White Sox

Why the White Sox didn't trade Jose Abreu this offseason

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USA TODAY

Why the White Sox didn't trade Jose Abreu this offseason

On paper, it seemed to make sense: A 31-year-old Jose Abreu was coming off a massively productive season and has two more years left of team control, meaning he isn’t guaranteed to be around when the White Sox expect this rebuilding process to produce a playoff contender. So why not trade him?

Back in November, that was rumored to be a possibility. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported the White Sox were in “active” talks with the Boston Red Sox, who were one of the four finalists to sign Abreu as a free agent back in 2014. The thought of adding another elite prospect to the team’s bursting-at-the-seams farm system was tantalizing, wasn't it?

It also was never a realistic possibility.

“There was clearly speculation that he conceivably could have been moved this offseason,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Part of the reason that he wasn’t is that we do put a large value on what he does in the clubhouse, how he represents himself and the organization, what he does for our young players — the way he goes about his business is the epitome of a White Sox player. That probably leads to us valuing him a little more highly than other organizations who haven’t had the pleasure of having him, which makes it that much more difficult to line up on finding value on a trade.”

Abreu’s on-field production speaks for itself. He slugged 33 home runs last year with a .906 OPS and has had a triple-digit RBI total every year of his career. He has the 13th-most home runs since 2014 (124) and has the 13th-highest slugging percentage (.524) in the same timespan, putting him just outside being one baseball’s elite sluggers — which is still a pretty good place to be.

But the real reason why the White Sox didn’t trade him is what Hahn touched on in his quote above. Abreu has blossomed in his four-year career into a pillar of the White Sox clubhouse, someone who’s taken hotshot prospect Yoan Moncada under his wing and leads by example on a team that’s shipped plenty of its veterans away over the last 15 months.

“He’s the face of the organization,” outfielder Avisail Garcia said.

“His standards as a player, as a human being, have been an example for me,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “I’ve been trying, always, to follow him as an example, as the guy that I want to be.”

Hahn and manager Rick Renteria know this wave of young talent won’t arrive at 35th and Shields as a collectively polished product. There’s a lot of development that still have to happen after a player graduates to the majors, whether it’s in how to handle the grind of a 162-game season or all the media attention that comes with a hot streak or a slump. Having Abreu around, they figure, can be beneficial to those younger guys as they learn what it takes to be a major league player.

“His actions speak for themselves,” Renteria said. “It also crosses an understanding to all the players, whether you’re Latin or American or whoever you are. They see how he goes about doing his business. Is it important? Yes. I think he’s establishing an understanding for a lot of the younger players what it is to go about to prepare for a daily grind and play in the big leagues.”

Abreu’s experience has a slightly more tangible benefit than him being a good clubhouse guy, too. Hitting coach Todd Steverson said he’s an excellent conduit for his message to young players, especially given all the success he’s had mashing the ball for the last four years.

“Young kids being able to see how he goes about it structure-wise lets them know, if I want to be at that level at some point, or somewhere close to that level, it’s going to take me doing certain things,” Steverson said. “He kind of would be like a dad, almost: ‘What are you doing, make sure you do that right.’ It’s good on my end to have somebody able to say hey, be more accurate, be more definitive in what you’re trying to do. It’s not always coming from myself or (assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks).

“It holds a lot of weight when what I say and what he says mirror each other.”

It’s worth noting, though, that the White Sox hardly were in a desperate situation to move Abreu this winter given they still have him under control for two more years. He’s not a move-him-or-lose-him guy, nor does he fit the profile of the cheap, young, successful players traded away for huge hauls since the end of the 2016 season (Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana). If the White Sox were going to deal Abreu now, they'd have to be blown away by a package of prospects.

That doesn’t mean a team couldn’t swoop in and make Hahn an offer he can’t refuse. But the benefits to keeping Abreu just might out-weigh the benefits to trading him at this point.

“I feel I have a responsibility with this organization and a responsibility with the manager and all the people involved in this organization,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “And that responsibility is to step up and set an example for all the guys, especially for the young guys. I know that my English is not so good right now, but I’m trying to get better in that aspect. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be better this year in how I can influence them in the clubhouse. That’s one of my goals, I started doing it last year and I think this year I’ll be more able to do it with more confidence.”

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

GLENDALE, AZ --  There’s a different Tim Anderson at White Sox spring training this year.

