White Sox

White Sox are reportedly 'in the market for a DH,' but what route makes the most sense for the rebuild?

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USA TODAY

White Sox are reportedly 'in the market for a DH,' but what route makes the most sense for the rebuild?

The hot stove remains mostly frozen, though the White Sox have been active, especially when it comes to adding relievers to the bullpen mix.

But Jon Heyman had an interesting tidbit in his most recent "Inside Baseball" roundup, saying the White Sox are in the market for a designated hitter. Heyman didn't add much to that, the only additional information being that the South Siders are not interested in Matt Kemp, who was dealt from the Atlanta Braves to the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this offseason.

It makes sense that the White Sox might be looking to upgrade at that spot in their batting order. During the 2017 season, White Sox designated hitters ranked 13th out of 15 American League teams with a .226 batting average and a .288 on-base percentage.

Much of that is due to the numbers of Matt Davidson, who despite showing some pop with 26 home runs, struggled in other offensive facets, slashing just .220/.260.452. Only one AL player who had as many at-bats as Davidson, Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, had a lower on-base percentage. Davidson walked just 19 times compared to 165 strikeouts.

But Davidson is just 26 years old, and it seems to make sense for the rebuilding White Sox — who aren't expected to compete for a championship in 2018 — to continue to give Davidson more opportunity to show he can stick as a big league hitter. It could be argued he earned that opportunity with those 26 homers, the second-highest total on the team behind Jose Abreu. As the roster stands right now, you have to figure he'd be the most likely player to earn the majority of at-bats at designated hitter.

And what about giving opportunities to the likes of Casey Gillaspie and Ryan Cordell? Those two guys both came over in midseason trades last summer and could impress enough to earn a shot if the White Sox are no longer enamored with Davidson's power potential. Both spent significant time at the Triple-A level and could be ready for a taste of the big leagues.

There's also an argument to be made, though, that the ridiculously large number of available free-agent hitters means the White Sox might be able to find a bargain on a quality player who could help fuel the rebuilding effort — either as a potential piece of the future or as a potential midseason trade candidate who could fetch a prospect or two.

Because of the position and its complete lack of defense, you could assemble a mile-long list of available free agents that could slide into the DH spot. There are five guys listed under the "designated hitter" heading on MLB Trade Rumors' free-agent list: Jose Bautista, Chris Carter, Matt Holliday, Logan Morrison and Mike Napoli. Plenty of other players listed at other positions could DH, too, guys like Melky Cabrera, Lucas Duda, Carlos Gonzalez, John Jaso, Adam Lind, Trevor Plouffe, Mark Reynolds, Seth Smith and Chase Utley. And then there's the trade route, which opens up even more possibilities.

Of course, if none of those names get White Sox fans overly excited, that's kind of the point. This team is still in the thick of rebuilding. It makes little sense to fork over huge money to someone like J.D. Martinez in a year where the team isn't expected to compete, especially until the front office knows what it has in the many prospects still developing in the minor leagues. Today the White Sox might need an extra bat. But what if Eloy Jimenez hits the big leagues in a matter of months? Sticking his bat in the lineup every day solves that problem and costs nothing.

If the White Sox can find a free-agent bat to slot in at DH and flip at the deadline, that makes sense. Signing a big name? It makes far less sense.

But in this completely out-of-the-ordinary offseason, nothing should be considered impossible. Stay tuned.

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: