White Sox

Amid otherwise joyous SoxFest, one fan wanted to know how White Sox could have traded away Fernando Tatis Jr.

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MLB

Amid otherwise joyous SoxFest, one fan wanted to know how White Sox could have traded away Fernando Tatis Jr.

"How could you whiff on him?"

That was the somewhat harsh question lobbed during the final panel of this year's otherwise joyous SoxFest, members of the organization's front office and player-development staff getting quizzed over why Fernando Tatis Jr. wasn't among the fleet of prospects who were omnipresent this weekend at the Hilton Chicago.

Tatis was dealt to the San Diego Padres along with pitcher Erik Johnson in the 2016 in-season trade that brought James Shields to the South Side. It's important to note, of course, that trade occurred prior to the announcement of the now-beloved rebuild, back when the White Sox were trying to best position themselves for a run at an American League Central championship in the final year of the Robin Ventura Era.

Oh, and Tatis was just 17 years old at the time.

Since, Tatis has rocketed up prospect lists, and just Saturday night he was named by MLB Pipeline as the No. 8 prospect in the game. The next morning, at least one fan was wondering why — particularly in the wake of a year and a half of substandard pitching from Shields — the White Sox let Tatis slip away.

"Any time you trade a 17-year-old — obviously we were high on him when we signed him — there’s risk," Jeremy Haber, the White Sox assistant general manager, said in response to perhaps the weekend's only negative query — other than when someone complained to Rick Renteria that he bunts too much. "At the time, we were … competing for a playoff spot. This organization has never been shy about being aggressive when we’re trying to win. And that’s going to come with the potential of trading someone who’s good. We expect when teams call and ask for our players, just like with our major league players, there’s a reason they like them.

"The track record in this business is not 100 percent."

Of course, it would be nice to have Tatis starring alongside Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech and the five other White Sox prospects who landed on MLB Pipeline's top-100 list Saturday night. But the sheer volume of highly touted prospects that general manager Rick Hahn and his front office have injected into this organization in the past year plus remains staggering, and you could still make a case that the White Sox — even after Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez graduated from prospect status — have the most impressive farm system in baseball.

Haber's line about a less-than-perfect track record, though, is an important thing to remember as the rebuild moves along. While the White Sox have a seemingly endless amount of exciting young players right now, the odds nearly guarantee that not all of them will pan out.

"As we sit here today, you look at not just what you hear from us or what you’re seeing with your eyes, but what’s being reported by people outside the organization, we objectively have options at every position, guys who could, if they max out and hit their ceiling, provide us with championship-caliber players at every position on the field and on the pitching staff," Hahn said during his pre-SoxFest press conference Friday. "Unfortunately, player development isn’t always linear and cruel things happen and the baseball gods likely have some hiccups in store for us along the way. So ultimately not everyone is going to hit those ceilings, in all probability."

Given his high ranking, Tatis looks at the moment like one that got away. But there are an awful lot of highly ranked players — Jimenez ranked fourth and Kopech ranked 10th on the same list — under the White Sox control to make sure Tatis' absence doesn't put any damper on this rebuilding process.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sunday marked the first surprise of White Sox spring training, courtesy of first baseman Jose Abreu.

“This year, I’m going to try to steal more bases,” Abreu said through a translator.

This might have sounded like a joke, but Abreu was completely serious.

On paper, he’s not exactly Rickey Henderson. In 614 career games, Abreu has only six stolen bases. However, the slimmed-down first baseman does have some sneaky speed. His six triples last season ranked third in the American League. So there are some wheels to work with.

“I like the challenge. I think that’s a good challenge for me. I’m ready for it,” Abreu said.

How many steals are we talking about? A reporter asked sarcastically if a 30-30 season is in the offing? Abreu didn’t exactly shoot down the possibility.

“Who knows? When you fill your mind with positive things, maybe you can accomplish them,” Abreu said. “The mind of a human being works in a lot of different ways. If you fill your mind with good things, good things are going to happen.”

The morning began with Abreu walking to the hitting cages with his Cuban compadres Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, who the White Sox signed last summer. He held his first workout on Sunday. At the White Sox hitters camp last month, Moncada took Robert under his wing, showing him the ropes, even telling Ricky Renteria, “I got him.”

But Sunday, Abreu was in charge, holding court with the three of them in the cage. Abreu watched closely as Robert hit off a tee, giving him pointers about his swing.

“I just like to help people,” Abreu said. “When I started to play at 16 in Cuba, I had a lot people who hounded me to get better. At the same point, I want to give back things that I’ve learned and pass that along to other people. That’s what I’m doing. I’m not expecting anything else. I’m just glad to help them and get them better.”

What kind of advice has he passed along to Robert?

“Since I came to this country, I learned quickly three keys to be a success: Be disciplined, work hard and always be on time. If you apply those three keys, I think you’re going to be good. Those are the three keys I’m trying to teach the new kids, the young guys,” Abreu said.

Abreu lost about 10 pounds during the offseason. He said he hopes to learn more English in 2018. He also arrived at spring training sporting a scruffy beard which he grew while he was in Cuba so he “could be incongnito.”

Abreu likes his new look. Moncada thinks he should shave it off.

“If the organization doesn’t say anything, I’m just going to keep it,” Abreu said.

Well, so much for that.

Moments after Abreu spoke with the media, Renteria told reporters that Abreu will have to “clean it up a bit.”

The two will find a compromise. Come to think of it, maybe Abreu and the White Sox should do the same about a contract extension in the near future.

Yes, he’ll be 33 when his contract expires in two years, but there have been no signs of a decline with his performance. Instead, Abreu is only getting better both offensively and defensively.

Heck, now he wants to steal bases, too.

After Renteria, Abreu is the leader of this team. He commands ultimate respect inside the clubhouse. He’s become another coach to Moncada, Robert and others. He’s a huge brick in the present and too big of an influence and cornerstone to not have around in the future.

“I hope to play my entire career in the majors with the White Sox,” Abreu said Sunday. “But I can’t control that.”

At some point, a decision will have to be made whether to keep Abreu or trade him. In the meantime, ask yourself this question: What will bring more value to the White Sox, getting a high-end prospect or two in return not knowing if they’ll ever succeed in the majors? Or keeping your best player, the heart and soul of your team, allowing him to show your future stars the way while they’re developing in the major leagues?

Seems like an easy decision to me.