Vinnie Duber

Nicky Delmonico sent to Triple-A, but do White Sox need to cut another outfielder to clear room for Eloy Jimenez?

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USA TODAY

Nicky Delmonico sent to Triple-A, but do White Sox need to cut another outfielder to clear room for Eloy Jimenez?

The White Sox made a notable outfield cut Saturday, sending Nicky Delmonico to Triple-A Charlotte not long after Eloy Jimenez signed his new six-year deal.

Rick Hahn wouldn't 100-percent confirm during the press conference whether or not Jimenez would be on the team's Opening Day roster, but the new deal eliminates the service-time conversation surrounding Jimenez and allows him to make his major league debut when the regular season starts next week in Kansas City.



If Jimenez is going to end up on the Opening Day roster, the White Sox will need to make room for him. That could mean cutting another outfielder in addition to Delmonico, but not necessarily. More on that in a bit.

Delmonico might have had a tough time making the Opening Day roster even if Jimenez would've started the season in the minor leagues. The White Sox outfield is a crowded one after the offseason addition of veteran Jon Jay. The presence of Adam Engel, Daniel Palka and the versatile Leury Garcia made it difficult to envision a place for Delmonico, who had a disappointing, injury-filled season in 2018 after showing promise at the end of the 2017 campaign.

It seems as if, eventually, the White Sox could have to move another one of those aforementioned outfielders to make room for Jimenez, who figures to be the team's everyday left fielder in 2019. But that decision could be delayed until mid April thanks to a bunch of built-in off days at the start of the regular-season schedule.

Both Hahn and manager Rick Renteria have discussed the possibility of the White Sox using only four starting pitchers at the outset of the season. Thanks to those off days, those four starters can all pitch on regular rest until as late as April 17. So, theoretically, Ervin Santana, who figures to wind up as the team's fifth starter, wouldn't be needed on the major league roster until that finale of a home series against the Kansas City Royals in mid April. That's one less pitcher that needs to be on the roster and one more position player that can be on the roster.

The versatility of Garcia, who has torn the cover off the ball this spring, and infielder Jose Rondon, who has added a little bit of outfield to his repertoire this spring (and is out of options), means they're likely not going anywhere. But instead of having to potentially dispatch of fan favorite Palka before the season even begins, there are potentially two spots available for three players, those two and Engel. Palka brings power, while Engel brings defense. Both have their weaknesses, too, Palka seeming best suited for a DH role that has been given to the combination of Jose Abreu and Yonder Alonso, and Engel the owner of a career .207/.260/.314 slash line.

It's important to note in all of this, too, that Renteria has said that Jay might not be an everyday player. Jay's versatility in the outfield also means he might be playing at one set position all season. So for those arguing that the White Sox could have an everyday outfield of Jimenez, Jay and Palka for the next six months, it might not be so simple. And if Jimenez and Palka are in the corners, that makes Engel's glove all the more valuable.

Jimenez returned to the White Sox lineup for Saturday's Cactus League game, perhaps another sign that he could return to the major league roster after being optioned to Charlotte prior to the announcement of the new contract.

Whether his making the roster would force off another outfielder remains to be seen.

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White Sox make long-term deal with Eloy Jimenez official

White Sox make long-term deal with Eloy Jimenez official

The White Sox officially announced the long-term contract with Eloy Jimenez, the details of which were reported earlier this week.

The 22-year-old Jimenez received the richest contract ever for a minor league player who has yet to make his major league debut.

The team confirmed what was reported earlier in the week, that the deal is worth $43 million over six years with a pair of team options that could extend the contract through the 2026 season.

From the White Sox announcement:

"Under terms of the contract, Jimenez will receive a $5 million bonus in addition to $1 million in 2019, $1.5 million in 2020, $3.5 million in 2021, $6.5 million in 2022, $9.5 million in 2023 and $13 million in 2024. The White Sox hold options for $16.5 million in 2025 and $18.5 million in 2026, with $3 million buyouts for either season."

Should the White Sox eventually pick up both options, this deal has the potential to be the largest the franchise has ever handed out, surpassing the $68 million deal given to Jose Abreu ahead of the 2014 season.

The contract seems to be a smashing success for the White Sox, who despite taking on the risk of giving so much guaranteed money to a player yet to see a big league pitch, gain eight years of club control over the No. 3 prospect in the game and a player they believe can blossom into one of baseball's elite hitters.

Most notably, in the immediate, the deal wipes away the service-time conversation surrounding Jimenez and his eventual major league debut. Playing within the rules, the White Sox were expected to delay Jimenez's big league arrival long enough to prevent him from accruing a full season of major league service time. Though they never publicly said that was their intent, such an action would have given them an extra, seventh year of control on his rookie contract. This new contract throws the necessity for such a maneuver out the window and could allow Jimenez to make his major league debut on Opening Day next week in Kansas City.

But the deal is far less about having Jimenez in a White Sox uniform for the next six months than it is about having him a White Sox uniform for the next eight years. The long term of this deal could extend their planned contention window a year further, keeping the team in championship contention longer. Jimenez becomes the centerpiece of the entire rebuilding project, and the stars of the future can come up and grow with him into a a hoped-for perennial contender.

“Eloy is a tremendously talented young player who has impressed us with his baseball skills, poise and maturity from the moment he joined the White Sox organization,” general manager Rick Hahn said in the team's announcement. “We view him as an important member of the core we are building over the coming years and so are pleased to have reached this long-term agreement to have him in a White Sox uniform for many seasons to come.”

