White Sox

'Mired in mediocrity,' White Sox open to anything at trade deadline

'Mired in mediocrity,' White Sox open to anything at trade deadline

Whatever aspirations the White Sox had in mind, this isn’t it.

Nearly three years into a roster revamp that has seen countless additions, the White Sox aren’t satisfied with their lot in life.

They thought they’d be competing for an American League Central title at this point. But as they head into the opener of a four-game series against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, the 46-48 White Sox are in the midst of another dip on a wild rollercoaster ride of a 2016 campaign that has seen them reach tremendous highs and excruciating lows. So as the nonwaiver trade deadline nears, general manager Rick Hahn said before Thursday’s game that the White Sox — who are seven games out of the wild-card race and 10 back in the AL Central — would consider anything and everything to improve.

“We looked to get ourselves right as quickly as possible,” Hahn said. “There was a spurt this season where it looked like it worked. As we sit here today, we’ve been wrestling with being a couple games over, a couple games under .500 for the last few weeks.

“We’re mired in mediocrity. That’s not the goal, that’s not acceptable, that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish for the long-term.”

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How open-minded the White Sox would be remains to be seen.

Multiple reports have surfaced in the past 24 hours with teams inquiring about the availability of pitchers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. One report suggested a team offered the White Sox “a king’s ransom” in exchange for Sale and they declined.

Hahn said Thursday he wouldn’t discuss any specific speculation. But he did add that the White Sox have ruled out the possibility they would acquire any short-term rentals for 2016, that the team has proven unworthy of that kind of acquisition. Hahn also said the idea of trading off assets under control for the long-term (i.e. Sale and Quintana) “might be a little extreme.”

While the White Sox will listen to offers for anyone, Hahn noted that the market is mostly reduced to competitive teams at this point, which means more prospect-laden packages than ones involving current major leaguers. With a shortage of pitchers available in free agency this offseason, the White Sox might be better suited to wait until they have a better pool of buyers to choose from if they were to consider a major move.

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Either way, Hahn and the White Sox intend to listen. The team has even left the door open for a full rebuild, something they have tried to avoid, if it makes sense. That openness extends throughout the front office to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, Hahn said.

“Jerry is very open minded to all the options in front of us,” Hahn said. “This isn’t the first conversation we’ve had about this or the first period of time in which we’ve talked about the notion of a more extensive or longer time horizon, is the way I would put it. We’ve had these conversations going back to 2013, about whether now is the right juncture to do it. That’s based upon not only the talent we have under control, but the talent we have coming and what’s available via trade or free agency. Over the last couple of seasons we have not elected to go that route. We’ve instead been focused more on the immediate term future. At this point in time, I’d say there’s a very open-minded approach, not just from Jerry, but from the entire front office about what is the most prudent course to get us on an annual basis to where we want to be.” 

Futures Game pitcher Dylan Cease on loaded White Sox farm system: 'There's so much talent that you almost take it for granted'

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USA TODAY

Futures Game pitcher Dylan Cease on loaded White Sox farm system: 'There's so much talent that you almost take it for granted'

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A couple weeks ago, Dylan Cease was sitting in the stands charting pitches during a Birmingham Barons game when White Sox director of player development Chris Getz came over and said, “I just want to let you know …”

Inside his head, Cease immediately had a flashback to last July and the time the Cubs informed him he’d been dealt to the White Sox in the Jose Quintana trade.

“Did I just get traded again?” Cease thought to himself.

Fortunately, that’s not what this conversation was about.

“And then (Getz) said, ‘You’re going to the Futures Game,’ and I was kind of speechless and I just said thank you,” Cease recalled.

Playing in this All-Star showcase with some of the best prospects in baseball had been a goal for Cease ever since he started watching the game as a kid.

Now one of the best young pitchers in the minor leagues, Cease has even bigger plans for his baseball career, like reaching the big leagues and dominating there like he has since coming over from the Cubs.

At Class A Winston-Salem, Cease went 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA. Since getting called up to Double-A Birmingham, he’s 1-0 with a 3.24 ERA in three starts, but he’s given up only one earned run in his last two games.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn says that Cease has developed at such a rate that he’s exceeded their expectations this year. Cease might feel the same way.

“In terms of growth, which is really what the minor leagues is for, I came into the year not that confident with some of my off-speed (pitches),” Cease said. “And now I feel like I can throw anything at any time, so I’m really happy with the progress.”

Ask coaches, teammates and scouts about Cease, and they always point to two things: his velocity (which frequently hits 98 and 99) and his composure.

The velocity is a God-given gift. The composure is something he’s picked up along the way.

“I’ve been watching the best pitchers in baseball since I was a little kid. You see how most of them act, guys like Corey Kluber and Justin Verlander, who whether they’re up five or down five you’d never know,” Cease explained. “To me, that’s the most intimidating thing when a guy looks like he’s just going to take care of business and give everything he’s got. I try to be the same way.”