You can see it on his face  You can hear it in his voice.

“I’m busting out of the shell. I’m talking more,” he said as he sat down for an interview with NBC Sports Chicago (in the video above).

It’s not the new Tim Anderson. It turns out, it’s the real one that’s been there all along.

“This is me. It’s always been me. I never knew how to express myself. I feel like I’m being a lot more open,” Anderson explained. “That’s what I want to give to fans. Let them know the real me. You’re cheering for me. Why not know me? I’m being open and kind of let fans into my life.”

The White Sox shortstop has learned a lot about life in the past year. It all started in May when the White Sox were in Baltimore to play the Orioles. Anderson received a phone call at 4 a.m. It was news from back home.

It was the worst phone call of his life.

His best friend Branden Moss had been murdered in the parking lot of a Tuscaloosa, Ala., bar after helping the victim of a fight.  

The two were like brothers. Anderson is the godfather to Moss’s young daughter. Moss was the godfather to Anderson’s 2-year-old daughter.

“It was heartbreaking,” Anderson said.

While Anderson grieved, playing baseball seemed like it would be a perfect escape for his pain. Only it wasn’t. Far from it.  Baseball might have made things even worse.

In fast-paced sports like football and hockey, players don’t have much time to think. It’s react, react, react. Whatever might be happening off the field feels like a million miles away.

Not in baseball.

The game moves at a much slower speed. There’s plenty of time for your mind to wander. Thoughts kept going back to Anderson’s lost friend, taken from him in an instant.

At 23, he didn’t have the tools to deal with the emotional pain and excel at baseball at the same time.

“The year was rough. I wasn’t having fun in between the lines. I was making the game harder than it was. I was thinking too much. I was feeling sorry for myself and the list can go on. When my friend died it definitely took a lot out of me. I had a dark moment,” Anderson said. “Some days I didn’t feel comfortable coming to the ballpark because I knew it was going to be a bad day.”

Making matters worse, there were many nights when Anderson didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Still, he dragged himself to the ballpark and somehow tried to play.

The results weren’t pretty. On June 22, Anderson already had 16 errors at shortstop, most in the majors. At the plate, he was hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.

He knew he was better than that. He also knew something else: He needed help.

In July, Anderson started meeting with a therapist who was able to unlock the pent up thoughts and emotions that he was burying inside him.

The therapist would write down everything that Anderson was feeling on paper and then read it back to him.

“Just going in and talking and pouring everything out of you. It lets you hear what you’ve been going through,“ Anderson said. “When she did it, it was a lot. I took what she read to me, balled it up and threw it away. I got lighter. It was a brightening. Those counseling sessions definitely helped me.”

Soon, Anderson was back to being himself both on and off the field.

In the month of August, he had 8 doubles, 5 home runs and 16 RBI.

“Woof. I was hot,” he said after hearing those stats. “That’s Tim. That’s more Tim that we need to see.”

In September, he batted .327 with 3 home runs and 9 stolen bases.

“We need a lot of that this year. That’s the way I want to go. That’s the way I want to go about it. Get back to what got me here.”

There was still an issue with his plate discipline. He had 32 strikeouts and only 1 walk in September.

“We play a tough sport as it is. They’re going to come,” Anderson said about the walks. “I mean, when I walk more, what are you going to tell me? ‘Start swinging more?’ It’s one of those things. It’s a give and take. We’ll see what happens.”

In 2017, Anderson received a crash course in adversity. What did he learn from all that pain and misery?

“Tough times happen, but they don’t last forever.”

Now that he’s survived the personal storm from last season, he wants “another shot at it. I feel like last year went left. This is new season.”

So, what does he envision for himself in 2018?

“Having fun, smiling a lot, picking up my teammates, hugging on the coaches and players. A lot of love, more so than stats,” Anderson said. “I’m fired up. I’m excited. I feel like I’m ready to lead this pack. We got a great group of guys. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

The White Sox top pitching prospect sits down with Chuck Garfien for a revealing interview at spring training. Kopech says he almost quit the game after he got into a fight with a Red Sox minor league teammate in 2016. He goes in-depth about his desire to be great, why meditating makes him a better pitcher, his failed PED test in 2015, comparisons to Justin Verlander, possibly becoming the future ace of the White Sox and much more.