of 21 games in April and early May. Even if the Sox went 10-11 in that stretch, they would've emerged above .500 -- a mark they didn't reach until July 2. By then, attendance lagged and the Sox had to deal away Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen at the deadline to free up some money.

Over the course of 2011, had Dunn and Rios each been three-win players (as they were in 2010), they would've netted the Sox about nine more wins, per FanGraphs' WAR. Nine wins puts the Sox at 88 on the season, firmly in playoff contention if not for the AL Central, for the AL Wild Card.

Maybe Buehrle still goes. Guillen, too, perhaps, still leaves with the pull of Miami too strong. But the chances that both franchise-altering moves happen would have to be lowered with the Sox contending for the playoffs through the end of the season, right?

For the record, these aren't the kind of downturns that you can predict. Rios, maybe -- he struggled in the second half of 2010, at least -- but not Dunn. So don't jump to blame Kenny Williams for this. It's not his fault.

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."