The trades of Quintana, Chris Sale and Adam Eaton kickstarted the White Sox rebuild. Add in some strong drafts, and the minor league system is currently stacked.

Cease knows first-hand.

“There’s so much talent that you almost take it for granted when you play with them everyday, there’s that much talent,” Cease said.

Who stands out?

“Joel Booker is the most underrated guy we have. Micker Adolfo, when that dude connects with a baseball it sounds like a shotgun is going off the bat.”

White Sox prospect Luis Basabe said before the game that he wanted to hit a homer in the Futures Game off Cease, his Barons teammate.

When I told this to Cease, he first responded like a good teammate, but by the end of his answer the competitor in him took over.

“That would be sick. I’m rooting for (Basabe). I want him to do well, if he gets it off me, I’m going to tip my cap. But I guarantee it’s not going to happen,” Cease said.

Instead, Basabe crushed a two-run homer off Reds prospect Hunter Greene deep into the right-field seats. The speed of the pitch was 102 mph.

This game might have been about the future, and at some point White Sox fans will be cheering for Cease and Basabe in Chicago. But until then, two of the White Sox best prospects are on a big stage here in the present. They know that eventually their time will come.

If the Futures Game tells us anything, it's that the White Sox outfield of the future is ridiculously deep

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USA TODAY

If the Futures Game tells us anything, it's that the White Sox outfield of the future is ridiculously deep

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just how deep is the White Sox outfield of the future?

The answer was embodied by the leadoff hitter in the Futures Game on Sunday afternoon in the nation’s capital.

Luis Alexander Basabe was one of two White Sox representatives in the prospect showcase held two days prior to baseball’s Midsummer Classic, along with pitcher Dylan Cease. And while Basabe was very deserving of the honor in the middle of a strong 2018 campaign — he blasted a two-run homer on a 102 mph pitch in the third inning — he’s not exactly the first name that comes to mind when running down the organization’s top prospects in the outfield.

MLB Pipeline ranks four outfielders — Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford and Micker Adolfo — ahead of Basabe on its list of White Sox prospects. And after Basabe come Ryan Cordell and Luis Gonzalez. And that’s before mentioning players outside the top 30 in the system, guys having big years like Joel Booker and Alex Call.

It makes for a lengthy list of possibilities to populate the outfield on the next contending White Sox squad.

“There’s a lot of players who have good ability, and that’s cool,” Basabe said Sunday. “I look at them, and I say, ‘They are good!’ And that makes me work more to be in the big leagues.”

That, of course, has been Rick Hahn’s goal all along during this rebuilding effort, to build as much depth throughout the farm system as possible.

That depth has been seemingly achieved among the organization’s starting-pitching corps, where Cease, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning have joined current big leaguers Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez as potential members of the rotation of the future.

The outfield, though, is equally loaded.

That depth is obvious with Basabe’s selection to the Futures Game. The White Sox are showing they deserve the title of one of baseball’s best farm systems when their No. 13 prospect is capable of reaching the game’s premier prospect event.

Of course, the other benefit of depth is tied to Basabe’s selection: It’s a heck of a safety net for the inevitable injuries that come with being a professional baseball player. Jimenez, Robert and Adolfo are all currently dealing with injuries of varying significance, with Adolfo out for the next eight to 10 months after having Tommy John surgery and Robert out for the second long stretch this season with a thumb injury.

No one is suggesting that these specific injuries will derail the careers of any of those three big talents. But being able to point to other young outfielders as backup plans is a key for any organization, especially one so focused on the future like the White Sox. Prospects succumbing to injuries or simply not reaching expectations is a reality of the game. But if such things should occur, the White Sox, at least, have quite the Plan Bs in the likes of Basabe, Rutherford, Gonzalez and more.

Take a look at the numbers the White Sox outfield prospects have put up this season.

— Jimenez: .313/.371/.541 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs in 65 with Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte

— Robert: .293/.372/.373 with five extra-base hits and nine RBIs in 21 games with Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem

— Adolfo: .283/.368/.466 with 11 homers and 50 RBIs in 78 games with Class A Winston-Salem

— Rutherford: .305/.348/.468 with 30 extra-base hits and 60 RBIs in 75 games for Class A Winston-Salem

— Basabe: .256/.356/.447 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs in 80 games with Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham

— Gonzalez: .300/.352/.478 with nine homers, 26 doubles and 38 RBIsin 75 games with Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem

— Booker: .285/.364/.440 with seven homers, 55 runs scored and 27 RBIs in 74 games with Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham

— Call: .251/.359/.407 with seven homers and 36 RBIs in 77 games with Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham

That’s all very, very good news for the White Sox.

Back in spring training, Jimenez, Robert and Adolfo talked about their desire to arrive on the South Side at about the same time and make up the team’s outfield one day. Well, there’s a good chance that the three outfielders on the next contending White Sox team will come from the above list of names.

“There’s a lot of competition,” Basabe said. “We’re here, this is what it’s about. We’ve got to compete.”