White Sox

MLB execs agree: White Sox in ‘perfect market’ if they decide to rebuild in 2017

MLB execs agree: White Sox in ‘perfect market’ if they decide to rebuild in 2017

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- If the White Sox decide to do a total teardown, one rival evaluator said the quality of the pool players would be the best he could remember one team making available in 40 years.

Though he has dropped hints for months now, including several more at the General Managers meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, White Sox GM Rick Hahn still hasn’t publicly committed to either a rebuilding or adding on. Hahn loves the top portion of his club’s 25-man roster, which is devoid of bad contracts and packed with talented players. But if he does entertain the notion of trading players the likes of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Adam Eaton among many others, Hahn could expect to perhaps be the busiest GM of the offseason. Several major league executives also said they believe the White Sox could set themselves up very well for the future if the fully commit to a rebuild.

“It probably goes way back to the Charlie Finley days in Oakland,” one National League executive said. “Pretty much there’s no untouchables, the best players, they’ve been performers and they don’t have bad contracts and they’re basically available.”

Back in 1976, Finley, the colorful owner of the Oakland A’s, decided to beat the start of free agency, which was to go into effect before the 1977 season. To do so, Finley traded Reggie Jackson to Baltimore in a deal that included Don Baylor and Mike Torrez, sold Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to Boston for $1 million each and Vida Blue to the Yankees for $1.5 million.

Finley told commissioner Bowie Kuhn all money received would be reinvested in the club, but Kuhn ultimately nixed the deals for Blue, Rudi and Fingers.

Were the White Sox to sell off parts to the highest bidder, they’d do so in search of competing clubs’ top prospects and major league ready talent. Given the limited options teams have in free agency, one NL exec thinks the White Sox are in a prime position.

“Tremendous,” he said. “I think it’s a bad pitching market and they can either do one or two guys and those guys are ready to pop. It’s a perfect market to do it in.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

One veteran executive said he wasn’t sure if the White Sox had totally made up their minds on a rebuild. He also suggested the team needed to do a tremendous amount of legwork to determine what is realistic to expect in return for players. Hahn said Tuesday that discussions with other teams have been ongoing for several weeks and he and his staff had begun to do follow-up conversations this week in Arizona.

The White Sox GM also has fielded calls for several years asking about Sale and has a good feel for the five-time All-Star’s market. One team that asked about Sale before the trade deadline in August said the White Sox asked a fair price for the left-hander compared to what other teams wanted for their top starters.

“These are high-end guys,” he said. “They’re not easy to replace, either. I’m sure they’re having some long, drawn out what to do -- they have to do their diligence and see, maximize what they could get and decide from there.

“You have to see what you could get volume-wise back. You can’t just make up your mind, ‘Oh, we’re going to sell.’”

Two executives suggested the White Sox might have difficulty with the commencement of a fire sale given the pitching they possess and how the fortunes of a franchise could quickly turn around. While Hahn loves the top portion of his roster, he didn’t hesitate on Wednesday to note how many holes the White Sox have and briefly talked about the cost of filling those. A day earlier, Hahn reiterated that he doesn’t think half measures, stop gaps and trying to catch lightning in a bottle have worked well for the White Sox, who haven’t reached the postseason since 2008.

One aspect everyone agreed upon is the level of the club’s commitment if they determine a rebuild is the right. Essentially, the White Sox have to be willing to go all the way in if they determine a teardown is the correct path.

After all, trading proven major leaguers for young potential talent can lead to several years of bad baseball.

“When you commit to doing this, you’ve got to commit fully and be prepared It’s not going to be pretty,” one executive said. “I think that’s still a big question -- are they willing to do it? “Because it is a minimum two years. It’s going to take a significant amount of time.”

Still, this could be the best time for the White Sox to make their move.

--- The market is seemingly set up for them to reap big benefits from trading players.

---- Fan frustration is high, as Hahn noted Tuesday.

---- And it would come against the backdrop of the Cubs’ recent success after a high-profile rebuild.

“It’s two-fold,” an NL executive said. “The fanbase is probably looking for some change and you see what’s happened on the north side of town, that was pretty much built through young players acquired in trades or via the draft and signed a couple veteran pitchers to go with them and won a World Series. It’s one of those things where I guess as an executive, if you have the owner’s blessing there’s no sense going halfway. If you’re going to do it, get after it and do it.”

White Sox get lesson in why they need their own Justin Verlander type to finish off rebuild

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USA TODAY

White Sox get lesson in why they need their own Justin Verlander type to finish off rebuild

Who will be the White Sox version of Justin Verlander? Their version of Jon Lester?

