White Sox

14 amusing observations from the 2017 MLB Winter Meetings

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USA TODAY

14 amusing observations from the 2017 MLB Winter Meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The MLB Winter Meetings are exactly as advertised.

It was my first trip to what is essentially baseball's biggest trade show and the four days in Orlando went by like a blur even though there were very few moves actually made.

The two Chicago teams combined for just three moves — and all of them from the Cubs' perspective (one of which — Drew Smyly — may not even pitch in 2018).

Throughout the week at Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort, I rounded up some of the most amusing behind-the-scenes observations with help from the NBC Sports Chicago crew (Chuck Garfien, Kelly Crull, Scott Changnon, Vinnie Duber):

—A Red Sox fan intercepting David Ross in the hotel lobby and telling him over and over again, "I'm a SAWX fan, I'm a SAWX fan; I love you, bro," in one of the thickest Boston accents I've ever heard.

—A kid wearing a bright pink suit (like something out of "Dumb and Dumber") trying to get a job.

A White Sox person saw the young man and noted: "If I wore that suit, I would look like a bottle of Pepto Bismol."

—A svelte Kyle Schwarber showed up at the Winter Meetings, driving some 90 miles from the Tampa Bay area to visit with Cubs personnel. He didn't talk to the media, but he certainly looked to be in the "best shape of his life."

When asked about Schwarber representing the Cubs in the ESPN Body Issue, Theo Epstein laughed and said, "I'll let you write about that." (Joke's on Theo because that's exactly what I just did.)

—Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto nearly sent Chuck Garfien to the disabled list with an agressive revolving-door maneuver.

—Scott Boras walked through the hotel flanked by his muscle and his own camera crew. Kelly Crull accidentally got on the escalator right behind Boras and in an effort to escape the TV shot, started running up the down escalator...in heels.

—Scott Changnon and I clearly have no idea what we're doing:

—During our Facebook Live Tuesday, Jed Hoyer walked by in the background on the phone, maybe closing out the final details of the Drew Smyly or Brandon Morrow deal?

Live from Day 2 of the MLB Winter Meetings

It's Day 2 of the Winter Meetings! Chuck Garfien, Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki will answer your questions about the latest Cubs and White Sox rumors!

Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

—10 minutes after Hoyer walked through the background of our Facebook Live, Theo Epstein ran past the camera as Chuck and Vinnie discussed potential free agent targets for the White Sox.

—A man in a Hawaiian shirt photobombed Wednesday's Facebook Live behind Chuck, Kelly and Vinnie. (Side note: I totally messed up by not packing a Hawaiian shirt for the Winter Meetings.)

MLB Winter Meetings Day 3

Kelly Crull, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber are live from the MLB Winter Meetings. What's new with the Cubs and White Sox?

Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Wednesday, December 13, 2017

—Joe Maddon wore the same olive green blaze he wore to the White House earlier this year and knew full well what he was doing, as he joked about it with reporters.

—Boras stood on a literal pedestal for his hour-long media session Wednesday, stepping up on a sturdy plastic camera case to help all three dozen media cameras catch his entire press conference.

—A woman in a Christmas-themed top hat walking her little pug around the lobby on a leash, but it was slow going as baseball men and women kept stopping them to pet the very good dog.

—Some dude's sneezing in the media workroom was the real star of the show. Never heard anything like it in my life before. Sounded literally like the devil was coming out of his nose.

—The work ethic of people in baseball is mind-bottling to me. 

Not only the front office members, like the Cubs' staff who went from playing deep into October for the third straight fall to preparing for free agency, weighing trade options, scouting and — this winter — pulling all-nighters to put together a proposal for Shohei Ohtani.

But baseball media members are ridiculously hard-working. These people spent all year covering 162-game seasons plus 6+ weeks of spring training and then another month of postseason and now, two weeks before Christmas, they're pulling 15-hour days during the Winter Meetings. 

Yes, it's a really cool job and we get paid to cover a game and hang around professional athletes, but it's also a lot of work and the people who have done this for a lifetime are so impressive.

White Sox reportedly making strong bid for Manny Machado

White Sox reportedly making strong bid for Manny Machado

So much for a quiet winter on the South Side. 

Late Wednesday night, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal dropped a bomb on White Sox fans, tweeting that the club has emerged as serious players in the Manny Machado talks: 

USA Today's Bob Nightengale then reported that the Sox offer is the best one the Orioles have received thus far: 

The news comes as a bit of surprise given that the Orioles star has only one year left on his contract, and striking a deal would mean the Sox would have to part with at least one coveted prospect with no guarantee that Machado would stick around. 

Per Rosenthal, the prospects being discussed are Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech, but both would not be included in the same package. Still, a hefty price to pay for the possibility of a one-year -- albeit All-Star caliber -- player. 

As outlined earlier by Vinnie Duber, GM Rick Hahn wasn't keen on the idea of giving up a future piece for a stopgap, but he also wouldn't slam the door on taking a leap of faith to acquire a young, proven player. 

"Sometimes you need to be creative. Sometimes you need to perhaps take a risk," Hahn told reporters Wednesday at the Winter Meetings. "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."

Rosenthal also made mention that if the White Sox couldn't get Machado to sign an extension during the 2018 season, the club could consider moving him to another team to acquire more prospects. 

If indeed Hahn & Co. are willing to take this risk, it seems as if they're banking on their clubhouse culture to convince the star to stay.  

Welington Castillo coming back to Chicago on two-year deal with White Sox

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USA TODAY

Welington Castillo coming back to Chicago on two-year deal with White Sox

Welington Castillo is back in Chicago. This time he'll be playing on the other side of town.

The former Cubs and Orioles catcher has agreed to a deal with the White Sox, the team announced on Friday

Castillo spent 5.5 seasons with the Cubs, amassing a .252/.320/.398 slash with 29 homers and 110 RBIs in 310 career games.

“Adding Welington benefits us both in the short and long term,” general manager Rick Hahn said in a press release. “He has been one of the more productive catchers over the last several seasons, and we believe his presence will have a lasting positive effect on our younger pitchers and catchers as they continue their development at the major-league level.”

He spent a year in Seattle and two more in Arizona before a breakout campaign in 2017 for the Orioles. As part of Baltimore's high-octance offense, Castillo his .282 with 20 homers and 96 RBIs in 96 games. His .813 OPS was 11th among catchers.

The White Sox deployed Omar Narvaez and Kevin Smith behind the plate last year, while Rob Brantly and Geo Soto also appeared in 13 games apiece. Castillo should provide some stability behind the plate for the next two seasons for the rebuilding White Sox.