White Sox

No clowning around: Melky Cabrera's lighter side doesn't interfere with focus

No clowning around: Melky Cabrera's lighter side doesn't interfere with focus

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The self-professed “clown” of the White Sox is having way too good of a time this season to worry about his uncertain future.

Melky Cabrera understands he could be traded before the season ends. He also knows that another round of free agency looms next winter if a trade doesn’t happen. And with the White Sox rebuilding, there’s no guarantee Cabrera could stick around working under a manager for whom he enjoys playing. But Cabrera said on Wednesday morning that he has done his best to not focus on anything aside from the present. Whether it’s the constant GIF-worthy highlights he produces or the big hits he provided, Cabrera appears to be anything but distracted.

“I've been enjoying every moment of this season,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “This is an important season for me, but I don't like to think about free agency or what is in the future for me because if you do you miss the opportunity to enjoy what you are doing right now. So I am just trying to do my best, work hard every day, help the team win games and be the best player I can be. That's my mindset.”

The approach has worked very well of late. Cabrera has been red hot at the plate for nearly two months after a slow start. He’s hitting .332/.379/.505 with eight homers, nine doubles and 35 RBIs over his last 208 plate appearances since his OPS hit a season-low .591 on May 16.

He also continues to excel in the game’s biggest moments.

On Tuesday, Cabrera singled off Oakland A’s closer Santiago Casilla with two outs in the ninth inning to tie the score. Cabrera entered Wednesday with an .868 OPS with runners in scoring position. He has an .875 OPS in “late and close” situations, according to Baseball-Reference.com, and has a .929 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position.

“He seems to be able to slow things down in big situations on both sides of the plate,” manager Rick Renteria said. “There’s a lot of experience, which probably leads to the confidence he has. He has been doing a great job. He has been on a phenomenal run, the things he’s doing in key situations for us.”

Cabrera also manages to have way too much fun on and off the field. He faked out several broadcasters last week when he pretended that he didn’t catch a fly ball from the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge, feigning that it instead went over the fence for a homer. Cabrera also takes charge of the team’s victory celebrations, awarding the replica championship wrestling belt and mini belt to the top two players of the day. If that weren’t enough, the veteran wastes no opportunities to make dramatic even the smallest of moments, as if he were starring in his own personal telenovela. Manager Rick Renteria thinks Cabrera’s ability to have fun helps him keep his mind off the big picture.

“He doesn’t concern himself with a whole lot of noise that we talk about,” Renteria said. “He just focuses and tries to enjoy and trust the skill he brings to the table and tries to use it.

“He knows how to balance what he does. He enjoys the camaraderie of his teammates. When he’s out there working, he does his work.”

[MORE: Changeup played big role in Carlos Rodon's 'confidence' inspiring start

Teammate Yolmer Sanchez appreciates how Cabrera carries himself. Sanchez is of a similar mindset his elder, always trying to keep things loose in the clubhouse. What Sanchez likes the most is how Cabrera can toe the line --- his ability to have fun and still perform as well as he does. Sanchez also said it would difficult to miss Cabrera’s effort on the field and how he provides younger teammates with a solid example of how to be.

“When you see the veteran guys -- Melky, (Jose Abreu), (Todd) Frazier -- they hit a ground ball and they hustle,” Sanchez said. “That’s a good example for when you get into big leagues and want a long career. You see these guys as examples, that’s very good.

“(Cabrera) has fun because he likes to have fun every day. But he knows how to play. He plays hard every day so you learn.”

Cabrera has learned over the years how to stay focused on the daily routine rather than the big picture. He’s been a free agent before and excelled during the 2013 season, too.

Of course he knows his name is constantly mentioned as being available on the trade market. Were he still not owed nearly $7.5 million this season, perhaps Cabrera rumors would be more prominent with the trade deadline nearing. But Cabrera doesn’t want to worry about any of that stuff in order to stay focused on his job and current club.

“I just don't try to think about it because you miss opportunities if your mind is on it,” Cabrera said. “What happens in the future will happen. It’s God's will.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Could the White Sox trade with the Red Sox?

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Could the White Sox trade with the Red Sox?

The crew wraps up the final day of the Winter Meetings for the White Sox.

