White Sox

Why elite prospects Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez could force White Sox to abandon their patient approach

Why elite prospects Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez could force White Sox to abandon their patient approach

Eloy Jimenez believes in himself enough to suggest he could be in the majors right now. Michael Kopech said before Wednesday’s game he realizes the big leagues are only a step away.

Though they intend to stay committed to developing their prospects, it looks as if the White Sox plan for patience could be pushed to the limit next season by its next wave of elite prospects. Jimenez and Kopech — who were named the organization’s August minor league player and pitcher of the month earlier this week — were in town this week for an introduction to the media. Given how both performed this season, it’s not far-fetched to think they could wind up back in Chicago with permanent spots on the 25-man roster by as early as next season.

“All great athletes … that do well will always challenge what an organization would like to do or not to do with them,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We all have to take a step back, make sure we're doing right by them and right by the organization before you make a decision as to who's going to be moved up.

“But it's true, sometimes the train, you can't stop it. Once it starts chugging along and creates some momentum, it's kind of hard to stop.”

Jimenez and Kopech are on a bullet-train pace for the majors.

MLB Pipeline’s No. 6 prospect, Jimenez hit .348/.405/.635 with 16 doubles, 11 home runs and 33 RBIs in 195 plate appearances after he was acquired from the Cubs in mid-July and was twice named minor league player of the month. Teammates at Single-A Winston-Salem loved Jimenez’s energy and play, he homered in his first at-bat at Double-A Birmingham and also impressed scouts, coaches and front office members alike the whole way.

Kopech was equally outstanding down the stretch. After he made a midseason mechanical adjustment, MLB.com’s No. 11 prospect was dominant. He earned a late-season promotion to Triple-A Charlotte and struck out 17 batters in 15 innings there.

Not only did Kopech strike out 172 batters in a career-best 134 1/3 innings, all questions about how he’d endure a full season were answered as he posted a 1.29 ERA in his final nine games (56 starts).  

“I felt like it was a huge weight off my shoulders because I feel like it was what everyone really wanted to see,” Kopech said. “I feel like I'm one step away. I'm in Triple-A. Whenever they want to put me there, they'll put me there. Meanwhile I'm going to do everything I can to get there."

Still, the White Sox are committed to their plan and going at a suitable pace.

They want their prized prospects to experience everything they can in the minor leagues before they reach the majors. Unlike previous seasons where they often rushed prospects to fill voids (think Carlos Rodon and Tim Anderson, among others), the White Sox want to get this effort right.

That’s why Jimenez stayed at Winston-Salem until the middle of August and Kopech was at Birmingham until a few days after that. Both could have easily reached that next level a little sooner if the club was in a rush.

“The key has been the ability to have patience which is where we are as an organization,” player development director Chris Getz said. “If we were competing down the stretch here for a division, things probably would have been a little different. I think clearly, we’re in a different position and you can let this thing play out. Sometimes that will really benefit the player and the organization as a whole because these guys can go out there and play and fine-tune their skills down at the minor league level before they get up here.”

Kopech thought he benefitted from almost a full season at Birmingham. After he made it his goal this spring to reach the majors in 2017, the right-hander admits he got ahead of himself in June and began to focus too much on a promotion. But Kopech got back on track in July and kicked it into another gear, which has him in contention to earn a spot in the 2018 White Sox rotation, amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler recently said.

That would be just fine for either player. Jimenez said Wednesday “I truly believe I can be playing here now.” Kopech joked that he brought his glove with him to Chicago just in case the White Sox wanted to take a look.

“Hopefully that's what they try to do, but we make the decision with a thoughtful approach to their future and ours,” Renteria said.

Breaking down the cases for and against the White Sox trading for Manny Machado

Breaking down the cases for and against the White Sox trading for Manny Machado

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The White Sox are reportedly pursuing a trade that would bring Manny Machado to the South Side.

That ground-shaking news coming in the middle of the night after a third straight day of inactivity by the White Sox at this week's Winter Meetings. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal said the White Sox are making the strongest push of any team to land the Baltimore Orioles' star third baseman, with other reports from USA Today's Bob Nightengale and The Score's Bruce Levine adding that the White Sox have made the best of a dozen offers and that they're among the lead teams in this suddenly crowded derby.

The news brought joy to White Sox Twitter but plenty of head-scratching, as well, as general manager Rick Hahn has spent the week talking about how it's time for the team to sit back and let all its minor league talent develop as the carefully crafted rebuild moves forward.

While a deal might still seem to make little sense, even after all these reports, there are arguments to be made that the White Sox should both make and stay away from such a trade. Here's a breakdown.

The case for a Machado trade

It's Manny Machado.

This is one of baseball's best young players, a 25-year-old who in six major league seasons has been named to three All-Star teams, won a pair of Gold Gloves and finished in the top 10 in American League MVP voting three times. He hit 105 home runs and missed only 11 regular-season games in the last three years. Last season, he managed to come one run shy of matching his career high in RBIs while playing for a last-place Orioles team that was 12 games under .500.

There's no doubt that Machado is a special talent, and obviously the White Sox would be an improved team with him.

The big hang up is the fact that Machado is slated to become a free agent after the 2018 season, making a trade for him a risky move to say the least. But Hahn talked Wednesday of the possibility of being able to extend someone fitting Machado's description,

"Sometimes you need to be creative. Sometimes you need to perhaps take a risk," Hahn said. "I think it’s probably slightly easier after a player has been part of this organization, understand what we’re about, to extend him as opposed to meeting him cold free agent and trying to sell him on the organization. We’ve had success with both, so we’re not afraid to do either, but perhaps there is a little advantage from time to time to have a guy already be on campus when you’re talking about extending him into the future.

"You guys have heard from a many of players how much they enjoy being with us, how they want to stay here, they want to be part of this rebuild. That’s in part due to the type of guys we’ve brought in and in part due to the culture and direction we’ve created."

Acquiring Machado — and successfully extending him — wouldn't hurt the rebuild. It would strengthen it. Machado would be a proven centerpiece of the White Sox future, and he'd be playing alongside what would still be an immense amount of young talent. While it would take a couple members of the team's stockpile of minor league talent to land Machado in the first place, there'd still be plenty of future stars in the system to join Machado on a championship-contending team of the future. And Machado would be right in the heart of that lineup.

The case against a Machado trade

Trading for Manny Machado is an extremely risky move that could jeopardize the planned future of the franchise.

It's obvious that Machado is a great player, no one is arguing that fact. But the White Sox have spent a year impressively building a minor league system that is the envy of the baseball world. And one of those future stars, Michael Kopech, is being reported as a potential centerpiece of the package that would head back to Baltimore. Kopech is arguably the top pitching prospect in the game after dominating at the Double-A level last season. Legendary writer Peter Gammons said this week on the White Sox Talk Podcast that there are baseball folks out there who believe Kopech will one day win a Cy Young Award.

But the cost for Machado won't stop at Kopech. There would surely be other pieces of a return package that would be difficult to see depart the organization. After months of acquiring talent in franchise-altering trades that sent Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana away from the South Side, for Hahn to reverse course and blow up his rebuilding effort seems completely illogical.

And it's all because there's no guarantee that a Machado trade would mean Machado in a White Sox uniform past the 2018 season. Machado is slated to hit the free-agent market a year from now, and he's expected to be able to earn a massive payday. While the White Sox would potentially have a leg up on the competition if Machado spent a year with the organization, it's no sure thing that they'd be the most appealing bidder or that they'd be able to offer Machado the biggest contract.

With the cost in prospects and the uncertainty about his future with the team, trading for Machado would seem to make little sense, a wild change of direction one year after Hahn so clearly declared which way this team is going.

"We’re not looking at stopgaps, we’re not looking to jump up and contend for one wild card and then regress back," Hahn said Tuesday. "We’re trying to build something that’s going to last, and extended control is part of that."

