White Sox

White Sox: Trayce Thompson drawing interest around MLB

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White Sox: Trayce Thompson drawing interest around MLB

NASHVILLE — He wasn’t quite as popular as Tim Anderson in potential trade talks this week, but sounds like Trayce Thompson drew a lot of interest at the Winter Meetings.

Several scouts have drawn comparisons between the White Sox outfielder — a second-round pick in 2009 — and veteran Chris Young, who recently signed with Boston.

With an outstanding glove, good power and a bat that surprised many over the final two months of the season, opposing teams are curious what the White Sox have in store for Thompson. Thompson hit at a .295/.363/.533 clip with five home runs and 16 RBIs in 135 plate appearances last season. Though they have a crowded outfield, the White Sox plan to find playing time for Thompson next season unless they potentially included him in a trade package.

[RELATED - Recent draftee key in White Sox acquisition of Brett Lawrie]

“We have had a lot of our young guys asked about,” general manager Rick Hahn said on Thursday. “In general, from our major league club, it’s primarily pitching and at the minor league level, it’s a combination of some of those high ceiling position player types that you referenced, as well as some of our near-ready pitching. Those tend to be the most popular asked about so far. We’re certainly in good position with the resources to be able to execute trades. We have guys that people want. It’s just a matter of being comfortable with the matchup.”

As they continue to try and upgrade their offense, the White Sox would prefer to do it via trade or by signing free agents who haven’t received a qualifying offer.

Thanks to a compensatory draft pick for the loss of Jeff Samardzija, the White Sox possess three selections among the top 45 in what looks to be a talented draft next summer. They want to hang on to all three, if possible.

So far, the White Sox look to have slightly improved their offense without dipping into the top of their prospect stash. Neither free-agent catcher signed — Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro — required the White Sox to surrender a pick. They also acquired infielder Brett Lawrie on Wednesday for two lower-level prospects, including one they drafted six months ago.

Were the White Sox to find the perfect fit on the trade market, a young, controllable, impact player, they still have their best prospects — a group that includes Anderson, Frankie Montas, Carson Fulmer and Spencer Adams, as well as Thompson — to peddle. Though they have balked at the Cincinnati Reds’ starting asking price of Anderson for Todd Frazier (who is 30 and only two years from free agency), the White Sox might consider moving any of their top young players if the right deal came along.

“It’s a bit of a balancing act,” Hahn said. “You don’t want to set yourself back for the long term. At the same time, we have the prime of certain players on our roster’s careers that we have under control and we want to maximize our chances to win while we have the benefit of such special talent. Our goal on an annual basis is to have similar such talent available to us. So you don’t want to forsake too much of your future for the now. But at the same time we do realize we have an opportunity in front of us here given the talents and careers of certain players on our roster. We want to make the most of it.”

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Hahn thinks his front office made the most of its four days at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Not only did they complete a trade for Lawrie, he thinks they’ve lined up other potential moves.

“Overall it has been productive, not simply because we were able to address one of our needs, but because we made some progress on other fronts,” Hahn said. “Obviously nothing is completed until you get it signed, sealed and delivered. But at this point we are pleased with the dialog on other fronts, in addition to the deal we were able to close.”

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: