White Sox

White Sox decline 2016 option on Alexei Ramirez

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White Sox decline 2016 option on Alexei Ramirez

The White Sox declined to pick up a $10 million option for Alexei Ramirez on Wednesday.

Ramirez — a member of the White Sox for the last eight seasons — is set to become a free agent on Saturday morning after the club bought out his contract for $1 million. The move doesn’t entirely rule out a reunion as the White Sox could still re-sign Ramirez in free agency.

While Ramirez produced like a $10 million player in 2014, winning the Silver Slugger Award and being named a Gold Glove finalist, he was one of the worst players in the majors for the first three months last season as he struggled with the glove and at the plate.

Ramirez improved over the final three months and produced a .249/.285/.357 slash line with 10 homers and 62 RBIs in 622 plate appearances last season. Even so, he was only worth minus-0.5 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com, down from 3.1 WAR the previous year.

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“We’ve only had preliminary discussions about direction this offseason,” said executive vice president Kenny Williams. “Rick (Hahn) has to survey the landscape at the GM meetings and I’m sure once he’s comfortable will present Jerry (Reinsdorf) and I with his ideas. It’s not for me to comment on Alexei one way or another right now other than to sing his praises for what he’s done in a Sox uniform from the first day he put the hat on.”

If Ramirez doesn’t return, the White Sox would either turn to Tyler Saladino or perhaps look for a stopgap through free agency or trade as their future clearly lies in the hands of Tim Anderson.

But while Anderson has had a very good career so far, many observers both inside and out of the organization believe he would benefit from more time in the minors.

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Anderson, the 17th overall pick in the 2013 draft, hit .312/.350/.429 and stole 49 bases at Double-A Birmingham last season. But he also struck out 114 times, walked 24 and committed 25 errors.

Saladino impressed the White Sox with his glove when he seamlessly made the transition from shortstop to third base at the major league level. He produced 12 Defensive Runs Saved, which tied for fourth among all third baseman in the majors.

The club knows Saladino is a natural shortstop and would be comfortable with him from a defensive standpoint. But Saladino also finished with a .602 OPS in 254 plate appearances, including a .190/.242/.345 slash line in 16 games in September (62 PAs).

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

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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

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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.