The big-name veteran brought in from outside the organization to be the cherry on top of a rebuilding effort and push things into contention mode. Who will Rick Hahn & Co. bring in to play that role on the South Side?

The White Sox got a firsthand lesson in why such a player is a necessity, dominated in every sense by Verlander on Tuesday night in Houston. Verlander, who long tormented the White Sox when he played for the division-rival Tigers, took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning and finished with one run, one hit and one walk allowed in eight dazzling frames. Jose Abreu's solo homer that broke up the no-hitter in the seventh was the one moment on the evening in which Verlander looked human.

That's the kind of thing Verlander's been doing since the Astros traded for him during the 2017 season, which ended with them winning the World Series. They might do it again this year, the best team in baseball halfway through this four-game series against the White Sox. And he's a big reason they've stayed atop the list of championship contenders the last two years.

Verlander's acquisition was a little different than that of Lester on the North Side of Chicago. The Cubs needed to inject some legitimacy into their rebuilding project and got it by giving Lester, who knew Theo Epstein and his front office from the Boston days, a ton of money to top their rotation. The Astros needed a similar push from one of the game's best pitchers, and they got it by trading for Verlander in a waiver deal with the Tigers. But Verlander accomplished the same goal for the Astros that Lester did for the Cubs. Even in 2019, they're two of the more reliable arms around.

The White Sox might not be ready to vault into contention mode on Day 1 of the 2020 season. Michael Kopech's next start will be just his fifth as a big leaguer. Dylan Cease won't have much more than a month or two of big league experience. Eloy Jimenez has already missed a month of developmental time. Luis Robert will likely be getting his first taste of the majors.

But adding a Verlander type to that group could make a huge difference.

Now, Verlander is one of the best pitchers ever, plain and simple, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. To suggest that kind of pitcher will be available this offseason is perhaps unrealistic. Verlander was set to be among a loaded free-agent class before he signed an extension to stay with the Astros. He wasn't alone, and that thought-to-be-loaded free-agent class is now significantly less loaded. But there are still options, and perhaps more than ever a trade looks like it might be the way to go. If the White Sox do have a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher on their wish list, Verlander's teammate and Wednesday night's scheduled starter, Gerrit Cole, is on track to be among the available free agents.

So, too, is Madison Bumgarner, who more closely fits the mold of accomplished guys like Verlander and Lester. Bumgarner's got an unparalleled amount of postseason success, but he comes with plenty of questions, too. He pitched in just 38 combined games in 2017 and 2018, and while longevity hasn't been an issue this season — he's failed to go six innings in only one of his 10 starts — effectiveness has been an issue. He's got a 4.21 ERA through 62 innings. His highest single-season ERA prior to 2019 was 3.37 in 2012.

It doesn't have to be Bumgarner. And maybe it doesn't even have to be a pitcher. The White Sox have a list of potential starting-pitching options that includes Kopech, Cease, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning and others. The Cubs and Astros couldn't craft rotations of homegrown players. The White Sox might be able to, though considering the injuries that have plagued those young arms and the current lack of major league ready starting-pitching depth, a big-time starting-pitching addition would really fortify things.

It could also add that kind of legitimacy that Lester brought to the Cubs. Get one big name to come aboard a still-emerging group, and that could draw more talent that could really kick things into high gear.

There might be no one way to do a successful rebuild, but if the White Sox want to follow the template the Astros and Cubs have used to win championships in recent years, a Verlander type would be a good way to go about doing that. The opportunity has to exist, but you'd have to imagine it's an opportunity the front office will be looking for this winter.

Certainly they're already motivated to do just that. Watching Verlander cut through their lineup Tuesday night should back that motivation up.

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: The White Sox are running out of starting pitchers. Should they bring up Dylan Cease now?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The White Sox are running out of starting pitchers. Should they bring up Dylan Cease now?

Connor McKnight, Kevin Fishbain and Jay Cohen join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel.

0:00- Ozzie Guillen joins the panel as the White Sox get ready to face the Astros. The guys discuss if there are any similarities between the Astros rebuild and the one the Sox are currently in.

4:00- The White Sox are running out of starting pitchers. Should they bring up Dylan Cease now?

7:00- Yu Darvish allowed 3 runs over six innings with 3 walks and 7 strikesouts. Is that considered a good start for him?

11:00- The Bears continue to unveil their top 100 players. Khalil Mack is 60th after just one season. The guys debate that and the fact that Jim McMahon is 32 spots ahead of Jay Cutler.

16:00- Scott Paddock joins Kap to talk about the fight in the NASCAR All-Star race and to preview a big few weeks at Chicagoland Speedway.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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