White Sox

White Sox open to trading Avisail Garcia

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White Sox open to trading Avisail Garcia

They haven’t moved on from Avisail Garcia, but the White Sox have let teams know the outfielder can be acquired in the right deal.

With several positions of need, not many big league assets to trade and a replacement lined up, the White Sox have entertained offers for the young right fielder this month, according to major league sources.

A trade for Garcia is just one of a number of solutions the White Sox have considered as they attempt to fill out the left side of their infield and improve their offense.

General manager Rick Hahn declined to comment on Garcia’s trade availability. But at last week’s GM meetings, Hahn said the White Sox remain optimistic about Garcia, who had a .257/.309/.365 slash line with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs in 601 plate appearances in 2015.

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“We can’t lose sight of the fact that he was still playing last year at 24, at a young age,” Hahn said. “That really was his first full season in the majors.

“The ceiling is still extremely high. Certainly everyone, including Avi, would have preferred to show more consistency and flashes of that upside on a more consistent basis. But it doesn’t change the optimism around him for the future.”

While the team’s confidence in Garcia hasn’t publicly wavered, their options around him have improved.

The centerpiece of a three-team trade that sent Jake Peavy to Boston in July 2013, Garcia -- who is arbitration eligible this offseason -- has been the club’s Opening Day right fielder in each of the past two seasons. But the addition of Melky Cabrera last offseason along with a strong performance by rookie Trayce Thompson down the stretch in 2015 have given the White Sox license to at least consider moving Garcia, who was at times the club’s best hitter and at others the most aggravating.

[MORE: White Sox offseason plan still in development]

One National League scout said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Garcia, who struck out 54 times and drew only eight walks from June 9-Aug. 3, on the trade block.

“Their people are very frustrated with him,” the scout said.

Part of the frustration has to stem from the flashes of potential Garcia has shown. Over his other 102 games, Garcia walked once for every three strikeouts as he made adjustments in his stance that better allowed him to see pitches. Minus his lengthy slump, Garcia hit .269/.329/.412 with 27 extra-base hits, including 11 homers, and 46 RBIs.

“His window is not gone yet,” said one American League evaluator. “There’s still plenty of time.”

Ideally, Garcia would tap into the pull-power potential that Paul Konerko once said is capable of producing 40 home runs while with the White Sox. But with the emergence of Thompson, who has the team’s best outfield glove, the White Sox may have to include Garcia -- a below-average defender -- to sweeten a deal to return major league talent. Though they brought Thompson along slowly after his August promotion, the White Sox are enamored with his potential. They still need to see more from him, which ultimately may lead them to holding onto Garcia, but Thompson opened some eyes.

[ALSO: Hairston signs minor-league deal with White Sox]

“I think Trayce has shown the ability to start,” Hahn said last week. “How we make that work is probably a better question come spring once we see how the whole roster looks. We’ve known from Trayce for the last several years he can be an above-average major league defender at three outfield positions. That gives us a little flexibility on how to work him in best and he’s certainly from an offensive standpoint showed he deserves to play. That’ll either work itself out before spring based on transactions or come spring we’ll figure out a way to use him best.”

With Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton both owed considerable money, Garcia would be the easiest player to move to open space for Thompson. But as appealing as that option may be, the White Sox might not be inclined to let go of Garcia, who oozes potential.

“The confidence is still there in Avi very much,” Hahn said in October. “He’s still a developing player.

“Avi is nowhere near the player we foresee him being. But you see flashes of it, you know the talent is there, and age is very much on his side. That’s a player that has specifically been given a plan about what we’re expecting from him going forward, and a roadmap to get there. Now it’s going to be incumbent on him to follow that roadmap.”

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: