Toronto Blue Jays

Jose Abreu and the White Sox keep cranking homers, the latest a really long game-winner


Jose Abreu and the White Sox keep cranking homers, the latest a really long game-winner

Meet the Chicago White Sox, baseball's unstoppable home-run hitting force.

"Unstoppable" is a bit hyperbolic, considering the South Siders are just 3-2 on the young season and just narrowly missed getting swept by the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night. But the White Sox hit two more homers in a 4-3 victory to raise their total to a major league leading 14 in 2018.

Jose Abreu delivered what was the White Sox most important homer of the season so far, a tie-breaking, game-winning blast in the top of the eighth that while traveling an official 430 feet appeared to be just as muscled as the 481-foot bomb Avisail Garcia hit the night before, the longest homer in baseball so far this season.

And how about this? It was just the second time in his five big league seasons that Abreu homered on a 3-0 count.

Matt Davidson added his fourth home run of the campaign earlier in the game, becoming the first White Sox player ever to hit four homers in the team's first five games of a season.

All in all, the South Siders are up to 14 long balls, which is the most through five games in franchise history.

And all of this has come on the road. Guaranteed Rate Field has a reputation as a home-run friendly ballpark, meaning that once the weather warms up — it's supposed to be frigid for Thursday's home opener — these powerful White Sox could start sending balls out of the yard at quite a rate.

No matter where they're going from here, as they head back to the South Side, they are baseball's home run kings.

After busting out the boomstick vs. White Sox, should Josh Donaldson be fans' new crush for 2019?


After busting out the boomstick vs. White Sox, should Josh Donaldson be fans' new crush for 2019?

White Sox fans will have plenty of time to continue their social-media lovefest over Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado.

Long desired by South Side baseball fans, Machado is one of the headlining members of next season’s free-agent class. And while he’s moved from third base to shortstop, where Tim Anderson plays, and seems destined for one of the biggest contracts in baseball history, none of that is likely to deter hopes that he’ll wind up one of the finishing touches of Rick Hahn’s rebuilding effort.

But what if Machado goes to play for the New York Yankees or some other team? What if the White Sox need to search elsewhere for a free-agent addition to a team with a young core of planned rebuild stars?

The answer could be the guy hammering White Sox pitching this week in Toronto.

Josh Donaldson is one of the other superstars heading to the free-agent market next winter, and the White Sox have received an up-close-and-personal look at just how much of a game-changing bat he swings. Through the series’ first two games, Donaldson — whose light-hearted tiff with White Sox first base coach Daryl Boston’s whistle has made the social-media rounds in the past couple days — has mashed, going 3-for-8 with a pair of home runs, four RBIs, three runs scored and a walk. He was right in the middle of the Blue Jays' offensive onslaught against Miguel Gonzalez and a trio of relievers in Tuesday night's 14-5 pounding.

And it looks like he settled his "feud" with Boston, too.

Though Donaldson is an eye-popping seven years older than the still-just-25-year-old Machado, he could be a more realistic option for the White Sox — that is, should they be in the spending mood after the 2018 campaign. It’s very possible the White Sox won’t yet be ready to add a huge name like Machado or Donaldson, with young minor leaguers potentially still a year or more away from taking the team from rebuilding mode to full-on contention mode.

But if the determination is made that it is time to add a big name to the mix via free agency, Donaldson would be as attractive a candidate as any. He had a three-year stretch from 2014 to 2016 of three All-Star appearances and three top-10 finishes in American League MVP voting. He’s hit at least 33 home runs in each of the last three seasons, 2017’s batch of 33 dingers coming in just 113 games.

And he’d be a more logical fit than Machado, not only because he’d most likely come at a far cheaper price, but also because he could be inserted at third base, where the White Sox don’t have an entrenched prospect ready to take over in the future. Jake Burger’s development was dealt a significant delay when he ruptured his Achilles in spring training. Anderson is locked in at shortstop, and while you’d figure the White Sox would find a way to add Machado if they wanted him badly enough, a natural fit at third base could prove more sensible while allowing Anderson — who in the first four games of the 2018 campaign is 6-for-16 with three homers, four RBIs, six runs scored, a walk and three stolen bases — to continue to mature at shortstop.