On the latest White Sox Talk Podcast, Chuck Garfien, Vinnie Duber and Ryan McGuffey talk about a rumored deal between the White Sox and the Red Sox (2:41) that would move some pieces around.

Rick Hahn speaks for the final time in San Diego and the guys react to his comments.

Later, they debate why fans are disappointed with the White Sox and the outcome for the team at the end of the Winter Meetings.

Listen to the episode here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

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USA TODAY

White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

SAN DIEGO — David Price on the South Side? Maybe.

According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Boston Red Sox have had trade conversations involving Price with at least five teams, and the White Sox are “in play” for the veteran left-hander.

Boston is trying to shed salary, and getting rid of the $96 million remaining on Price’s deal over the next three years would be a good way to accomplish that goal.

The White Sox, given their financial flexibility, are a team that could absorb that kind of money in a trade. While much discussion of Rick Hahn’s statement in February that “the money will be spent” has focused on high-priced free agents, the general manager said Wednesday that such fiscal positioning could be beneficial on the trade market, too.

“Absolutely,” he said during his final media session of the Winter Meetings. “You’ve seen over the years us use our financial flexibility to acquire some contracts. I think back to the (Joakim) Soria trade with the Dodgers. The thing we brought to the table there was the ability to absorb some contracts. That flexibility doesn’t always have to be spent on free agents.”

But here’s the thing. ESPN’s Jeff Passan got this whole Price conversation going when he reported the interest of multiple teams on Tuesday, and he suggested the Red Sox might be able to ship Price out of town if they included a “player of value.” A young player with affordable club control would sweeten any such deal, and speculation latched onto outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who is under team control for three more years.

That’s the kind of deal — before we hear what it could cost, obviously — that would look like a good one for the White Sox.

Well, another nugget in Feinsand’s report throws that idea out the window.

“One scenario that has been floated in recent weeks would have the Red Sox attaching a young player — Andrew Benintendi's name has been mentioned often — to Price in order to dump the pitcher's contract.

“A source said that concept has not been considered by Boston's front office — nor will it be, especially not with Benintendi.

“‘That's not going to happen,’ the source said.”

If that’s the case, if the Red Sox are talking about a Price trade that doesn’t involve a young, controllable player coming back, is there any reason for the White Sox to consider such a move? Is there any reason to trade for Price alone?

The White Sox do need pitching, quite badly, as a matter of fact. Their quest for two arms to add to the starting rotation has yielded no additions yet, with their high bid for Zack Wheeler spurned in favor of a lower offer from the Philadelphia Phillies. Price would be an upgrade to the White Sox rotation, and they could potentially get him without having to give up any of their prized prospects (a trade involving someone like Benintendi might cost a high-level prospect, in addition to salary relief).

After turning in some memorable performances during the Red Sox championship run in 2018, Price got off to a great start in 2019, with a 3.16 ERA in his first 17 starts. But due to a cyst in his wrist, he made only two starts over the season’s final two months. He finished with a 4.28 ERA, second highest of his career.

Considering the White Sox are heading into 2020 with just three rotation spots spoken for, they could do a lot worse than Price from a production standpoint. But the veteran lefty doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation as a clubhouse presence. NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase listed several red flags in a recent piece: “He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily. He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.”

Do the White Sox need those headaches? Aren’t there options out there, via trade or free agency, that would bring in similar levels of production without all that other stuff? It doesn’t seem like a young team that is developing what appears to be a very positive culture needs someone who “consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse.”

Now, if someone like Benintendi — or, for example, the large contract of designated hitter J.D. Martinez — comes along with him, maybe it’s a pill you’re willing to swallow. Of course, that would require other unpleasant possibilities, such as letting a recent first-round draft pick like Nick Madrigal or Andrew Vaughn go. Hahn talked about the team’s unwillingness to deal away its prized prospects for a short-term gain. The White Sox lost a combined 195 games to end up with the draft picks that produced Madrigal and Vaughn. That was an awful lot of suffering just to trade those guys away.

A potential Price trade has its upsides, but ones contingent on other aspects of such a deal. If those aspects go by the wayside, acquiring Price doesn’t make quite as much sense.

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