White Sox

White Sox: Justin Morneau's 'fun' return could have him back in 2017

White Sox: Justin Morneau's 'fun' return could have him back in 2017

KANSAS CITY -- He isn’t yet ready to think whether or not he’ll play next season, but Justin Morneau concedes this one has been enjoyable so far.

The White Sox designated hitter’s surgically repaired elbow still requires maintenance and he has some rough days. At the same time, Morneau -- who’s hitting .300/.351/.500 with three homers and nine RBIs in 77 plate appearances -- is surprised how quickly he has found comfort at the plate and how he’s been physically capable of preparing the way he needs. While for now he’s focused on the present and not 2017, Morneau makes it sound as if he’d have a difficult time calling it quits if all is well.

“As long as I’m still enjoying it and enjoying the work, I’ll probably assess that toward the end of September,” Morneau said. “But to be able to come out and work the way I'm used to working -- I’m someone that enjoys spending time in the cage and all that kind of stuff. I’ve been able to do that. That was the most frustrating part about last year -- I couldn’t take the amount of swings that I wanted and that was kind of what had me questioning whether or not I would enjoy playing again.”

“I’ve been able to do things that I wanted to do, so I’ll make that decision at a later point, but for right now, it has been fun.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]​

Morneau wasn’t sure what to expect when he had the surgery last December. After rehabbing for six months, he hoped he’d only need 20-30 minor league plate appearances to find some semblance of comfort at the plate. At that point he’d return to the big leagues knowing it would still be a work in progress.

So far, Morneau has been everything the White Sox needed since Adam LaRoche retired five months ago.

“He’s filled the left-handed presence we were looking for,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Even against the lefty he’s having a quality at-bat.

“He’s had professional at-bats. It’s a very educated at-bat.”

Todd Frazier has had a front row view as he often has hit behind Morneau since he joined the team last month. He appreciates how Morneau competes and extends the lineup. Frazier pointed to Tuesday’s win when Morneau said he wasn’t feeling it and followed with a 4-for-5 performance, including a critical double in the 10th inning.

“Just consistency,” Frazier said. “Just a professional. Guy has been doing it for years. You look up to a guy like that. I have the best view in the house. I’m hitting right behind him and you see the battles he goes through and the at-bats and he finds a way to do it. Couldn’t ask for anything better.

“He came in after the first at-bat telling everyone he didn’t feel well. Next thing you know he’s got four hits. Whether that’s professionalism or he’s lying to us, either way we’ll take it.”

Those types of days are exactly one of the reasons Morneau wanted to return. Disappointed how his sore elbow hindered preparation in 2015, Morneau hoped to feel healthy once again. He believed he had some ability left and has proven it so far. As long he continues to enjoy it and all is well, Morneau may just have the same desire again in 2017.

“It’s usually when you have it figured out and your swing is locked in, that’s when you go 0-fer and those times you go up there and battle you surprise yourself sometimes and get some balls to fall in and usually that’s how you start rolling,” Morneau said. “It starts with a blooper or a two-strike hit or a two-out hit or whatever it is. That can get you going in the right direction.

“You never know when that’s going to happen. Those days like that are few and far between, but they are nice when they happen. It’s hopefully a sign of more good things to come.”

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

The 2017-18 baseball offseason continues to be, well, the 2017-18 baseball offseason, even with spring training games being played in Arizona and Florida.

A bunch of names remain on the free-agent market, including All-Star players who thought they would be in for big multi-year contracts. But as teams continue to deny the wishes of guys who expected to get big deals, the suggestion that those players might end up needing to take one-year offers if they want to play during the 2018 season is becoming a more common talking point.

So with potential bargains to be had for some pretty big-name players, do the White Sox jump into the waters and try to lock up a potential future piece on the cheap? Though they aren’t expected to contend this season, the White Sox have been mentioned in a pair of recent reports surrounding a pair of All-Star position players: Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi wrote last week that the White Sox are a potential fit for Moustakas, who has sat and watched as former Kansas City Royals teammate Eric Hosmer received a huge contract from the San Diego Padres. Moustakas set a new Royals record last season with 38 home runs but has yet to find a team.

The White Sox, connected to Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado earlier this offseason, seem to have a current big leaguer or highly ranked prospect locked into almost every position on the diamond for the foreseeable future, but third base isn't necessarily one of them. Jake Burger was last year’s top draft pick, though there’s speculation he could slide over to first base. The team still envisions him as a big league third baseman, for what it’s worth.

Moustakas is 29 and already has seven big league seasons under his belt, including a pair of All-Star appearances and a pair of trips to the World Series, including the Crowns’ championship back in 2015. His 38 homers and 85 RBIs in 2017 were both career highs. He slashed .272/.314/.521, the final of those three numbers the best mark of his career.

Moustakas has rarely hit for average or reached base at too high a clip, though those recent power numbers would be intriguing at a hitter-friendly park like Guaranteed Rate Field, where he has 10 career dingers, 26 career RBIs and a .249/.308/.456 career slash line as a visitor.

Certainly Moustakas would be a buzz-worthy addition, and if the White Sox could get him for a good value thanks to this slow-moving market, that adds incentive to bring him aboard. A short contract would have even more incentive for the rebuilding White Sox, who would have the option to either sign him to a long-term deal or deal him away in a deadline deal depending on his immediate production levels.

But for fans hoping the White Sox will spend big on a third baseman in one of the next two offseasons — Machado is a free agent next winter, and Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado is set to hit the market the winter after next — slotting in an outside addition at the hot corner now could impact those plans.

Gonzalez is a completely different story, a three-time All Star during his 10-year big league career who is just three seasons removed from a 40-homer campaign in 2015. The 32-year-old Gonzalez also has a trio of Gold Gloves to go along with his 215 career home runs. FanRag’s Jon Heyman listed the White Sox as a possible landing spot for CarGo this weekend.

But his walk year in Colorado was not a very good one by his standards. In 136 games for a Rockies team that ended up in the playoffs, he slashed .262/.339/.423, all those averages way down from his usual level of production. And his power numbers plummeted to 14 homers and 57 RBIs after he combined for 65 homers and 197 RBIs in 2015 and 2016.

The good news for the White Sox is that down year makes Gonzalez far more affordable. Should he command only a one-year contract, the White Sox could take a flier, stick him in the outfield — which still has an unresolved spot with few strong offensive options for center field — and trade him should he bounce back in a big way. Or, at 32, perhaps he’s a guy the White Sox could opt to keep around should he prove valuable and the rebuild continues to move along ahead of schedule.

Gonzalez seems the less risky move at this point, as Moustakas could still be looking for a multi-year contract. But the White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility and flexibility in their decision-making should they add either guy and he proves worthy of a midseason deal or a long-term look.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.