And if the rebuilding White Sox are looking for a long-term add at third base in free agency but aren't yet ready when Donaldson hits the market, they could wait until after the 2019 season and take a swing at Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado.

As with everything Hahn’s front office is dealing with and will have to deal with over the next few years, there is a good deal of flexibility. Quite a bit could happen to change the situation for both Donaldson and the White Sox over the next seven months.

But while the White Sox are playing in Toronto this week, fans might want to think about a new man crush.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Toronto Blue Jays?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Toronto Blue Jays?

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What’s there to know about the Toronto Blue Jays?

They seem to have missed their window.

Living on a lighted stage approaches the unreal, they say. And it did there for the Jays for a while, too, as they made back-to-back trips to the American League Championship Series. Those teams were fun. They hit a lot of homers. They flipped a lot of bats. We all got to watch Geddy Lee keep score on national TV. Good times.

Well, the good times haven’t lasted, and the Jays again seem to be on the outside looking in of an AL East race that figures to feature the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and no one else.

Jays fans have had to say a farewell to kings in the past two offseasons, with two of the biggest engines of those ALCS teams, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, no longer with the team. Encarnacion is entering Year 2 with the Cleveland Indians. Jose Bautista would like to be a working man, but he’s still watching the tumbleweeds roll by on the deserted plains of this offseason’s free-agent market.

Sure, Josh Donaldson is still around, a modern-day warrior with a mean, mean stride and a mean, mean swing, too. The same can be said for Justin Smoak, who teamed with Donaldson to mash a combined 71 homers last season. But are the dipped numbers of Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins and the increasing ages of Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales and Curtis Granderson giving anyone in the Great White North great confidence in this lineup? Even the two imports from the St. Louis Cardinals, Randal Grichuk and Aledmys Diaz, couldn’t reach base at a .300 clip last season.

The best news for the Jays might be what’s going on 60 feet, six inches away from home plate — excuse me, 18.4404 metres from home plate. Marcus Stroman might start the campaign on the disabled list, but he’s still really good after posting a 3.09 ERA last season. J.A. Happ was good last year. Marco Estrada was OK. And the Jays added Jaime Garcia this offseason, who isn’t a blockbuster newcomer, but he managed 129 strikeouts in 157 innings last season while pitching for three different teams.

Is any of that enough for the Jays to compete this season? To get closer to the heart of the AL East race? No probably not, but it’s really up to you to decide. And remember that if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

I’m out of applicable Rush lyrics, so let’s just move this along.

2017 record: 76-86, fourth place in AL East

Offseason additions: Curtis Granderson, Randal Grichuk, Aledmys Diaz, Yangervis Solarte, Jaime Garcia, Seung hwan Oh, Tyler Clippard, John Axford

Offseason departures: Jose Bautista, Miguel Montero, Darwin Barney, Dominic Leone

X-factor: The Jays had one of baseball's better closers last season in Roberto Osuna. He's had that job for a while now and has racked up 95 saves in his three big league seasons, including 36 and 39 in 2016 and 2017, respectively. His ERA was a career-high 3.38 last season, but he finished more games than any other pitcher in baseball and struck out a career-high 83 batters in 64 innings.

Projected lineup:

1. Curtis Granderson, LF
2. Devon Travis, 2B
3. Josh Donaldson, 3B
4. Justin Smoak, 1B
5. Russell Martin, C
6. Kendrys Morales, DH
7. Randal Grichuk, RF
8. Kevin Pillar, CF
9. Aledmys Diaz, SS

Projected rotation:

1. Marcus Stroman
2. J.A. Happ
3. Aaron Sanchez
4. Marco Estrada
5. Jaime Garcia

Prediction: Fourth place in AL East, no playoffs

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves
New York Mets
Washington Nationals
Pittsburgh Pirates