White Sox

Could the White Sox win the division? Joakim Soria 'wouldn't be surprised'

Could the White Sox win the division? Joakim Soria 'wouldn't be surprised'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Can the White Sox compete in 2018? Coming off a 67-95 season and this only being Year 2 of the rebuild, let’s be honest, many things have to go right for that to happen.

But it’s spring training. It’s a time for optimism. And Wednesday, we learned that new White Sox reliever Joakim Soria might be the most optimistic player in the entire clubhouse.

Forget about just competing. He raised the ceiling even higher.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up winning the division,” Soria said.

The Cleveland Indians might have something to say about that, but Soria who pitched in the playoffs with the Detroit Tigers (2014) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2015) knows this is a crazy game. How things look in February are often times much different come September.

“Baseball is a different animal, and you never know if this is going to be the year," he said. "If everybody has the best year of their career, we can go on a good run.”

We’ve seen teams quickly turn their fortunes around in the recent past. The Minnesota Twins went from 59 wins in 2016 to 85 wins in 2017. Truth be told, those kind of yearly improvements are extremely rare, but the White Sox have arrived at Camelback Ranch believing that anything is possible.

“We love the excitement, not only coming out of that clubhouse but from our fans as well. I know there have been various podcasts talking about whether we’re ready to win,” Rick Hahn said with a wink to the most recent episode of the White Sox Talk Podcast. Thanks, Rick.

“We're not going to do anything to stifle that level of excitement. At the same time, we know we're one year into a rebuild. These things traditionally take longer than that. We're thrilled with the progress we've made in the last year, but we know we still have a fair amount of work to go in this process.”

Manager Rick Renteria knows it’s a rebuild, but he won’t be managing like it. He wants to win as much as anyone. He hears the confident chatter coming from his players and likes what he hears.

“I’m not going to sell them short. We’ll shoot high and we’ll see where we fall from there,” Renteria said. “I’m not going to lower the bar and be happy if we surpass that bar. I’m not that person. I want to shoot high and we’ll see where it falls.”

Should enthusiastic White Sox fans pump the breaks on their excitement for this season?

“No, don't pump the brakes. It's fine,” Hahn said. “The enthusiasm is great and again, a lot of it is coming out of the clubhouse, a lot of it is coming from these players who think that they have the ability to surprise some people. That's the mentality Ricky and his staff have helped create. They fight every game, they fight 27 outs, they are playing their tails off to win each and every night.”

It’s that kind of talk that has White Sox fans excited for what could be ahead. But those are just words. If their actions can back it up through September, then maybe Soria’s prediction could wind up being more prophetic than we think.

Ryan Cordell goes to Triple-A as White Sox seemingly figure out center field situation


Ryan Cordell goes to Triple-A as White Sox seemingly figure out center field situation

The White Sox center field situation seems to have a solution.

Ryan Cordell was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte, the team announced Thursday, bringing his bid to make the Opening Day roster to an end.

Cordell had a nice spring in his first action since joining the White Sox organization in last summer's trade that sent reliever Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers. Cordell was injured after playing 68 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs last season, but he got some love from general manager Rick Hahn at this winter's SoxFest, with Hahn saying three teams had called the White Sox inquiring about the 25-year-old outfielder.

In 17 Cactus League games, Cordell slashed an impressive .317/.417/.512 with six extra-base hits, eight runs scored, eight RBIs, seven walks and only six strikeouts. That performance brought on the idea that Cordell could not only make the team out of camp but perhaps be the Opening Day center fielder, potentially beating out an improved Adam Engel for the job after Engel hit just .166 last season.

But Engel's spring numbers are even better than Cordell's. He's got a .364/.429/.682 slash line with four homers, 11 runs scored, eight RBIs and four walks. Plus, he's already well known as a strong defender in center after last season's impressive glove work. Spring stats don't mean much, but it's a good sign considering how ineffective Engel was at the plate last season.

With Thursday's news and Engel's impressive spring, it seems the White Sox have things figured out in center to start the season. Engel will likely be the starting center fielder, with utility man Leury Garcia an option there in a reserve role. Cordell and Charlie Tilson, who was sent to Charlotte earlier this spring, are sure get plenty of at-bats in the minors and could be called up should Engel struggle.

Both Engel and Cordell fall into the "see what you've got" category for the rebuilding White Sox. The future of the position figures to belong to highly touted prospect Luis Robert, who was reassigned to minor league camp along with pitchers Rob Scahill and Chris Volstad on Thursday, bringing the White Sox to 32 players in big league camp. But with the team not expected to contend in 2018, Engel has an extended opportunity to figure things out at the big league level. Should he struggle, someone like Cordell or Tilson could have a similar opportunity.

Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Will Jose Abreu get a contract extension this year?


Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Will Jose Abreu get a contract extension this year?

White Sox fans might have their eyes on the future, but the 2018 season has plenty of intrigue all its own. As Opening Day nears, let's take a look at the 18 most pressing questions for the 2018 edition of the South Side baseball team.

Jose Abreu doesn't appear to be going anywhere.

The White Sox star first baseman entered the offseason as the subject of trade speculation. After four remarkably productive and consistent seasons at the big league level, the South Siders seemed capable of fetching a package of prospects that would have helped further stock their rebuilding effort. The question, of course, was whether that package would have looked like the ones Rick Hahn's front office received in return for Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana. Maybe not, considering Abreu's age and the fact that he's only under team control for two more seasons.

But as the offseason progressed, it became clear that the White Sox had no intention of trading Abreu, and Hahn even said that the White Sox perhaps value Abreu more than other teams considering what he means to their clubhouse. It all ended with trade speculation transforming into apparent certainty that Abreu would be around not only for 2018, not only through the end of his contract in 2019, but past that, as well, as a veteran member of what's planned to be a White Sox team that's contending on an annual basis.

In order to do that, Abreu's contract will need to be extended, or he'll require a new one after the 2019 season. Will that happen this season? Will Abreu be cemented as a White Sox mainstay the way guys like Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle were in the past? That's for the team and the player to hash out.

Until they do, fans can watch and see exactly why Abreu, despite his advancing age, is deserving of consideration for a spot on these teams of the future. He'll be much, much older than the likes of Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Luis Robert and the other stars of the rebuild. But he's become such a force in the clubhouse, a mentor to Moncada and another fellow Cuban, Robert. His work ethic is routinely praised by manager Rick Renteria, who routinely points to Abreu's correction of his fielding issues at the beginning of last season. Abreu's role-model status makes him incredibly valuable to a team that's young and getting younger.

And then, obviously, there's what Abreu does on the field. He's put up four straight seasons of at least 25 homers and 100 RBIs, the third player ever to do that (along with Joe Dimaggio and Albert Pujols), and he hit at least 30 homers in three of those seasons. The consistency has been astounding, and he put up some career-best numbers in his age-30 season last year, setting new career highs with 189 hits, 43 doubles and six triples, plus a career-low 119 strikeouts.

While extending Abreu for multiple years past his age-32 season carries the expected risk as a player ages, his production and his off-field value inside the White Sox clubhouse make him a strong extension candidate. That being said, the White Sox also have some flexibility, with the option to move him over the next two seasons if they get the opportunity to add to their incredible collection of young talent.

Flexibility seems to be the name of the game for the White Sox as they wait for their young players to develop in the minor leagues. Consistency has been the name of the game for Abreu. If that stays true in 2018, perhaps he gets that contract extension.