White Sox

Legwork has White Sox confident they know Chris Sale's market value

Legwork has White Sox confident they know Chris Sale's market value

He’s listened to trade offers for five years so if a whopper crosses his desk this winter, Rick Hahn has a good idea about five-time All-Star Chris Sale’s value.

Last month — long before the White Sox continued to make it sound as if a rebuild is a strong possibility — an American League source said the asking price for Sale last July was exorbitant, but fair compared with what competing teams wanted for their pitchers.

While this winter’s weak free-agent class could make Sale more valuable than ever, it would appear as if the White Sox have a solid grasp on what to ask for in return should they trade their perennial Cy Young candidate. Now in his fifth season as White Sox general manager, Hahn has always entertained trade chatter from fellow GMs in order to determine the market value of his players.

“We have a good sense for it,” Hahn said. “Regardless of the caliber of player on our roster we try to have regular communication with other clubs about how they view all of our guys. Although at this time of year things become a little more serious and direct, you’re rarely surprised about how certain players are viewed in the market based on those conversations that been going on.”

Gauging Sale’s value and the potential for trading him has never been easy. Not only is he absurdly talented, Sale is on a fantastic contract, which has three years and roughly $38 million left if his two team options are exercised. Those factors mean an opposing team must surrender an overwhelmingly talented package of prospects in order to capture the attention of the White Sox, who aren’t in a position where they must trade the left-hander.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“It’s a lot more complicated than a normal trade,” one major league executive said in 2015. “How do you get back enough talent to justify it?

“He’s probably the best pitcher in the game, so what’s the price you attach to that? It’s hard when they think about what they can ask for and is a team willing to sort of blow their whole top of the system out?”

“It’s really hard. And you better be right.”

But there’s a sense it would be easier for the White Sox to find the proper value this offseason.

Not only is there less time left on Sale’s deal, there’s a “perfect market” to attract the right buyers, according to several MLB executives. With Rich Hill the best free agent on the market, the White Sox boast the best option when it comes to pitching if they choose to trade Sale.

Also, teams with the farm systems best suited to trade for Sale — Houston, Los Angeles, Texas and Boston, among others — would appear to be hungry for a No. 1 starter.

Hahn said at the GM meetings last week the White Sox are obligated to continue to entertain offers for Sale. But he doesn’t expect to find many surprises given he’s listened to trade talk for his prized southpaw since almost the start of his career.

“How long have I been doing this?” Hahn said. “We drafted him in ’10, so probably since ’11. He’s understandably a popular name. He’s not alone on our roster obviously, but he’s certainly the one that attracts the most headlines and speculation because he’s a perennial Cy Young contender, he’s in his prime and he’s controllable for the next three years. So it certainly makes sense that he’s (asked about).”

White Sox pitchers Hamilton & Burr get a shoutout from Lin-Manuel Miranda


White Sox pitchers Hamilton & Burr get a shoutout from Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda has landed in Chicago and he made sure to give some his favorite teams, places and people in the city a shout out on Twitter.

Roughly five minutes passed before the playwright and actor of Hamilton fame quickly remembered to give a quick greeting to the White Sox and two specific members of the team.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays Alexander Hamilton in "Hamilton: An American Musical" made sure to give a specific shout out to White Sox relief pitchers Ryan Burr and Ian Hamilton. The musical Hamilton of course discusses the infamous duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.

White Sox pitchers Burr and Hamilton have been inextricably linked due to their last names, ever since  they first became teammates with the White Sox Class-A team in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 2017. And they took their bond one step further in 2019, recreating the Burr-Hamilton duel in front of the entire Whie Sox team

Miranda is currently in Chicago for the opening and ribbon cutting of "Hamilton: The Exhibition". The exhibit will open on Friday, April 26.

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Remember That Guy: Charlie O’Brien


Remember That Guy: Charlie O’Brien

Back in the day, Major League catchers used to wear a backwards helmet with a separate mask strapped to it.

The beginning of the end of those masks was September 13, 1996 in Toronto, when Charlie O’Brien introduced the hockey goalie-style catcher’s mask.

Remember that guy?

Charlie O’Brien was born May 1, 1960 in Tulsa, OK.  He was originally drafted in 1978 out of Bishop Kelley (Tulsa) High School by the Rangers in the 14th round, then again out of Wichita State in the 21st round in 1981 by the Mariners (that same year his college teammate Joe Carter was taken in the 1st round by the Cubs). Finally, O’Brien signed after being selected by the A’s in the 5th round in 1982, following a dynamic .359/.399/.659 season with 25 HR and 116 RBI in 87 games.  

O’Brien worked his way through the minors, reaching Triple-A Tacoma in 1984 and earning a 16-game trial with the Oakland A’s in June 1985. He caught the final inning of a 10-1 loss on June 2 in his MLB debut in Baltimore, and eventually collected his first MLB hit – a double off the Tigers’ Frank Tanana – on August 22, his first career start. With a couple of young catchers in Mickey Tettleton & Terry Steinbach blocking his path to the Majors, O’Brien was shipped from Oakland to Milwaukee in March 1986. He played well over the next two years in El Paso and Denver in the Brewers system, and he received another 10-game stint in the Majors in May 1987. O’Brien started 1988 back in Denver, but in June he was called up to the big club for good.

He served as backup catcher from Milwaukee to Queens (he was traded to the Mets in August 1990) to Atlanta (where he won a World Series in 1995) and Toronto, developing a reputation as a solid catcher. For his career, he threw out 37% of attempted base stealers, which is comfortably above the league average of 31%. He caught 13 pitchers who won Cy Young awards at some point, including a string of four in a row – Greg Maddux (1994-95), Pat Hentgen (1996) and Roger Clemens (1997).

Then there was that day in 1996 where he revolutionized catching, introducing the modern style of catcher’s mask. He got the idea for the mask while watching hockey, likely thinking about all the foul tips he took off the mask, wondering how to find a safer alternative. He worked with a few manufacturers and Major League Baseball to make the dream a reality.

In December 1997, O’Brien arrived in Chicago as a free agent signing by the White Sox. He collected three hits in the 1998 season opener, becoming the first White Sox catcher with three hits on opening day since Brian Downing in 1977. He only appeared in 57 games with the White Sox before a July 30 trade to the Angels, but he was with the Sox long enough to provide an important Chicago historical footnote. On June 6, 1998, O’Brien became the first White Sox player to hit a regular season home run at Wrigley Field. It came in the 6th inning off Kevin Tapani, and the two-run blast scored Magglio Ordoñez and gave the White Sox a 5-4 lead which they couldn’t hang onto, as they went on to lose 7-6.

In total, O’Brien played 800 games spread out over 15 seasons for eight teams. He hit .221 with 56 home runs in his career (and an additional homer in the 1995 NLCS), but his calling card was his solid defense, as well as being an innovator. His final MLB game was June 21, 2000 for the Expos in Montreal.

After his playing career, O’Brien (who wore No. 22 for most of his career) went on to own the Catch 22 Ranch in Northeastern Oklahoma, where he raises cattle and deer. Charlie and his ranch has been featured on the Pursuit Channel’s TV show “Deer Thugs.” An avid outdoorsman and hunter, he went on to form a company Charlie O’ Products, which sells hunting products. He also wrote a book The Cy Young Catcher along with co-author Doug Wedge, which chronicles his days in the Major Leagues.