White Sox

What acquisitions of Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan do for White Sox in 2018 and beyond

0105_soria_avilan.jpg
USA TODAY

What acquisitions of Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan do for White Sox in 2018 and beyond

Rick Hahn is at it again.

After trading away a large chunk of the bullpen in midseason deals last summer, the White Sox general manager continued to reshape his relief corps for the 2018 season, acquiring veteran relievers Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan in a three-team trade Thursday night.

Like most of the other moves Hahn has made over the past year-plus, this trade keeps the White Sox flexible and gives them options, helping to bolster the bullpen for the upcoming campaign and to keep the door open for rebuild-advancing moves later on this year.

Adding Soria and Avila — coming over from the Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively — brings some veteran experience to a bullpen short on it following last year's trades that shipped David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak and Dan Jennings away from the South Side. It will help a 'pen that by last season's end boasted Juan Minaya as its closer and saw perhaps its best closing option, Nate Jones, on the disabled list. There's a lot of youth in the returning names — Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Gregory Infante — and the two guys added earlier this offseason, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira.

While the relief unit found its footing by season's end with a 3.96 ERA over the final month of the campaign, it posted a 6.03 ERA in August, the month following those midseason trades, which ranked as the worst in baseball.

So Soria and Avilan provide track records of success. The 33-year-old Soria's been pitching in the big leagues since 2007, a two-time All Star and a familiar face to White Sox fans who saw him star with the division-rival Royals for many years. Last season, Soria posted a 3.70 ERA in 56 innings. With his 64 strikeouts, his 10.3 K/9 was his highest in a single season since 2013. Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Avilan was real good for the Dodgers, turning in a 2.93 ERA and a 10.2 K/9 in 46 innings.

But it's what these two guys could provide as the calendar turns to July and August that might end up being of more value in a season where the rebuilding White Sox aren't expected to compete. Should Soria and Avilan continue the solid performances they had in 2017, Hahn could go down the same road he did last summer and deal his relievers away for pieces that could help deepen the farm system and further the rebuild.

Hahn acquired three prospects, including Blake Rutherford and Ian Clarkin, in the trade that sent Robertson and Kahnle — along with third baseman Todd Frazier — to the New York Yankees. He acquired outfield prospect Ryan Cordell in the trade that sent Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers. He acquired first base prospect Casey Gillaspie in the trade that sent Jennings to the Tampa Bay Rays. That's a lot of talent added to the farm system midseason, even if it isn't quite the highly rated, uber-flashy kind acquired in deals featuring Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana.

Who knows what those kinds of players could end up being? No one would assume that the likes of Soria or Avilan would command a huge return package at any time of year. But acquiring any sort of talent that could pay off down the road is a big deal for a rebuilding team, and Hahn is keeping his options open — chiefly the option to improve his club for the long haul — by acquiring a pair of relievers who will also help his bullpen right now.

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

0218-dylan-covey.jpg
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

0218-jose-abreu.jpg
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.