White Sox

Three questions answered — and three questions unanswered — through a couple weeks of White Sox spring training


Three questions answered — and three questions unanswered — through a couple weeks of White Sox spring training

March is almost here, and the White Sox are in the thick of spring training down in Glendale, with Cactus League games getting going over the weekend.

After watching workouts and hearing from players and manager Rick Renteria for two weeks, some of the offseason's biggest questions seem to have answers, while others still remain.

Here are three questions that have been answered and three that still need solving.


1. Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert are something to get excited about

There are no guarantees in player development, but the White Sox top two outfield prospects seem to be legit. The highly touted pair, along with fellow prospect Micker Adolfo, generated a ton of buzz whenever they stepped into the batting cages at Camelback Ranch, and after watching them smoke baseballs over the practice-field fences, it’s easy to see why.

All three guys shared that they’re dreaming of playing together in the team’s championship outfield of the future, and if the White Sox can develop that talent, then watch out.

Of course there’s a long way to go. Jimenez has only played a handful of games above the Class A level. Adolfo has played none. And Robert hasn’t even played a minor league baseball game in the United States. General manager Rick Hahn keeps talking about how baseball has a cruel way of reminding that not all prospects pan out. Look no further than Adolfo, who now has a pair of arm injuries after being rated as the best thrower in the White Sox farm system.

But hearing the cracks of the bats and watching the baseballs fly, it’s easy to get excited about these guys’ futures.

2. Carlos Rodon won’t be ready for Opening Day

This one wasn’t that difficult to predict, but after having shoulder surgery last fall, Carlos Rodon won’t be a member of the White Sox starting rotation on Opening Day.

That was actually made relatively clear when the team brought back Miguel Gonzalez, seemingly locking the starting rotation into place alongside James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer. But now there’s confirmation that Rodon will not pitch during the Cactus League schedule and will stay at extended spring training after the White Sox leave Glendale for Kansas City.

There’s still no knowing, of course, when Rodon will be back. The White Sox are happy with his progress, and he was throwing during the early parts of the spring, cleared to throw right before SoxFest at the end of January.

Who knows if it will be as late as June this time around after he didn't make his 2017 debut until June 28 after suffering a separate injury last spring. But when he returns, he’ll have to prove that he’s healthy and capable of being the same pitcher who was envisioned as an ace of the future.

3. Hector Santiago gives the White Sox a long man — and starting depth

There didn’t seem to be a member of the White Sox bullpen who could serve in the long-relief role. Then the team brought Hector Santiago back on a minor league deal.

Even though it’s a minor league deal, the former and now current White Sox hurler seems likely to make the bullpen as the long relief man. That role was needed regularly last season, and it’s an important one for a bullpen filled with guys looking to prove themselves as either long-term pieces or midseason trade chips.

But Santiago also gives the White Sox starting pitching depth, providing a one-time All-Star starter as a backup in case any of the five guys in the rotation go down with an injury. Rick Hahn already said he wouldn’t rush Michael Kopech or any of the team’s other pitching prospects to the majors just because someone was hurt at the big league level. And now he won’t have to thanks in part to Santiago’s presence.


1. Who will be the closer?

While there might not be as many open spots in the White Sox bullpen as initially believed, there is a huge question mark at closer. Who will throw in the ninth inning for the White Sox this season?

Juan Minaya had closing duties at the end of last season and fared pretty well after much of the bullpen was traded away in summer deals. But do the White Sox see Minaya as a closer of the future?

If not, they might be more likely to go with one of the new acquisitions in order to try and establish a deadline trade chip. Maybe someone like Joakim Soria, who has tons of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. Of course those days are getting longer and longer ago.

But if the White Sox go with Soria and he does well, they could try to fetch the same kind of return they got last season when they shipped David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak and other relievers away from the South Side.

2. Who will be the starting center fielder?

The White Sox are not short on options in center field. But there aren’t necessarily any slam-dunk ones, hence why the job is still up for grabs.

Adam Engel started 91 games in center last season and hit just .166. While his glove is terrific, his offensive production is not that of a starting position player in the major leagues. Leury Garcia was far better with the bat but might be more valuable as a versatile infielder who can spell the four guys around the diamond. Charlie Tilson has high hopes but has struggled mightily to just get on the baseball field and stay there, much of his White Sox career wiped out so far due to injuries. Further down the list is Ryan Cordell, the guy acquired in the Anthony Swarzak trade last summer who has a good Triple-A track record and got some love from Rick Hahn at SoxFest.

Garcia seems to be the best option if the White Sox are looking for the most consistent bat. But for a rebuilding team not expected to contend in 2018, maybe giving guys like Engel and Tilson more chances to prove themselves makes more sense.

3. Do the White Sox have another move left in them?

For a rebuilding team like the White Sox, this perplexing offseason might be a really rare opportunity.

In the last week, the White Sox were mentioned as a potential landing spot for a pair of All-Star position players: Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez. Considering the slowness of the market, guys who were once pegged for multi-year deals could now be bargains one one-year contracts. That could allow a team like the White Sox to swoop in and sign these guys at very low risk. If they produce, they could become long-term options or midseason trade chips. If they don’t, it was a one-year flier and did no harm for a team not expected to contend — and it does not negatively impact the rebuild in any way.

The White Sox already pulled the trigger on a springtime addition with Hector Santiago. There are still tons of free agents out there, and even if it’s not someone the caliber of Moustakas or Gonzalez, the White Sox could still ink someone who could really benefit the short- and long-term success of the team at a bargain.

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.