'Aggressive' White Sox among reported 'lead teams' for Manny Machado, making deal seem something more than just 'conceivable'

'Aggressive' White Sox among reported 'lead teams' for Manny Machado, making deal seem something more than just 'conceivable'

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It looks like the notion of the White Sox trading for Manny Machado is a little more than just "conceivable."

That's the word White Sox general manager Rick Hahn used Wednesday at the Winter Meetings when proposed with the idea that his rebuilding organization would try to pursue a player with just one year of control who could potentially be convinced to sign a lengthy contract extension. While the creatively worded question required some verbal gymnastics to avoid saying the word "Machado," that's exactly the player that was being discussed.

And now it looks like the White Sox are doing a little more than just discussing a trade with the Baltimore Orioles. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported that the White Sox are making an aggressive push — the most aggressive push of any team — to acquire the Orioles' star third baseman, one of the headliners of next offseason's monster free-agent class. USA Today's Bob Nightengale followed that up with his own report that the White Sox have made the best offer of a dozen teams to propose trades for Machado. And The Score's Bruce Levine added Thursday morning that the White Sox are indeed among the lead teams in this suddenly hot derby.

A quiet Winter Meetings for the South Siders just got cranked up to 11.

White Sox fans are sure to be ecstatic that the team is pursuing a player they've long coveted. With all the highly touted minor league talent the White Sox have built up over the past year, none of those players play third base, and Machado's pending free agency lines up with the rapidly advancing rebuild, which Hahn described Wednesday as ahead of schedule.

A move still seems shocking, though, considering the rebuilding White Sox have carefully laid plans for the future involving the likes of Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jimenez, Reynaldo Lopez, Luis Robert, Alec Hansen, Micker Adolfo and Dane Dunning. It would figure that the Orioles would expect a sizable return package for Machado, and Rosenthal's report mentioned a package built around either Kopech or Giolito.

Machado, though, is only under team control for the 2018 season. The idea of giving up either of those two highly regarded pitching prospects for just one guaranteed year of Machado seems extremely risky, and it was Hahn who said this week the White Sox are "not looking to jump up and contend for one wild card and then regress back." The White Sox, even with Machado, wouldn't figure to be a championship club in 2018. Without a guarantee that Machado would sign a contract extension with the White Sox, a trade would seem to put the much-discussed rebuild in a precarious position.

The flip side, obviously, is that Machado could be a long-term piece, a centerpiece of the White Sox future, bringing many of these prospects along with him. Hahn talked Wednesday about the benefits of having a player with the team as opposed to being a "cold" free agent when he talked about hypothetical extensions.

"Sometimes you need to be creative. Sometimes you need to perhaps take a risk," Hahn said. "I think it’s probably slightly easier after a player has been part of this organization, understand what we’re about, to extend him as opposed to meeting him cold free agent and trying to sell him on the organization. We’ve had success with both, so we’re not afraid to do either, but perhaps there is a little advantage from time to time to have a guy already be on campus when you’re talking about extending him into the future.

"You guys have heard from a many of players how much they enjoy being with us, how they want to stay here, they want to be part of this rebuild. That’s in part due to the type of guys we’ve brought in and in part due to the culture and direction we’ve created."

Machado, of course, is one of baseball's best players. The 25-year-old is already a three-time All Star. In 2017, he slashed .259/.310/.471 with 33 home runs and 95 RBIs for a last-place Orioles team that was 12 games under .500. He's extremely durable, playing in every regular-season game save 11 over the last three seasons. He's a slick fielder with a pair of Gold Gloves to his name, and he's already finished in the top 10 in American League MVP voting in just six major league seasons.

Interestingly, a report earlier this week from Rosenthal said Machado wants to play shortstop moving forward. Should the White Sox acquire Machado, it will be interesting to see what happens with Tim Anderson, who has been touted as the team's shortstop of the future. Though you figure any team would make room for a player the caliber of Machado.

Hahn will address the media one more time in Florida following the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning. Of course, any deal could still take time to play out.

Buckle up. The White Sox are officially on the hot stove.