White Sox

Four left battling for two spots after Sox make cuts


Four left battling for two spots after Sox make cuts

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Posted: 2:33 p.m. Updated 4:30 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Prior to Tuesday's game at Seattle, the White Sox made nine roster moves, leaving them 29 players left in major-league camp: 13 pitchers, three catchers, nine infielders and four outfielders.

The White Sox roster cuts narrow competition for two remaining roster spots to just four players: Lastings Milledge and Brent Lillibridge, vying for the team's final bench role, and Phil Humber and Jeffrey Marquez, looking to be the 12th arm in the pen.

Milledge has provided extremes in his Cactus League work--bursts of power that could serve the team well if the 25-year-old is asked to play a bigger role due to injury, but also flashes of the me-first play that's plagued the outfielder through his three prior major-league stops.

Lillibridge has lost most of his leverage as an infielder-outfielder with the likely embrace of Mark Teahen in a similar role. However, Lillibridge is unquestionably team-first, and perhaps more significantly, the speedster is out of options, meaning he would have to clear waivers to be demoted to AAA Charlotte. That's an unlikely development.

The two remaining hitters on the roster will not break camp with the team. Catcher Donny Lucy is merely an extra mask as Chicago slogs through its final week of warmup play, while Dayan Viciedo is recovering from a broken thumb.

READ: White Sox Report Card Version 2.0

Humber and Marquez have both impressed this spring, with the former packing more major league experience and Marquez a more live arm.

If pitcher Jake Peavy is placed on the DL to begin the season (where he would likely join Viciedo), three of the four players in question could remain with the team. With the roster nearly whittled down completely and plenty of innings left to log, it's a safe bet that at least one of Humber, Marquez, Lillibridge or Milledge will falter, lending credence to manager Ozzie Guillen's belief that "the players are the ones who tell you they should be on the team" through their spring training performance.

Final decisions on the roster aren't likely for another week, Guillen has indicated.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

White Sox free-agent focus: J.A. Happ

White Sox free-agent focus: J.A. Happ

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

The White Sox need starting pitching. So why not take a cue from the fine folks at Jewel and think local?

J.A. Happ is an Illinois native and attended Northwestern, and he’s a free-agent starting pitcher coming off a mighty fine season in 2018. Following a midseason trade to the New York Yankees, he posted a 2.59 ERA in 11 starts. While his numbers vastly improved after he left the Toronto Blue Jays, he finished the 2018 campaign with a career-high 193 strikeouts. In addition to last year’s success in the Bronx, he had an ERA under 4.00 in each of the three seasons prior, playing in Toronto in 2016 and 2017 and splitting time between the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015.

What Happ doesn’t seem to be, however, is a long-term option. He just turned 36 years old, meaning he likely doesn’t align with the White Sox rebuilding timeline and the planned opening of the team’s contention window.

What Happ could do, however, is serve as a bridge (however long) to that future, a future where Michael Kopech is recovered from his Tommy John surgery and Dylan Cease has reached the major leagues. You could certainly do much worse than Happ when it comes to finding a one- or two-year fill-in, and the White Sox were reportedly "working to sign" Happ during last week's GM Meetings in Southern California.

Happ would also serve as a veteran presence and potential mentor for the team’s young pitchers, the kind of role James Shields filled last season. Rick Hahn discussed the importance of that role last week.

“Having someone in there who provides a level of stability for the rotation and dependability every fifth day has some appeal that you would allow young players to go through some of the growing pains that are inevitable in their development,” Hahn said. “Having someone who can play that veteran, mentor role who can help teach guys whether it's from a game prep standpoint ... or any level of alteration with certain pitches, which is where James had the biggest impact in the minors.

“Having a guy who can play that role has appeal. It's not just what a guy can do between the white lines, it's what a guy can do for you in the clubhouse, is part of this equation.”

Happ might not stoke fans’ imaginations in the same way fellow free agents like Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel might. But he’s a more realistic option that would allow the White Sox to continue to develop a homegrown rotation of the future.

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White Sox free-agent focus: Michael Brantley

White Sox free-agent focus: Michael Brantley

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

White Sox fans know Michael Brantley all too well.

Brantley spent the first decade of his major league career as a Cleveland Indian and faced off against the South Siders on a regular basis. For the most part, he did quite well against them, the owner of a .280/.326/.418 slash line, 12 home runs and 59 RBIs against them in 116 games. So the best reason for the White Sox to sign Brantley this winter might be so they don’t have to pitch to him anymore.

Seriously, though, Brantley has put together a quietly strong big league career to this point. He’s slashing .295/.351/.430 in his career with a trio of All-Star appearances under his belt and a top-three AL MVP finish from 2014. There are certainly bigger names on the outfield market — Bryce Harper and A.J. Pollock come to mind — but Brantley would be a nice fit just about anywhere.

The main concern with Brantley is his health. He played in just 101 games over the 2016 and 2017 seasons. But he played in 143 games in 2018, a positive sign.

The White Sox don’t need an outfielder like Brantley, necessarily. They’re not expected to contend for a championship in 2019, and the outfield is perhaps the deepest area in their minor league system. If they’re content to keep playing the waiting game in 2019 while all those prospects develop into the team of the future, the outfield would figure to stock itself over the next couple seasons. Eloy Jimenez, the team’s top-ranked prospect, figures to reach the majors early on next season and would figure to command an everyday corner-outfield spot. Brantley played all but seven of his games last season in left field, the same spot where Jimenez spent most of his time in the minors.

But the White Sox current major league outfield leaves a lot to be desired, with subpar offensive seasons from Adam Engel, Nicky Delmonico and Avisail Garcia in 2018 and Daniel Palka seemingly best suited for a DH role. Brantley would be an obvious upgrade from an offensive standpoint.

Plus, Brantley would bring some veteran experience to a very young team and could act in a mentor-type role among position players that James Shields was able to fill among starting pitchers last season.

But Brantley is also 31 years old, and it would be a worthwhile question to wonder whether he would align with their long-term plans.

Like with any potential signing, the White Sox have the financial flexibility to make a Brantley addition work. But it seems there are more pressing needs that need addressing and additions that could make a greater long-term impact.

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