“My family and I are very happy and excited to sign this deal,” Jimenez said in the announcement. “It gives us the opportunity to ensure our future, but more importantly, to reinforce my commitment to the White Sox organization. All of my effort, focus and desire is to help this team win multiple championships and bring joy to our fan base.”

Now, it's time to watch the first year of that deal, a season in which Jimenez will be one of the favorites to win American League Rookie of the Year honors.

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2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the Cleveland Indians

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USA TODAY

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the Cleveland Indians

As the 2019 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

The Indians have dominated the AL Central in recent seasons and are just three years removed from a trip to the World Series, just two years removed from that 22-game winning streak and a 102-win season.

But the Indians are not one of the American League's uber teams. In fact, despite having perhaps the best starting rotation in baseball, they seem to pale in comparison to the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Houston Astros. Somehow, in a weak division that features three teams that combined for more than 300 losses in 2018, it's hard to describe them as a playoff lock. They still have to enter 2019 as the favorites in the Central, but that's a status earned as much by the weak teams around them as it is by their own strength.

We'll start with the positives, though, the things that should send the Indians to a fourth straight division title, and of course that begins with the starting staff. The quintet of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber features as many as four Cy Young candidates, depending on how much you like Clevinger — and that should be a lot after his 3.02 ERA and 207 strikeouts over 200 innings in 2018. And that was the fourth, yes, fourth most strikeouts of that group. Carrasco led the way with 231 (to go along with his 3.38 ERA). Kluber was his typically amazing self with a 2.89 ERA and 222 strikeouts. And Bauer, in only 27 starts, went all the way to 221 strikeouts with a rotation-leading 2.21 ERA.

That's four potential aces, right there, and there's no rotation in the game that comes close to that.

The Indians are also the home of two of the best position players in the game: Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. Lindor will likely miss the start of the season while injured, but that doesn't strip him of his ability to mash, as he did last season when he launched 38 homers. But Ramirez was even better in 2018, challenging for the MVP with a .939 OPS, 39 homers and 105 RBIs. Those two guys are absolutely fantastic, and a better 1-2 punch than you'll find elsewhere in the AL Central.

And that's why the Indians should remain atop the division. None of the other four teams, including the Minnesota Twins, the only non-rebuilding squad of the four, have anything close to what the Indians have in their rotation and in the middle of their lineup.

Good thing for the Clevelanders, too, because the rest of this group isn't terribly imposing.

Edwin Encarnacion and his 32 homer, 107-RBI production was sent away so that Carlos Santana could come back to town, even though as an inductee of the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame he never left. Santana had eight fewer homers and 21 fewer RBIs than Encarnacion last season. The quiet steadiness Michael Brantley brought to the proceedings is now playing for one of those uber teams in Houston, and there's still nothing replacing him in the outfield. The Opening Day outfield is projected to consist of Jake Bauers (a .201 batting average as a rookie for the Tampa Bay Rays last season), Leonys Martin (a sub-.300 on-base percentage in just 133 games over the past two seasons with four different teams) and Tyler Naquin (three homers and a .287 on-base percentage in just 80 games over the past two seasons). Former Colorado Rockies MVP candidate Carlos Gonzalez was signed to a minor league deal recently. He's no longer an MVP candidate but would figure to be an upgrade to that outfield. Jason Kipnis is well removed from his glory days, with a .704 OPS over the past two seasons.

Then cast your eyes to the bullpen, where you might expect to see Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. But those two departed via free agency for the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels, respectively. Brad Hand is still an All-Star closer, but this is a team that had claimed the relief corps as a strength for so long, only to finish with a relief ERA of 4.60, 25th out of 30 teams.

The Indians do seem, in certain areas, a far cry from the team that was good enough to reach the World Series and rattle off that 22-game win streak. But thanks to a weak AL Central, it'd still be somewhat surprising to see them toppled from the top of the division. They have a dominant starting staff and two legitimate MVP candidates. Who can compete with that. Not the Twins. Not the rebuilding squads in Kansas City, Detroit or on the South Side of Chicago. The Indians' window might be nearing its close. But it won't slam shut this year.

2018 record: 91-71, first place in AL Central

Offseason additions: Carlos Santana, Jake Bauers, Hanley Ramirez, Kevin Plawecki

Offseason departures: Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Michael Brantley, Josh Donaldson, Lonnie Chisenhall, Melky Cabrera, Josh Tomlin, Rajai Davis

X-factor: Brad Hand made the NL All-Star team with the San Diego Padres in each of the last two seasons, sensational in 2017 and quite good again in 2018. But his numbers were even better last season after the trade that sent him to Cleveland. He posted a 2.28 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 27.2 innings with the Indians.

Projected lineup:

1. Leonys Martin, CF
2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
3. Jose Ramirez, 3B
4. Carlos Santana, 1B
5. Jake Bauers, LF
6. Hanley Ramirez, DH
7. Tyler Naquin, RF
8. Roberto Perez, C
9. Eric Stamets, SS
*Francisco Lindor, SS, expected to start the season on the IL

Projected rotation:

1. Corey Kluber
2. Trevor Bauer
3. Carlos Carrasco
4. Mike Clevinger
5. Shane Bieber

Prediction: First place in AL Central

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